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Federal Judge Robert Gawthrop Dies

August 3, 1999

PHILADELPHIA (AP) _ U.S. District Court Judge Robert S. Gawthrop III, whose cases included one involving a law firm accused of firing a young associate with the AIDS virus, has died after a long battle with cancer. He was 56.

Although the 1994 case ended in a settlement, Gawthrop wrote the first opinion that people who show no symptoms of AIDS can still be considered disabled under the Americans with Disabilities Act.

The case had striking similarities to the one depicted in the Academy Award-winning movie ``Philadelphia,″ which was released in 1993.

Among other notable cases in Gawthrop’s court were the 1996 sentencing of five police officers who pleaded guilty in a corruption scandal; the 1996 racketeering and bribery trial of former Rep. Joseph McDade, R-Pa.; and the lawsuit brought by parents against the Chester-Upland School District, in which he appointed a special master to implement education reforms.

Gawthrop graduated from Amherst College in 1964 and enlisted in the Army, serving in Korea before returning to civilian life in 1967.

He received a law degree from Dickinson University in 1970 and was elected to the Chester County Common Pleas Court in 1978. Former President Reagan nominated him to the federal bench in 1987.

Gawthrop, who died Sunday, was known outside of court for performing in all 14 Gilbert and Sullivan operettas, both regionally and with companies in England.