Patricia M. Sterns was a longtime member of the International Institute of Space Law (IISL), and served two full terms on the Institute Board of Directors (1999-2007). She was an Honorary Director from 2008 until the time of her death. She served as a member and chair of the IISL’s Membership Committee for several years. She was a panel organiser, coordinator and/or presenter at IISL and other international conferences in North and South America, Europe, Asia and Australia. Past IISL President N. Jasentuliyana noted her many outstanding contributions at international conferences, which stand as testimony to her scholarship and commitment to the development of space law. Nandi also noted that “she was a pillar of strength to me and the Board of the IISL.” The law firm Sterns and Tennen was the first institutional member of the IISL. That Firm received a 1998 IISL Distinguished Service Award.
Ms Sterns was born in Phoenix, Arizona in 1952. She earned an undergraduate degree at Arizona State University in 1974 and a Juris Doctorate at the University of Arizona’s School of Law in Tucson in 1977, where she was a member of the Arizona Law Review. She was admitted to practice by the Arizona Supreme Court, the U. S. District Court of Arizona, and the Supreme Court of the United States. Patricia was a Partner in the law firm of Sterns and Tennen from 1978 until she retired in 2016. Her legal practice focused on assisting clients in civil and criminal proceedings. Patricia married her partner, Leslie I. Tennen, in a lovely and memorable Phoenix garden wedding in 2005.
From 1983 to 1999 and again from 2003 to 2007 Ms Sterns served as a judge pro tempore for the Superior Court of Arizona, County of Maricopa. She also served on the Arizona Judicial Branch Domestic Relations Committee until 2014. She served as a guest lecturer at the American Graduate School of International Management in Phoenix, Arizona, and was a guest lecturer at the Princeton University Space Manufacturing Facilities Conference. During her career she authored and co-authored numerous articles, papers, chapters of anthologies on space law, and books. She contributed a chapter to Ram Jaku’s National Regulation of Space Activities in 2010, and co-authored and co-edited with her husband Private Law, Public Law, Metalaw and Public Policy in Space, A Liber Amicorum in Honor of Ernst Fasan in 2016.
Ms Sterns participated in the Philip C. Jessup International Law Moot Court Competition; and she made substantial and continuing contributions to the Manfred Lachs International Space Law Moot Court Competition. She served as a judge at national and regional levels, and the Sterns and Tennen law firm established an annual award which has been given since 1997 to the Best Oralist at the World Finals competition. Patricia was always available to assist in the planning and organisation of the many competitions. She co-authored the 2012 Lach’s Moot Court case, Zuris vs. Freedonia, concerning environmental contamination and harmful interference in space activities. She is fondly remembered by many for regularly hosting informal evening dinners for the young lawyers and students during the annual IISL Colloquia.
Former IISL President Tanja Masson remembers “I met Patty at my first IISL Colloquium, 1986 in Innsbruck and was immediately stuck by her personality, intelligence, eloquence and elegance. She was fun-loving and full of life. In more than 30 years we have built a wonderful friendship and worked together in close collaboration marked by mutual respect, genuine interest and sincere appreciation of efforts. During my time as Secretary, then President of the IISL (1991-2016), she was always supportive and cooperative. I remember her as a beautiful person in every aspect and cherish warm memories of our friendship and her unfaltering dedication to the IISL she loved so much.”
Ms Sterns was a member of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics, a longtime member of the American Society of International Law and the Maricopa Bar Association. She was a full Member of the International Academy of Astronautics and served on the Academy’s Committee on the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI). She received the Academy’s Social Science Book Award in 2011. She was heavily involved with the American Bar Association’s International Law Section and Aerospace Law Committee.
Patricia and her husband, Les, owned and lived together on a ranch near Phoenix, Arizona and Ms Sterns was a past member of the Professional Cowboys Association and the American Quarter Horse Association. She was generous, caring, and always sensitive to the needs of those around her.
Distinguished Austrian attorney and co member of the IISL Board of Directors, a close family friend, Ernst Fasan remembered . . . “she – with her beloved husband Leslie – had her roots in the beautiful ranch in Phoenix. She loved her horses, and other animals on the ranch and was very happy there. For many years her outstanding papers on space law were published. And her passing away is a great loss not only for her family but also for us, her friends and colleagues. The International Institute of Space Law, the IAF and the IAA have suffered a great loss, and we all will keep her memory in highest esteem.”
In March 2018 Patricia Margaret Sterns, JD was presented the Albert Nelson Marquis Lifetime Achievement Award by Marquis Who’ Who, recognizing her noteworthy accomplishments, leadership qualities, public service, and the many credentials and successes she had achieved in the legal field. Ms Sterns was listed in Who’s Who in America, Who’s Who in American Law, Who’s Who in the West, and Who’s Who of Emerging Leaders in America.