Login | September 24, 2018

Attorney and Akron Law trial coach remembered

Longtime attorney and Akron Law trial coach Lawrence (“Larry”) A. Sutter III passed away on March 6 after a 22-month battle with cancer. He was 53. (Photo courtesy of the Sutter family).

Legal News Reporter

Published: April 3, 2017

An astute trial lawyer, mock trial coach, mentor and devoted husband—those are some of the ways in which Lawrence (“Larry”) A. Sutter III touched the lives of those around him.

Sutter passed away on March 6 after a 22-month battle with cancer. He was 53.

“Larry was a kind and loving man,” said his wife Portage County Court of Common Pleas Domestic Relations Judge Paula Giulitto. “He challenged you to be the best you could be no matter what you were doing. He was a wonderful man who did not let cancer get the best of him or keep him from doing the things he loved.”

Matt O’Connell, co-founder of Cleveland-based Sutter O’Connell and a longtime friend, described Sutter as “larger than life. He had a commanding presence in every situation he faced or encountered.

“He was a very talented and uniquely gifted trial lawyer.”

Born in Barberton on Oct. 24, 1963 to Lawrence A. and Cheryl Sue (nee Wilson) Sutter II, he was the second oldest of their four children.

A multi-sport athlete, Sutter graduated from Barberton High School in 1982, going on to earn a bachelor’s degree in history from Glenville State College in West Virginia.

In 1989 he obtained his juris doctor from The University of Akron School of Law.

Sutter began his legal career in the Cleveland office of Reminger & Reminger, where he focused on matters like products liability defense and insurance defense.

“Larry made partner before age 30, which was unprecedented,” said Judge Giulitto.

In addition, Sutter volunteered as a mock trial coach at Akron Law, mentoring the students and leading the school to win multiple national championships and 18 regional titles. He also served as an adjunct professor at the law school.

It was through his work at Akron Law that he met his wife in 1989.

“I was in my first year of law school at Akron Law and he was a volunteer judge at a mock trial tryout,” said Judge Giulitto. “Larry later took over as coach of the team in 1991.

“We started dating in 1990. I was pretty sure I would marry him after the two of us spent three hours talking outside in the cold in a parking lot after leaving our friend’s house where we had dinner.”

The two got married on Nov. 22, 1997.

Sutter’s affiliation with the law school also resulted in him getting to know attorney Tom Mannion, who became a longtime friend and colleague.

“Larry was my trial team coach,” said Mannion. “He was a really gifted teacher.

“I graduated in 1993,” said Mannion, now managing partner of Lewis Brisbois Bisgaard & Smith’s Midwest region. “About a year later, Larry brought me over to Reminger.”

In 2002, Sutter joined hands with O’Connell, Mannion and Joseph Farchione to form Sutter O’Connell.

Today the firm has offices in Cleveland and Nashville and employs around 40 people, including about 20 lawyers who handle personal injury defense litigation on behalf of businesses, including Fortune 500 companies, located nationwide.

“Larry was the best lawyer I’ve ever seen go before a jury,” said Mannion. “Larry never told the jury how to think. He would lead them down a road that allowed them to make their own decisions.”

Mannion said Sutter was always the first to call to help celebrate a win.

“When one of his partners or colleagues would have a tough trial result, he would usually send them a bottle of their favorite drink and the card would have a quote from a Rudyard Kipling poem that stated, ‘If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster/And treat those two impostors just the same...’”

Mannion left the firm in 2005 to form Mannion & Gray Co. He said the two continued to be close over the years.

In 2013, the Ohio Supreme Court named Sutter to the Board of Commissioners on Grievances & Discipline. 

Sutter was diagnosed with cancer on May 11, 2015, but O’ Connell said he continued to work hard and never complained.

“He maintained a normal presence at the firm until about six weeks before his death,” said O’Connell. “He was exceedingly productive.”

Sutter and Judge Giulitto have lived in Streetsboro since 2010. They don’t have any children but they owned a number of English Setters over the years.

“We have eight right now,” said Judge Giulitto. “They are field trial dogs and Larry enjoyed working with them in field trial competitions and hunting expeditions.”

His other interests included fishing, hunting and riding Harley-Davidson motorcycles. He was also a gourmet chef.

“He was passionate about cooking and the beauty of bringing family and friends together for a home-cooked meal,” said Judge Giulitto.

In 2015, Sutter was inducted into the Barberton City School District Academic Hall of Fame. 

Last fall he began chairing the Barberton Turf project, which seeks to raise $1 million to replace the football field at Barberton High School.

Prior to his death, he was awarded the inaugural Cornerstone Award from Stetson University College of Law in Tampa, Florida for his exceptional proficiency in advocacy teaching.

“Stetson was a big competitor of Akron’s trial teams. For the school to choose him for this award is quite a compliment and an honor,” said Judge Giulitto.

Matthew Wilson, president of The University of Akron and former dean of Akron Law, said Sutter went “above and beyond” to help the students.

“Larry not only coached the trial team, he spearheaded the whole program,” said Wilson. “He also got members of his firm involved in helping our students.

“When I became dean of Akron Law, Larry was one of the first people who I reached out to meet. We struck a good chord right from the start. Larry was never a ‘what’s in it for me?’ kind of person. He spent hundreds of hours training the students without compensation.”

O’Connell said the firm will remain involved with the Akron Law Trial Team program. 

“Larry was a very special man,” Judge Giulitto said. “When I decided to run for judge he was so encouraging. He swore me in for my second term last December. It’s a memory I will hold dear.”

Sutter was laid to rest on March 10 at St. Mary Cemetery in Ravenna.

He is survived by his wife Judge Paula C. Giulitto; sister Michelle Adkins; brother and sister-in-law Scott and Jill Sutter; brother and sister-in-law Michael and Carol Giulitto; in-laws Joe and Jean Giulitto; great-aunts Jannell (nee Sutter) and Ken Crosley, Flo Allen and Judie Messman; great-uncle Gene (Candy) Wilson; nieces and nephews Andrew, Aaron and Tony Adkins, Sean and Jonathan Sutter, Amanda (Drew) Stein and Jessica and Emily Giulitto.

He was preceded in death by his parents Lawrence A. and Cheryl Sue (nee Wilson) Sutter II, his brother Matthew Sutter and his dogs Shilo, Axel and Jynx.