Jay Dean Zeiler was a Washington attorney who served on the legal team that played a crucial role in determining the future of one of Bosnia’s most strategically important regions in the 1990s, died March 21st at his home in Middleburg, Virginia, of a neuroendocrine cancer. He was 77.
Mr. Zeiler, who was born and raised in Leesburg, received his BA in 1966 and his JD with Honors in 1972 from George Washington University, and was a partner at the law firm of Akin, Gump, Strauss, Hauer, and Feld in Washington for 30-plus years. He developed a litigation practice primarily focused on dispute resolution of international claims. For six years he headed Akin Gump’s international practice in Brussels, where he represented the Federation of Bosnia Herzegovina in an arbitration over the control of the 45,000 residents of the city of Brcko, through a special district. His team convinced a special international tribunal to rule that the two entities, which often are at odds, share control of Brcko, a ruling that still stands. He considered his role in that litigation his most rewarding career experience.
In 1966, Mr. Zeiler enlisted in the Army immediately after graduating from college. He deployed to Vietnam in 1968 and served as a platoon leader in the 25th Infantry Division. He was seriously wounded during a night ambush near the end of his tour of duty and medevacked to Walter Reed Army Medical Center. His medals included three Bronze Stars and a Purple Heart.
In recent years Mr. Zeiler was instrumental in getting his law firm to work pro bono on behalf of the nonprofit Legacies of War organization’s work to remove unexploded American ordnance that was dropped in Laos during the Vietnam War. The law firm continues to lobby Congress to raise awareness of this issue.
Mr. Zeiler was a devoted husband and father with a lifelong love of the outdoors that he shared with his family. He spent many weekends in retirement riding to the hounds with the Piedmont Hunt and riding his bike through the backroads of Loudoun County.
He is survived by his wife of 51 years, Estelle Heard Zeiler, and their two children, Telle Latimer Zeiler of Seattle, and Jay Heard Zeiler of Purcellville, Virginia, and two grandchildren.
Contributions in his memory may be made online to Legacies of War at legaciesofwar.org/donate.