Robert Julian Zarbin, a trial attorney who handled personal injury cases and was a leader in his profession, died July 8 of complications from cancer at the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston. The Millersville resident was 56.
Born in Baltimore and raised on Loch Raven Boulevard, was the son of Dr. Gino F. Zarbin, a pediatrician, and Adriana Corasaniti, who trained as an opera singer. He attended St. Mary of the Assumption School and was a 1979 graduate of McDonogh School, where he played football. He was also active in the drama club and played the trumpet in the school band.
He earned a bachelor's degree at what is now Loyola University Maryland and was a 1986 graduate of the Loyola University College of Law in New Orleans.
Mr. Zarbin previously practiced law at Saiontz and Kirk in Baltimore and the Jaklitsch Law Group in Upper Marlboro. In 2012, he opened his own firm on Main Street in Upper Marlboro.
"He was probably the most successful associate at Saiontz and Kirk," said a fellow attorney and friend, Jim MacAlister. "He could make things happen. He could take what appeared what appeared to be a bad case and persuade an insurance company to offer money. He was so likeable. Through the sheer force of his will, he was the kind of person who could make water run uphill.
"And after a case was over, he never left blood on the floor," Mr. MacAlister said. "He'd take the attorneys out and have a beer afterward.
Mr. Zarbin spent his career handling personal injury and workers' compensation cases.
"Robert loved being a litigator and loved being in the courtroom," said his brother, Dr. Marco Zarbin of Chatham, N.J. "In cross-examining witnesses, he loved the repartee and being on the attack."
Mr. Zarbin was a longtime board member and past president of the Maryland Association for Justice, a professional organization that advocates for the injured. Mr. Zarbin was chair of the organization's Legislative Committee and he regularly testified before General Assembly committees on behalf of victims' rights.
"Robert was a terrific boss. He was pleasant and appreciative and thankful of everything we did. He mentored other younger attorneys too," said Brenda L. Goldsmith, his paralegal and office manager.
"He had an intuitive understanding of people that enabled him to be a great negotiator and litigator," said his brother. "He was a natural leader and had a strong sense of justice."
He recalled his brother's ability to assess his clients and their legal opponents.
"Robert had a great sense of humor, and it permeated every aspect of his life, including his work," his brother said. "Robert's profoundly accurate intuition about people gave him an unfair advantage in almost every negotiation. He had excellent leadership skills and was very comfortable being in charge and — especially — being the center of attention."
His brother said he enjoyed sailing on his boat, the Excess Verdict, and cooking sausages while tailgating at a Ravens games. He was also a regular at Oriole Park at Camden Yards.
He also was a past delegate and president of the Council of Presidents for the American Association for Justice, a national organization. He was a member of the Maryland State Bar Association and served on its board of governors.
Mr. Zaebin was the recipient of the 2010 David Hjortsberg Award for outstanding solo practitioner of the year.
"Robert was one of the luckiest, if not the luckiest, person I've ever known," his brother said. "He won the trifecta, $18,000, at the Preakness one year. At a hospital fundraiser, Robert won so many hands playing blackjack that he traded his chips in for a Cartier watch."
Gov. Martin O'Malley nominated him to serve on the Anne Arundel County Judicial Nominating Commission. The Attorney Grievance Commission also named him to sit on the panel, which reviews attorney conduct.
A funeral Mass will be held at 11 a.m. Saturday at the Roman Catholic Cathedral of Mary Our Queen, 5200 N. Charles St.
In addition to his brother, survivors include his wife of 10 years, Simonne Valenti; a son, Gino Zarbin, and a daughter, Ava Zarbin, both of Millersville; another brother, Sergio Zarbin of Glen Arm; a nephew and two nieces.