Renowned San Diego litigator Harvey Levine died Tuesday at the age of 68 following a lengthy stomach illness.
He piled up countless victories during a nearly 40-year career, capped by membership in the state's Trial Lawyer Hall of Fame, and he left an indelible mark on the San Diego legal community.
"When you think of legendary plaintiffs' lawyers in the state of California, he's definitely on the short list," said Richard Huver, who practiced alongside Levine for 16 years at Levin, Steinberg, Miller & Huver. "He did everything in his career that you could imagine.
"The opportunity I had to work with Harvey and my uncle, Ned Good, was an education you can't buy in a book and you can't learn in a seminar. For that I will always be grateful."
Levine had been battling stomach problems for the past two years. His wife, Judy, said the family was never able to get a medical diagnosis of what was wrong.
"I'm shocked that he's passed on because I thought he was going to make it back," said Harris Steinberg, a colleague of Levine's for 30 years.
"He was very, very high energy. He approached everything with energy and with vigor. He was a competitive guy."
A native of Brooklyn, N.Y., Levine obtained three law degrees, including an LLM and SJD from the New York University School of Law.
He moved to San Diego in 1972, when, as a 28-year-old, he became one of the youngest professors at the University of San Diego School of Law.
He taught fulltime for eight years and then another 12 as an adjunct professor, continually tweaking his curriculum to make classes interesting for the students and himself.
He launched his own legal practice in the early 1980s, specializing in insurance bad faith and personal injury litigation.
"He loved the practice of law," Judy Levine said. "The battle was just something he got enormous pleasure from, and he was very, very good at it."
During his prestigious career, he secured more than 75 verdicts or settlements in excess of $1 million.
In 2007, he was inducted into the State Bar of California's Trial Lawyer Hall of Fame, and then in 2008, he earned entrance into the Consumer Attorneys of San Diego's Past President's Trial Lawyer Hall of Fame.
"He was just an extraordinary man in so many ways," said Craig Miller, who worked with Levine for 23 years. "He was a back-alley brawler, and he was an academic and intellectual of the highest order. His intellectual curiosity expanded far afield – well beyond the law. He could not read enough books on any subject."
Levine was active in the community as well and took a special interest in at-risk kids.
He received the YMCA PRYDE Program's "Volunteer of the Year" award for his selfless service to the youth program in 2000. He also served on the Children's Advocacy Institute's board of directors.
He created a running program for at-risk youth, supplying them with shoes and stopwatches.
"He could find humor in just about anything," Judy Levine said. "He had a love of life. He could look at issues in a different way, and he was a genius at strategy."
Levine took up endurance sports later in life, running 70 marathons and completing a half dozen Ironman triathlons. He attacked exercise with the same ferocity he showed in the courtroom.
"The guy had enormous endurance and dogged determination," Huver said. "He gave every opponent a run for their money. He was certainly one of the fittest people I knew.
"He was a workhorse and a champion for his clients."
Levine is survived by his wife Judy; daughter Alyssa; son and daughter-in-law, Adam and Rennie; and granddaughter Chloe.
A memorial service will be held Friday at 11 a.m. at Congregation Beth Israel (9001 Town Center Drive, San Diego).