Randy J. Holland Celebration of Life: Gayle Lafferty Remarks

Justice Holland was a remarkable man. From humble beginnings, he raised himself up to become an accomplished lawyer, a model jurist, a beloved professor, prolific author, and a national and international legal scholar.

But it wasn’t his impressive CV that made him so extraordinary. What made him extraordinary—and the foundation of his success—was his character. His love of his family, his compassion for all people, and his tireless service to the greater good left an indelible mark on our State and on all who knew him.

The author, Stephen Covey, said that a great leader is one who can communicate to people their worth and potential so clearly that they come to see it in themselves. The same can be said of a great mentor.

And that’s what Justice Holland was. To me, and I’m sure to nearly every other person in this room. For 30 years, he was my North Star, a consistent, guiding light that I looked up to for direction in my professional and personal life.

As a mentor, Justice Holland was like a master gardener. He knew how to foster growth in people in ways that others couldn’t always see or understand. He understood people so well because he invested time in getting to know them. As a leader in the bench and the bar, he strove to defend and the uphold the ideals of our profession—the principles of professionalism and ethics—that gave the rest of us a better environment in which to grow and flourish.

He also planted seeds in all of us—the seeds of critical thinking, of civil discourse, and of answering the call to service and giving back. He helped to nurture those seeds by opening doors, removing impediments, and connecting us to resources that he knew would foster our growth. He also gently coaxed many of us to blossom into the leaders of our profession and our government that he knew we could be—leaders with energy, imagination, and compassion.

Justice Holland’s ability to cultivate the best in people impacted so many lives—but it was especially meaningful to generations of women lawyers. He was a champion for women in the law.

In 1991, as a new lawyer in a profession still led predominantly by men, Justice Holland sensed my insecurity, and he helped me find my voice—quite literally. Rather than have me draft bench memos for him (which is the primary responsibility of most law clerks), Justice Holland would sit down with me and ask me for my opinion about a case. At first, these conversations were mildly terrifying, mostly because they frequently occurred while I was driving him to oral arguments in Dover in his red station wagon.

In his gentle but probing way, Justice Holland drew me out of my shell, taught me how to think critically, to articulate my points cogently, and to keep my eyes on the road. The respect that he gave me by valuing my opinion and the confidence he showed in me by letting me drive him in his family’s car changed my life. His respect and trust in me taught me to respect and trust myself.

And I know that my story isn’t unique. Justice Holland carefully tended to all who sought his help. The fruits of his spirit are evident in this room today, and the values that he instilled in us are transcendent.

To Ilona, Ethan, Jennifer, Rori, and Chloe:
Thank you for sharing your beloved husband, father, and Grandy with the rest of us. We are all better people for it.

Gayle Lafferty is the court administrator for the State of Delaware. She served as chief staff attorney and staff attorney for the Delaware Supreme Court for 24 years.

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