Martin N. Leaf

Time of Service:

10am, Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Place of Service:

Riverside Memorial Chapel

Burial Location:

Mt. Hope Cemetery, Hastings-on-Hudson, NY
Martin N. Leaf, a practicing attorney in New York since 1958, died in Manhattan on May 23 after a long illness. In his legal career he created successful joint ventures and business relationships among major companies throughout the world. He managed litigation, handled dispute resolution, conducted complex contract negotiations, and focused on First Amendment and intellectual property rights cases. Leaf obtained his first legal post--a clerkship while still in law school--when the criminal defense lawyer Emile Zola Berman delivered a lecture to 250 law students. When Berman asked if there were any questions, Leaf raised his hand and asked, "Can I have a job in your office?" Berman told him to be at his office the next Monday afternoon--and he got the position. His next clerkship led to a position with Fuchsberg & Fuchsberg, with whom he worked for five years, trying dozens of cases in jury trials. At one point, the young lawyer had earned a record of 20-0. In 1963 Leaf formed the firm of Leaf, Kurzman and Deull together with two other attorneys, Robert G. Kurzman and Ellis M. Deull, and practiced with them for sixteen years, after which he joined the litigation department of Morrison Cohen Singer & Weinstein. Notwithstanding his official retirement in 1990, Leaf continued his relationship with several long-time clients and worked every day since then. In his theatrical practice he represented several entertainment figures, including the actors Raul Julia and Anthony Zerbe, the singer John Denver, and the stage designer Chester Weinberg. Along with his interest in humanitarian projects, he worked with The Hunger Project, an international charity to eliminate hunger across the globe, as a United Nations NGO (non- governmental organization). And he has served as litigation counsel for Landmark, an international development and training company. As counsel for Takachiho Koheki in 1970, he negotiated a ground-breaking joint venture with the computer manufacturer Burroughs Corporation (now Unisys), which became a template for U.S.-Japanese business ventures. Leaf was active in his hometown of Hastings-on-Hudson, New York and served as the Village Attorney for fourteen years through successive political administrations, and also served as Special District Attorney for Westchester County. In 1965, along with his wife, Louise Sarkin Leaf, and five other couples, he co- founded Temple Beth Shalom in Hastings, which now has more than 400 members. While representing Lhamo Dondrub, the 14th Dalai Lama, Leaf got the U.S. State Department to reverse its previous ruling and to issue a visa to let the Dalai Lama come to the United States. He helped the Dalai Lama to add two new chapters to the original plate of his early book, My Land and My People. During the administration of President Jimmy Carter, Leaf served as a "Goodwill Ambassador" to Denmark through the "People to People" program in which U.S. families exchanged visits with their Danish counterparts. Leaf served on the boards of numerous companies, as well as many nonprofit organizations, including the American Arab Council (consisting of retired ambassadors, ministers of state in the Arab world, and other dignitaries); Trail Blazers Camp (camping for inner city children, founded 1887); Windstar (John Denver's nonprofit organization, focused on the environment and sustainability); the Buckminster Fuller Institute, the National Black Theater; Pro Musicis, a 50-year-old organization supporting musical talent in young people and in residents of institutions where great music is not available (such as prisons, mental health facilities, hospitals, and drug rehabilitation centers); and Echo Hills Mental Health Clinic (a facility for Westchester residents). As a delegate for five years to the NGO Branch of the United Nations, he submitted a White Paper on World Hunger. Leaf was born in New York City, February 19, 1932. He graduated from Washington University in St. Louis, and received his law degree from The New York University School of Law. He served with distinction in the U.S. Army, attaining the rank of First Lieutenant. He was married for almost forty years to Louise Sarkin Leaf, an urban planner in New Rochelle, until her death in 1995. His children are Marc Leaf, an attorney in New York; Jenifer Leaf Jaeger, a physician now working for the NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene; and Cliff Leaf, an author and magazine editor. He loved his grandchildren (in alphabetical order, Connie, Emma, John, Lauren, Rachel, Sam, Sofia, and William) and greatgrandchildren Hadley, Lulu, and Sophie. He was born "with a gift of laughter and a sense that the world was mad," and died surrounded by those he loved and who loved him most, his children, his "everything," Norma Deull, and their extended families. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to The Hunger Project or Citymeals-on-Wheels.
View guestbook