Austin lawyer Ross Ehlinger died Sunday morning while competing in a California triathlon. A lawyer with Austin’s Grove, Ehlinger & Deaderick, he graduated from St. Mary’s University School of Law in San Antonio in 1992, according to information on the State Bar of Texas website.
Ehlinger passed away during the swim portion of the Escape from Alcatraz Triathlon, a 1.5-mile swim from Alcatraz Island to San Francisco, according to a message from the event’s organizers on the event’s website.
For 20 years, Ehlinger practiced before County Court-at-Law Judge David Phillips in Austin, Phillips says.
“I looked it up yesterday; he tried 12 jury trials in my court to a verdict,” he notes.
“He did a lot of insurance defense, but he also did some plaintiffs’ work,” Phillips says. “He always won,” the judge adds, recalling that the lawyer’s approach with juries was sincere and earnest.
“He was Mr. Humble. It wasn’t an act at all. It was the way he was.”
The judge says Ehlinger would tell the jury, “ ‘I don’t know if what he’s saying is true. If it is, you ought to rule against us. But do you really think it’s true? I just don’t know.’ ”
Phillips didn’t know Ehlinger was a triathlete because the lawyer preferred to talk about his kids and family.
“He would come to court with sunburn, because he had been out coaching on the weekend, and we talked about his kids and his coaching and what the family did.” Phillips says.
Ehlinger was respected and liked by his peers, Phillips says.
“You won’t find a lawyer on the other side of any case he tried who had anything to say about him that was bad,” Phillips says. “He never had a disagreement with anybody in a courtroom that I can remember.”
County court operations officer Nellie Celedon says she was in shock Monday after learning, from one of Ehlinger’s colleagues, that Ehlinger had died during a triathlon.
“I was just speaking to him last week, and he looked great,” she says. “He was wonderful with the staff here,” Celedon says. “He always made you laugh and came in with a great smile.”
Ehlinger was at the courthouse regularly to check on trial assignments, she says.
“Instead of having his staff call, he would come by and visit us. We’re going to miss that. He was a personable, lovely, happy lawyer who enjoyed what he did.”
— Jeanne Graham