Walter M. “Wally” Phillips Jr., 76, of Chestnut Hill, a lawyer who became a legend in Philadelphia for his prosecution of corrupt politicians, died Feb. 7 at Chestnut Hill Hospital of complications from earlier open-heart surgery.
Appointed by former Pennsylvania Gov. Milton J. Shapp in 1974 to investigate corruption among Philadelphia police and public officials, Mr. Phillips brought 59 corruption cases, among them one that led to the conviction of former Pennsylvania State Sen. Henry J. “Buddy” Cianfrani for racketeering and mail fraud.
For the past 10 years, he was in private practice with the firm of Obermayer Rebmann Maxwell & Hippel in Philadelphia, where he represented clients in criminal defense and commercial litigation matters.
Obermayer Chairman Thomas A. Leonard described Mr. Phillips as “a tireless worker for justice whose integrity was beyond reproach.”
“He was a great prosecutor, lawyer, husband and father,” Leonard said.
A Philadelphia native, Mr. Phillips attended Germantown Friends School and graduated from Phillips Academy Andover. He was a graduate of Princeton University and the University of California’s Hastings Law School.
After graduation, he returned to Philadelphia and took a position in the District Attorney’s Office, then headed by the late Sen. Arlen Specter. He then worked in the U.S Attorney’s Office in Manhattan, where a member of his unit was former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani.
He ran unsuccessfully as a Democrat for Pennsylvania Attorney General in 1980 and for Philadelphia District Attorney in 1989.
Mr. Phillips is survived by his wife, the former Valerie Ogden; a son, Graham Phillips; a daughter, Serena Sterling; a brother, Francis Phillips; a sister, Anna Sofaer, and three grandchildren.
A celebration of his life will be held Saturday, May 2, at his family farm in Solebury. Memorial donations may be made to Pennsylvanians for Modern Courts, Three Parkway, Suite 1320, 1601 Cherry St., Philadelphia, PA 19102. – WF