The Villanova Law J. Willard O'Brien American Inn of Court J. Clayton Undercofler, III Award is presented by the Villanova Inn to individuals who have demonstrated through his or her career and service to the Inn an exemplary level of leadership and integrity, as well as a dedication to the highest standards of the legal profession and the rule of law.
J. Clayton Undercofler, III, a member of the Villanova Law School Class of 1966, assisted in co-founding the Villanova Law J. Willard O'Brien American Inn of Court in 2000 and served as a member of the Inn's Executive Committee, initially as the Inn's first Program Chair and later as its second Counselor. Just before Clayton was to assume the presidency of the Inn in 2004, he was diagnosed with progressive supranuclear palsy (PSP), a neurodegenerative brain disease that has no known cause, treatment or cure. Sadly, Clayton passed away in 2007.
Clayton had an extraordinary legal career in Philadelphia, and was a well-known trial lawyer and public servant. He was a partner and past chairman of Saul Ewing LLP, where he practiced in the firm's Litigation Department and was a member of the White Collar and Government Enforcement and Antitrust Practice Groups. Prior to joining Saul Ewing, Clayton was a partner of Dilworth, Paxson, Kellish and Kaufman, and earlier served as an Assistant United States Attorney.
A member of the American College of Trial Lawyers, Clayton tried to verdict criminal cases in a defense capacity, as a prosecutor, and as a special prosecutor. In particular, he was Counsel to the House Republican Managers in the impeachment trial of Supreme Court Justice Rolf Lauren.
Clayton also served as Chairman of the Board of Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority (SEPTA) from 1988 to 1993. In that capacity, he presided over an extensive reorganization and revitalization of the region's transportation system. He also served as a visiting assistant professor of law at Villanova University.
In 2005, Clayton was honored by the Villanova Law Alumni Association with the Gerald Abraham Alumni Association Award for Service to Villanova University School of Law. He was also honored with Bar Medal from the Philadelphia Bar Association in 2004; was designated a "Pennsylvania Super Lawyer" by Philadelphia Magazine and Law and Politics Magazine (2004); appeared in The Best Lawyers in America, 2002-2003 Edition, and all earlier editions, Woodward White; named "Citizen of the Year for 1991" by the Delaware Valley Chapter of the March of Dimes; presented with the Regional Leadership Award in 1990, by the Greater Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce, KYW News radio, and Leadership Inc.; received the Federal Bar Association Younger Federal Lawyer Award, 1973; and received the Special Award For Assistant United States Attorneys, 1971.
Hon. Marjorie Rendell '73
Judge, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit
Former First Lady, Commonwealth of Pennsylvania
Hon. James Fitzgerald, III '66
Senior Judge, Superior Court of Pennsylvania
Former Justice, Supreme Court of Pennsylvania
J. Gordon Cooney, Jr. '84
Partner in Morgan Lewis' Litigation Practice
Managing Partner of the Philadelphia office
Kathleen D. Wilkinson, Esq. '81
Chancellor, Philadelphia Bar Association
Partner, Wilson Elser Moskowitz Edelman & Dicker LLP
Thomas G. Wilkinson, Jr., Esq. '81
Past-President, Pennsylvania Bar Association
Member, Cozen O'Connor