This article originally appeared in The Bar Examiner print edition, Spring 2022 (Vol. 91, Nos. 1), pp. 66.
Peter Henning, a longtime member and then chair of NCBE’s Criminal Law and Procedure Drafting Committee, passed away in January 2022 at the age of 65 after a battle with a fast-moving form of frontotemporal dementia. The following is a tribute to Peter written by Dean Kevin K. Washburn, who has served on the committee since 2006.By Kevin K. WashburnThe best leaders convey enthusiasm about the team’s mission and support the team’s members.
To his colleagues on NCBE’s Criminal Law and Procedure Drafting Committee, Peter Henning demonstrated his love of the law with enthusiasm and humor, and sometimes even sarcasm, but always with a twinkle in his eye. He was an expert in criminal law and a quick editor, with a gift for suggesting the right edits to improve the Multistate Bar Examination questions that are the focus of the Committee’s work.
Peter had been a law professor at Wayne State University since 1994, and a member of the committee since 2008, serving as chair for three years before stepping down at the end of 2020.
A serious scholar, Peter developed his expertise in white-collar crime during his time at the Criminal Division of the US Department of Justice, and the Division of Enforcement of the US Securities and Exchange Commission. As a professor, Peter had a knack for explaining difficult concepts, making him an award-winning teacher who was well-liked by his students. This talent earned him numerous calls from journalists needing a way to explain issues such as fraud to the public in high-profile cases that often involved public officials or white-collar defendants. With his keen insight, Peter could explain, in a manner easily understood by nonlawyers, why a case might be more successful in state or federal courts based on different rules of evidence or procedure.
Peter grew up in Los Angeles, attended law school at Georgetown University, and raised his family in the Detroit suburbs with his wife, Karen McDonald Henning, who is also a law professor. He very much enjoyed his life there.
One constant was Peter’s generosity to his colleagues. When the senior member of our committee, US District Judge Anne Thompson (D. N.J.), had a case affirmed by the Third Circuit, or another member testified before Congress or had an article cited by a court, Peter was always quick to notice and offer warm congratulations, often copying the entire team. In contrast, he deflected attention from his own achievements but always spotlighted an accomplishment by his beloved wife or daughters.
Peter was adventurous in travel, teaching in the Fulbright program in Croatia and Taiwan, but not so much in fine dining—though he was always a good sport. At long dinners at fancy restaurants, Peter would order a diet soda and one of the more ordinary meals on the menu and enjoy the warm company of his foodie colleagues, smiling indulgently when one held forth on the chef’s preparation of the kale, sea bass, or some other delicacy, and offering good-natured ribbing only if such a paean went on too long.
We will miss his good humor, and we are consoled only in knowing that his legacy of excellent draftsmanship and leadership will manifest in our work for NCBE for years to come.
Kevin K. Washburn is dean of the University of Iowa College of Law. He has served on NCBE’s Criminal Law and Procedure Drafting Committee since 2006.
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