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Mari-Rae entered law in order to act on her personal beliefs, including interests in civil rights and womens’ rights. She also entertained the thought of combining her interests by becoming active in sports-related law issues.

As Andrew S. Effron, U.S. Court of Appeals Judge said in a letter, “Mari-Rae was always well-prepared, articulate and forceful. She was deeply committed to her clients.”

To the Nth Degree
Mari-Rae received a law degree from the University of Denver College of Law in 1996. Her mother Marion and step-father Frank joined her father Bill in attending the ceremony.

Judge Advocate General Corps

Mari-Rae with friends in JAG. The challenges fit her beliefs and skills, but the uniform didn’t.

While serving in the Navy JAG Corps, Mari-Rae represented defendants in military trials. She once had an opportunity to bring a case before the U.S. Supreme Court. Following is a tribute written by an attorney who was mentoring Mari-Rae at the time:

Mrs. Kminek:

Thank you for contacting me. You don’t know me, although we spoke a couple of years ago when Mari-Rae was home on leave. I was mentoring and assisting her on the case that she had pending in the U.S. Supreme Court, as I am the Co-Chair of the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, Military Law Committee. I had to call her about a development in the case and she had given me your number.

I can say this after 26 years of practicing law. Many lesser attorneys would have sought the fame of arguing a case in the US Supreme Court, regardless of the negative effects such was likely to have both on the specific client and other’s accused (rightly or wrongly) of crimes. Mari-Rae instantly saw the “big picture” and knew what the right thing to do was, and so took a position that was honorable to the profession of law, but most certainly deprived her of an opportunity to appear before the Supreme Court. That case has had an impact on every death penalty case in the United States, and also every military courts-martial thereafter.

Few knew of Mari-Rae’s selfless contribution to that, but those of us who did, saluted her then and continue to honor her tenacity and integrity as an attorney. But, I do not suppose I have to tell you that.

I have no power to change the past or to alter the course of history. But, I certainly can and will continue to do my best in trying to influence the future of my legal profession in general and the JAG corps in particular, by using Mari-Rae as THE example of an attorney who never let a client down.

Please accept my humble thoughts for you as a mother, who has had to suffer this tragedy. But, please also accept my congratulations for your superb efforts to bring life to Mari-Rae’s dream.


Don Rehkopf
Brenna & Brenna
Attorneys at Law
Rochester, New York

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