The Law taught to me by James Strazzella!

My criminal law professor just died and I cried like a baby this past week. I couldn’t help but look at the photograph taken of him presenting me with a trial advocacy award upon graduation in 1988. The framed picture rests on the mantel of an old wood—burning stove in my dining room. It is one of my prized possessions.

James Strazzella was acting dean of Temple Law School when I worked for him making $5.25 an hour as a work study student my senior year. I could never figure out how he chose a C+ student as an assistant when he could have had the pick of the best and the brightest A+ student at the Philadelphia school. It wasn’t the “letter” of the law he was concerned with, however, but the “spirit” and I guess he saw something in a fellow whose immigrant father never made it beyond 6th grade but instilled in his son of love of learning and the American Dream to help others less fortunate than oneself.


Law Professor James Strazzella presenting advocacy award to bearded C+ student


Professor Strazzella made you think of the law and how the Constitution was a living document that grows through the years and grants rights to all by ensuring the rights for those accused of crimes.


I applied it to my practice for 20 years and feel that working with the law was more of a “calling” than a job. “Strazz” as we called him, wanted his students to revere the law and to know it was created by man to serve man for the good of all. I tried to keep that in mind when appearing before a jury that was formed to determine the outcome of a person’s life and liberty. I am happy to say the system works just as my old professor instructed us it would in the courtrooms of the world.

God keep you Professor Strazzella . . . See you in your next life’s incarnation!

Michael J

3 comments on “The Law taught to me by James Strazzella!

  1. souldipper says:

    There’s so much more to aging than physical aches and pains. I sense his influence through your writing, Michael, and am grateful for that.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. contoveros says:

    The following Facebook friends offered condolences for the loss of Professor James Strazzella. I am deeply moved by their thoughts at this time!

    Howard Brown, Nana Quaison Sackey, Lynn Cotellese, Irene Marron Tilden, Steven Carey, Amy Snyder, Jason Zaczyk, Luba Schmid, Evangeline Bragitikos, Cristina Leeson, Nicole Ruser, Diana Maye Whitener, Erica Bertram Takacs, Debbie Armstrong Bryant, Richard Polk, Barbara Quinn Osborne, Jacqueline Lesser Faust, Beth York, Marie Bender, Tony Boris, Lori O’Donnell, Jeffrey Carr, Wendy Mackin, Sheryl L Goodling, Julie Anne Newland, Samantha Niezgoda, Madian Prado, Helen Anastasia, Carol-Lani Rose, Francesca Costanzo, Kathy Gillen Stradling, Milagros Morales-Santiago, Gul Durmayaz Guducu, Laura Bartlow, Nik Pavlov, Terri Kiral, Dawn Smith, Paula Belluardo Lawton, Jane Hulting, Calliope Contoveros, Silvia Bollinger, Faith Green, Rose Gannon, Diane Crow, Lisa Baxter Horwitz, Sharon Hajj, Daniella J Vitolo, Angela Marie Petrilli, Terry Ann Hamilton, Nick Contos Petrilli and Candice Starr Miller.


    Facebook writers also left the following messages with my responses:

    Angela Marie Petrilli
    Sorry to hear that Mike. He looks like he was a nice man.

    Michael J Contos
    He was a true teacher who insured his students understood the intricacies of the law and the burden attorneys would carry with them in serving others!

    Thanks Angie
    Angela Marie Petrilli
    He was a GOOD man. You are also Mike, I’ve always known that.

    Sheila Zawediuk
    Hi Michael, so sorry for your loss, but I love this picture of you!
    Michael J Contos
    Thanks Sheila. He meant a lot to us students who saw the law as a way to help others.
    (I can’t believe how dark my hair and beard used to be!)
    Helen Anastasia
    yeah- look at you!!!
    Michael J Contos
    I even feel younger just looking at this mug shot

    Helen Anastasia
    I’m sad to hear that you lost a great mentor. He looks like a good hearted person. He looks familiar by the way. Was he ever on TV? Interviewed?
    Michael J Contos
    He was a US Attorney who investigated, of all things, the Kent State shooting. We have lots of fond memories of the Strazz. None will forget him. Thanks!

    Joanna Schwartz
    Aww. Michael, I am so sorry for your loss.
    Michael J Contos
    Thanks. At least I had a chance to share the photo with my Facebook friends.

    Carol Hensell
    Ahh, your words say something when you have a professor that you truly admired and had an impact upon your life. I echo the others comments when I say. “So sorry for your loss”. May the memories you have of him help sustain you through this difficult time. Prayers to you
    Michael J Contos
    I got a feeling I’ll meet up with the good professor in one of my next lives. Maybe I’ll teach that Italian a thing or two from us Greeks!

    Luba Schmid
    So heartbreaking to lose someone so special in your life. My condolences, Michael
    Michael J Contos
    There is none like him and I am so grateful to have met him in my journey. Thanks!

    Alicia Cummins
    So Sorry Mike
    Michael J Contos
    Thanks. He was a good man who cared about his students and their lives outside of school.

    Julie Anne Newland
    Beautiful picture of you two! I am sorry for your loss and may you find peace in treasuring your memories spent together and this everlasting picture of the two of you. My condolences.
    Michael J Contos
    I really do believe that I’ll meet up with Strazz at another time, another place. I’m a firm believer in reincarnation!

    Luba Schmid So heartbreaking to lose someone so special in your life. My condolences, Michael

    Michael J Contos There is none like him and I am so grateful to have met him in my journey. Thanks!
    Like · Reply · 18 hrs

    Amy Nora Doyle MacLeod
    What a loss, Michael, for you and our planet. May his influence and goodness live on in the hearts of many.
    Michael J Contos
    His influence was vast and is still felt by many in the legal community here in Philadelphia. Thanks!

    Vivienne Tuffnell
    My heart-felt condolences x
    Michael J Contos
    We all have teachers that have influenced us greatly. Too bad we don’t realize them until one day when they are gone.

    Rosemary DeRosa So sorry for your loss.
    Michael J Contos
    I appreciate the condolences. The legal community will miss him in Philadelphia . . .

    Sue Wyatt Wow!
    Look at how young you are! 💕 ✨
    Michael J Contos
    Yes, and that was just a year ago. I should have started A Course On Love sooner!

    (Actually, it was from 1988!)
    Judi Halpern
    Sorry for your loss did not know you went that far in your studies
    Michael J Contos
    Thank you so much my Dobbins alumnus friend!
    Our old high school must have given me the incentive and the dream to continue long after we graduated . . .

    Beth York
    That is a fantastic picture! I’m so sorry to hear that such a great guy has left.
    Michael J Contos
    Yeah, the picture turned out well with a bunch of air-brushing and fixing up by the photographer to make me look half decent next to the good-looking Italian professor!

    Denise DiLorenzo Bowden
    Sorry for your loss Michae
    Michael J Contos
    I appreciate your thoughts and look forward to seeing you again soon!

    Ta Mar Very sorry for you loss Mike
    Michael J Contos Thank you my good friend. I feel blessed to have had him in my life. Wouldn’t it be great for people to say the same things about us?

    Maybe they will . . . Helping others is the best way to be remembered fondly!
    Ta Mar Michael it is the very best way… I wonder what they will say about me.. i can be bit of a fire storm 😉 LOL

    Terri Kiral
    Sorry for your loss. 🙏 How fortunate you had such a memorable figure in your life. And to think, Michael J, that your heart STILL works for “the good of all.” You learned the lessons he taught, and he must now be very proud of his A+ student. – And just look at you. What a hunk! 😀 💖
    Michael J Contos

    Today I feel like the Hulk with my added weight….But there is more of me to love and to share with others!

    Jeanette Perosa
    Sorry for your loss!
    Michael J Contos
    I am grateful to have known the man and to have learned from him. Thank you very much!

    Roe Searles Ferry
    Michael J Contos
    Thanks Roe. He meant a lot to so many of us!

    Belva Thrasher

    Great picture Michael. I am so sorry for your loss. It is so difficult to lose an important mentor. He will be remembered by many and always a part of you
    Michael J Contos
    Yeah, I feel he is still a part of me even though I hadn’t seen him since 1988. I carried with me his lessons on the law as well as those he taught to me about life.

    Nicole Perry
    I’m so sorry for your loss. That’s a wonderful photo and memory of him. I’m sure you two will meet again!
    Michael J Contos
    Nicole — spoken like a true student of Buddhism. Yes, we will meet again and carry on the tradition of honoring the law!

    Elise Segal
    Om Mani Padme Hung
    Michael J Contos
    Thank you O Green Tara!
    Om Tare Tuttare Ture Soha

    Tamara Ambros
    I am so sorry for your loss. He left a piece of himself in you. He is always with you.
    Michael J Contos
    Yes, he had left a little bit of himself and me. You can understand it more so than most people I know. I am grateful for your thoughts

    Milagros Morales-Santiago
    He taught a great student.
    Michael J Contos
    Thank you. You never really know how much a person has affected you until they’re gone and you look back on who they helped you become in life. . .

    Frances Eberwine Holod
    Michael J Contos
    Yeah, not bad for a fellow from Brewerytown!
    Frances Eberwine Holod


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