Lawrence Prattis, 76, retired judge

Posted: May 12, 2003

Lawrence Prattis, 76, of West Philadelphia, a retired Common Pleas Court judge and civic activist who helped develop low-income housing in Philadelphia, died of cancer Wednesday at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania.

Judge Prattis was appointed to the Common Pleas Court in Philadelphia in 1973 by Gov. Milton J. Shapp. He was subsequently elected to two terms, presiding over mostly civil cases. His docket included cases involving voting irregularities, property disputes, wrongful deaths and consumer issues. He retired in 1992.

A lifelong resident of West Philadelphia, Judge Prattis graduated from West Philadelphia High School. He earned a bachelor's degree from Howard University in 1946 and was associate editor of the yearbook. After earning a law degree from Temple University, where he was editor of the law review, he was law clerk for Judge William Hastie of the U.S. Court of Appeals.

During the Korean War, he served in the Marine Corps in Korea.

Before being appointed to the bench, Judge Prattis had maintained a private law practice and had served as an assistant city solicitor for Philadelphia and as an assistant U.S. attorney.

He had a special interest in housing issues, and was a former regional counsel for the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

In the 1970s he was executive director of Maple Corp., a nonprofit developer of low-income housing in several Philadelphia neighborhoods.

From 1976 to 1981 he was a lecturer at Villanova University Law School. He had also lectured at the Pennsylvania Bar Association Institute and at Thomas Jefferson Medical School.

In 1988 Judge Prattis received the Gerald F. Flood Memorial Award from the Philadelphia Bar Foundation for his "devotion to public service and justice."

He was on the boards of several organizations, including the Philadelphia Housing Authority and the United Fund of Philadelphia.

His wife, the former Marie Bruen, said her husband was a history buff and enjoyed growing flowers - especially roses - listening to all kinds of music, deep-sea fishing, and spending time at his vacation home in Cape May, N.J.

In addition to his wife of 47 years, he is survived by a daughter, Susan; a son, David; and a grandson.

The funeral will be held at 11 a.m. today at Camphor United Methodist Church, 5620 Wyalusing Ave., Philadelphia. Friends may call from 10 a.m. Burial will be in West Laurel Hill Cemetery, Bala Cynwyd.

Contact staff writer Sally A. Downey at 215-854-2913 or

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