Old Glory

Veteran Phoenix lawyer Gary Peter Klahr fought The Bar and The Bar won

The truth is that Klahr's splashiest legal victories — reapportionment, the ROTC ban — came before he was a lawyer.

A guy's got to make a living, and when Klahr started practicing in 1967 he joined a firm that specialized in divorce law. He also did some criminal law. Eventually he opened his own small firm, branching out into personal injury cases.

Klahr recalls that from the start, he took the clients no one else would take, the "dopers," the people who didn't have much money. "We were one of the first non-gay firms to represent gays," he says, adding quickly, "I'm not gay, but I'm gay-sympathetic. It's a civil liberties issue."

Kevin Scanlon
Phoenix City Councilman Gary Peter Klahr, circa 1974.
Phoenix City Councilman Gary Peter Klahr, circa 1974.

He speaks proudly of the time shopping mall mogul Sam Grossman hired him to sue over a parking ticket his wife had received. Klahr lost the case, but he glows at the thought that such an important man would retain his services. It was more typical, he says, that a client would pay for his services with wrapped coins.

Almost as soon as he became a lawyer, Klahr began running for public office, and continued at every opportunity. It is dizzying to listen to him recall the year and office of each run — he even remembers vote counts — and depressing to hear his track record. He did serve one term on the Phoenix City Council in the early 1970s, and was ultimately instrumental in helping the city to form its charter government. And he has been elected to the Phoenix Union High School District governing board; he's currently a board member.

The school board is a good fit for Klahr, whose public interest work in the past couple of decades has focused on juveniles. One of the most famous cases involves a boy who was told he could not wear a Chicago Bulls tee shirt to school because it could show a gang affiliation. Klahr lost the first round in Maricopa County Superior Court, and then called in the big guns — Brown & Bain, a large local law firm with a First Amendment specialty. Ultimately, the school district dropped the ban; Carol Burton, the boy's mother, praises Klahr for his dedication throughout the process.

Outside the legal arena, Klahr has worked closely with young men for years. Klahr's associations with the juvenile delinquents he mentors, and even some of his employees and clients, have, over the years, possibly put him in danger. He has been robbed repeatedly, the most famous incident occurring in 1985, when Klahr came home to an intruder who stole $1,000 from him and left him tied to a bathroom towel rack. The crime is still unsolved.

Over the past several months, Phoenix police have responded to repeated calls at Klahr's home regarding altercations between Klahr and Adam Tryon, who once worked for Klahr and who Klahr has had a restraining order against. Oddly, the police kept finding that Tryon was actually living on Klahr's property, even though Klahr had taken out the restraining order. In one report, taken in 1998, Klahr and Tryon got into a wrestling match in Klahr's then-office and Klahr hit Tryon on the head with his shoe.

According to another police report, Joshua Melton, who Klahr had mentored, has allegedly stolen money from Klahr. Again, Klahr blames drugs. Melton has several drug convictions, but Klahr says Melton is now clean and working hard. The two are in close touch. Melton, a clean-cut young man with dirty fingernails, came by the house recently to borrow money from Klahr. The older man recorded it in a ledger.

Melton is one of the kids who had been living at Klahr's office. One of Klahr's former employees, Vance Bradley, filed a lawsuit against Klahr in 2000. He charged that Klahr had kids "sleeping on couches, ram-shackle furniture that contained and emanated a severe odor/stench, and as part and parcel of such living/office arrangements, dogs, cats, rats, an iguana, chickens, ferrets and other such animals were allowed to roam around the office spreading feces in the everyday work areas."

Bradley also claimed that Klahr "badgered, slandered and humiliated" him and other employees, and that Klahr suggested he "engage in sexual actions," making comments about anal sex and dildos.

Klahr denied everything, and later settled with Bradley.

So why does Klahr associate with people who hurt him, who break into his house and steal his money, when all he's tried to do, he says, is help them? Klahr maintains that everyone deserves another chance.

"Where there's life, there's hope," he says.

That's the way the State Bar of Arizona should have treated him, Klahr figures, but he didn't get any breaks because he wasn't an attorney in a three-piece suit with a high-rise office.

"This is strictly an attack on the sole practitioner, unorthodox, dirty shirt lawyer," he says.

At first, talking with Gary Peter Klahr about his disbarment, it's easy to be persuaded that he's been wronged.

Without stopping for breath, Klahr argues that "The Bar" violated the Americans With Disabilities Act by holding hearings without him present (he says he couldn't bear to hear people lie about him, because of his heart condition) and contends that he was "convicted" of things not already mentioned in pleadings, like drug use among his staff.

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I grew up in Phx...and fondly remember Mr. Klahr.  It was the time of the ever expanding "War on Drugs" and the Liquid Giraffe with Christine Bohling.  I never had dealings with Mr. Klahr but always knew the Hippies in PHX had a friend in Mr. Klahr fighting the craziness of "the war on drugs" and civil rights.  Thank you so much...If you don't know now, I'll tell you...You are loved just for being you...you gave all of us hope.  Peace to you GPK...

Michael Bragg Flanagan
Michael Bragg Flanagan

I was once the defendant in a civil action pleaded by Mr. Klahr. It took time out of a busy life, cost me in attorney fees although the proceedings were thrown out for lack of even basically establishing anything like wrongdoing, "I agreed to pay mine if he paid his" simply because I wouldn't have missed that day in court for the world! Can't speak for my counsel... or the befuddled Judge. The man can expound. Lawyers say if you have evidence pound the evidence, absent evidence pound the table!" Mr. Klahr didn't even need a table! I also wouldn't have missed the pretrial settlement "wunch" with Mr. Klahr... I simply could not eat a thing it was so... enuf, I personally will regret Arizona not having a Gary Peter Klahr to kick around! He was an institution unto himself no doubt! And... there may be some Dracula left in him... like Yogi said, "It ain't over til it's over!" Michael Bragg


Gary Klahr is in ill condition at the moment and those who have a bitterness in thier mouth need be silenced for you do not know the man who has had open arms for those in need dispite is sociable skills he was very carring and warm hearted in many ways tho different he was by all means no creep nor was he dihonest to any of you his manors were just and his services were well served and for those who deny these facts or rebuke the truth uttering false accusations let the shame fall apond every work you yourselfs do

Former Prep Employee
Former Prep Employee

I met GPK back in the mid-90's when he was representing 2 students at the Phoenix Preparatory Academy in their suit against the mandatory school uniform. I was a member of staff and was incensed that this creep obtained my personal home address and contacted all of us by letter TWICE in an attempt to encourage us to be insubordinate and undermine the implementation of the School Uniform Policy and Dress Code. Turns out that he lost both students' cases AND the appeal and the uniform policy went on to be extremely successful.


I have know Gary from the 1886,... he was alway one of hte best to know.. I was looking for him.. need to get a hold of him,thanksAlexandra Seals/ Tell him Roger Rudman was my x partner he will remember.. I think best wishes to him

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