In Memory: ACBA Past President Spencer Strellis
Past ACBA President Spencer Strellis passed away at the age of 88 on October 19, 2022. A longtime champion of human rights, Spencer truly found his calling as a criminal defense attorney. He began his career at the Alameda County Public Defender’s Office in 1959 and continued to practice in the East Bay for more than five decades.
Born in Chicago in 1934, Spencer spent his childhood around the country and world following his father’s work as an Army Engineer, including high school on Guam. Spencer graduated from the University of Illinois before attending Berkeley Law (then Boalt Hall).
In private practice, Spencer tried more than 300 felony cases before a jury, including defending members of the Free Speech Movement, the Black Panther Party, and Chinese American community leaders. He worked tirelessly to make sure all of his clients were given a fair trial.
Some of his proudest legal accomplishments took place outside of the courtroom. In 1973, Spencer co-founded California Attorneys for Criminal Justice and served as a director for many years. Later Spencer co-founded the Criminal Courts Bar Association, which gave defense lawyers, District Attorneys, and judges a chance to connect outside of the courtroom. Spencer shared his expertise as a professor of criminal law and trial skills at Hastings College of Trial Advocacy and the Oakland College of the Law.
Spencer was honored to serve as the 2004 President of the Alameda County Bar Association. It was a career highlight for him, underscoring his love of the law and his admiration for his colleagues in this practice.
Spencer is survived by his wife of 48 years, Judith Strellis and their daughter Paisley Strellis, his three children with his first wife Jackie Hoffman Strellis, Eric and Keith Strellis and Lauren Mattiuzzi. His stepdaughter Anne Patterson Allen died in 2005. Spencer’s nine grandchildren and countless friends and family members will miss him dearly.
A memorial will be held on Saturday, November 12 from 1-4 p.m. at the Colombo Club at 5321 Claremont Ave, Oakland, CA 94618. Free parking is available across the street in the DMV parking lot. In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to the American Parkinson Disease Association, the ACLU, or the Oakland Library.