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Cornelius D. Scully III: A Memorial

Cite as "AILA InfoNet Doc. No. 14013142 (posted Jan. 31, 2014)"

By Dale Schwartz, AILA Past President

On behalf of the nearly 14,000 lawyer members of the American Immigration Lawyers Association, I would like to share with you a few thoughts on the passing of our friend, Dick Scully.

On a personal level, I first met Dick Scully when I was a very young lawyer at a liaison meeting in his office. I immediately thought to myself that I was in the presence of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt. Scully looked like him; talked like him; commanded the same presence as the former president; and--right down to the plastic cigarette holder--exuded the same charisma as Roosevelt! Frankly, I was rather intimidated from the beginning.

But Dick soon warmed up to us and I quickly realized that this exceptionally bright and energetic man was a deep repository of the history of the State Department's visa responsibilities.

He was introduced to us as Director of the Office of Regulations and Legislation--("Legs & Regs" in DOS jargon)--a title that in no way described the real official duties with which he was entrusted. He trained new consular officers in visa matters, ran the advisory opinions section which provided legal advice to field officers all over the world, and was the go-to person on national security issues with regard to visas. Every time I asked him something about the latter, he would say: "Dale if I tell you, I'll have to kill you!" And that ended my inquiry.

For reasons I'll never quite understand, Dick became a mentor to me and taught me an awful lot of immigration law and policy over the years. I prided myself in never imposing on our friendship by asking Dick for help with one of my cases, but always couched my questions to Dick in terms of hypotheticals, and he would point me in the right direction or direct me to the right paragraph in the Foreign Affairs Manual (the "Bible" for consular visa officers).

Dick Scully didn't just teach me immigration law; he taught thousands of other lawyers to navigate through the labyrinth of immigration laws and regulations, and was the most sought-after speaker at scores of AILA immigration seminars and conferences over many years.

When we had problems with particular consular officers, we would go to Scully and he would investigate our complaints. While Dick was a staunch defender of his officers in the field, if he found inappropriate behavior he would take action to correct the situation. I remember once, when we brought sworn testimony to Dick that a certain consul in a post in Africa abused applicants and even made some of them get on their knees and beg for visas, he sent an investigator to the post. His investigator reported that indeed he was treated with the same disrespect. A few months later at the next AILA liaison in Dick's office, he casually mentioned that he had bumped into the offending officer that morning in the basement of the Visa Office building pushing a cart full of files. The poor guy had been demoted to a mail room clerk, Scully looked at me and said: "That's what I call justice!" And it was.

Scully was held in great esteem on Capitol Hill and his advice was sought by Senators and Congressmen on pending immigration issues. He wrote testimony for the various committees considering bills, and he helped to shape our immigration laws for many years. I have fond memories of him giving me advice when I was asked to testify several times by Congressional committees on the Simpson-Rodino legislation, which gave legal status to 4 million immigrants. His vast knowledge of our immigration laws and history was respected throughout the Department of State. While Dick was a graduate of a fine law school, he never bothered to become a member of the bar of any state. Yet he was one of the finest lawyers I ever met.

I often recall that one Christmas morning--normally a slow news day--I was awakened by a call from CNN. It seemed that the Panamanian dictator, General Noriega, was ensconced in the Embassy of the Vatican in Panama City, surrounded by U.S. army troops demanding his surrender, and was asking the Pope to give him political asylum in the Vatican. The CNN assignment editor ask me if I could go on air and discuss whether the Vatican was an independent country; could the Pope grant Noriega asylum; and what would Noriega do in the Vatican. Never wanting to pass up an opportunity to be on national television, I told the assignment editor who called me: "Of course I can discuss these things." I hung up the phone and panicked. I woke up my wife and said, "Susan, I don't know squat about those things and I don't have time to research them!" She looked at me and told me to call Dick Scully. I apologized to him for calling so early in the morning on Christmas Day, but in his normal straightforward and gracious manner he said: "No problem Dale. Muffie and I were just having coffee." I'll never know if that was true or not--it was a little after 7 a.m.--but for the next 30 minutes I took a lot of notes from Dick's advice.

Yes, the Vatican is a separate country. Yes, the Pope Could grant Noriega asylum (thought it was highly unlikely that he would do that). And if he did, Noriega would have to live among the nuns in Vatican City--that few square-block enclave in Rome--for the rest of his life.

After being on CNN newscasts all day, they finally dismissed me and I walked down the hall to a pay phone to call Dick. I said to him: "Scully, you are a great ventriloquist! My mouth opened and your words came out all day!" I have been on CNN nearly 100 times, but I was never better than on that day. Thanks once again Dick.

One of the things I loved Scully for the most was his introducing me to his assistant and heir apparent, Steve Fischell, who unfortunately died a few years ago at a very young age. Steve became one of my best friends and I loved him like a brother. Steve once told me that it was tough working for a true perfectionist, but that Scully made him strive to always do his best and not to be afraid of the politicians or the bureaucrats in doing his job. Steve idolized Dick, who was like a second father to him. That's just the kind of guy Dick was.

We will miss Dick. He made our world a better place and a safer place.

To Muffie and all of Dick's family: Thank you for sharing him with us!

I wish I could be the fly on the wall when he bumps into Franklin Roosevelt up in Heaven. I'm sure the former President will instantly like his double, Dick Scully. We sure did. Rest in peace our friend.

 
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