The Indianapolis legal community is in mourning after learning of the sudden death Tuesday night of attorney Joe Russell.
He was a partner at Krieg DeVault LLP and was a well-known and respected member of the Indianapolis bar. His career included both private practice and public service. Also, he was active in several community and professional associations.
Ron Walker, of counsel at Plews Shadley Racher & Braun LLP, described Russell’s death as “devastating.”
“The Indianapolis legal community has lost a real star,” Walker said. “This is the loss not only of a star but of an extraordinarily well-liked star.”
C. Joseph Russell graduated from the Indiana University Robert H. McKinney School of Law in 1980. Three years later, he was appointed to the post of assistant U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Indiana. From 1985 to 1992, he served on the U.S. Justice Department’s Organized Crime and Drug Enforcement Task Force.
He joined Krieg DeVault as a partner in 2009 where he focused his practice on white collar criminal defense and complex litigation.
“We are deeply saddened by the unexpected loss of our beloved and valued friend and partner,” said Michael E. Williams, managing partner at Krieg DeVault. “The Krieg DeVault family, and those that had the good fortune of knowing and working with Joe, will greatly miss his friendship and professionalism. We appreciate everyone’s understanding and support.”
Outside of the office, Russell served in leadership capacities of the Hendricks County, Hamilton County and Indiana State bar associations as well as the American Bar Association and the Federal Bar Association. He was a member of the Indianapolis Bar Association, serving as president in 1999, and a distinguished fellow with the Indianapolis Bar Foundation.
“Joe was an absolute force in this organization,” said Kerry Hyatt Blomquist, current president of the Indianapolis Bar Association. “You would be hard pressed to find another leader in this organization’s 130-year history that had as much charisma, follow-through, and good common sense as Joe.”
At Blomquist’s request, Russell became chair of the Judicial Excellence Committee. She praised his incredible ethics, strength and straight-forward manner as providing invaluable leadership when the committee conducted judicial evaluations during election years.
“…I always appreciated his candor, humor and straight talk,” Blomquist said. “This loss to this legal community and this legal family is unimaginable.”
During his career, Russell received numerous awards and citations from the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, Federal Bureau of Investigation, U.S. Customs, the U.S. Department of Treasury’s Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms and the Indiana State Police.
Walker got to know Russell through their work on the board of the Indianapolis Legal Aid Society. There, they both discovered they had each served in the U.S. Marines. Walker remembered that Russell would sometimes sign his name in emails as Lance Cpl. Russell.
Reflecting on their military experience, Walker noted the “Marines’ Hymn” includes lyrics about Marines guarding the street of heaven.
“If that’s true,” Walker said, “Joe is out there on one of the streets in heaven taking care of traffic. I think he’d like that.”