Patrick Duffy – A Man Who Knew How To Love

Every attorney in South Dakota has heard the tragic news about Patrick Duffy’s untimely death. Last week, at the age of 58, he died of an apparent heart attack or aortic aneurism. In the days since his death, much has been written about him in the press, on blogs, and throughout social media. Friends and colleagues are collecting their favorite Pat quotes and remembering his great feats in the courtroom. Pat was a good friend of mine for over 20 years and I had the pleasure of being involved in a number of cases with him. During those cases, I often wished that I could pick a jury like Pat or deliver a closing argument with his passion. But, since learning of his death, I’ve spent a lot of time thinking of what I really learned from Pat and what made him so unique as a human. And, what I keep coming back to is Pat’s incredible capacity for love. Pat’s love was enormous. It included the general and specific, the abstract and the concrete. He loved his God, who he saw as just and kind. I recall a discussion we had about gay marriage and the Church’s opposition to it. Pat passionately commented that to condemn marriage equality was to condemn love, and to condemn love is unforgivable. He loved democracy and this country and the men and women who fought to protect it. This was the source of Pat’s outrage at self-serving politicians who threw our children in harm’s way without appearing to understand the consequences. Pat truly loved the law, in all of its folly, and considered us to be blessed because we got an opportunity to work within the courtrooms where justice was administered. Pat loved his clients. He told me he did not think you could be an effective criminal defense attorney without loving your clients. When discussing our criminal cases, Pat would often comment, “There but for the grace of God go we.” He understood that no matter how vile the conduct, but for our good parents and the opportunities bestowed upon us throughout our lives, we could end up in our clients’ shoes. And, his love of clients extended to the masses of young souls warehoused in America’s prisons; victims as much as perpetrators in this ill-conceived war on drugs we have waged for the past three decades. Pat loved people. He was the only guy I know that routinely would conclude a conversation by telling you he loved you. Here was this tall, domineering, 50 something year old Irish guy who didn’t show a hint of embarrassment in saying those words to another man. Most of all, far beyond all, Pat loved his family. His children, his grandchildren, his parents and brothers and sisters and their kids, and particularly his wife, Veronica. Pat’s love of family was often the source of humor. Just a few weeks before his death, Mike Butler and I were in his office talking about Pat. We joked that if you happened to mention to Pat that one of your kids had just walked on water, Pat would nod approvingly, then follow with a story about one of his kids had just turned water into wine, and, if he wasn’t mistaken, the wine in question was a Rothschild Laffite, vintage 1964. And Pat, more than any man I’ve ever met, talked openly, effusively and unabashedly about his love for Veronica. She was his world. Pat openly conceded he was not her equal: she was smarter, kinder, wiser, and far better looking than he’d ever be. And he reveled in that knowledge and bathed in the pride he derived from it. People who only knew Pat from the courtroom often thought of him as egotistical. Pat was larger than life and he had a very healthy sense of self. That is what made him a great attorney and also meant that no conversation with Pat was ever going to be boring. But, he wasn’t an egomaniac. Egomaniacs don’t have the ability to love others and the world around them the way Pat did. I will really miss Pat, as will hundreds of others. He left an indelible mark on our community and upon my heart. The world would be a better place if we all loved the way Pat did. Rest in peace my friend. John