In Memoriam

Patricia Margaret Sterns, JD (1952 – 2018)

Patricia M. Sterns was a longtime supporter of the International Astronautical Federation (IAF) thanks to her work within the Law Office of Sterns and Tennen, a member of the IAF since 1993. Dr. Sterns was a frequent participant, presenter, co-chair and session organizer at International Astronautical Congresses, beginning in Prague in 1977 through Guadalajara in 2016. For decades she provided guidance to the international community of scientists engaged in the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI), as it contemplated the legal issues related to the detection of life beyond Earth. She was an International Institute of Space Law (IISL) Honorary Director from 2008 until the time of her death.

Dr. 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.
Dr. 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.

Dr. 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.
Dr. Sterns is remembered by friends and colleagues for her keen intellect and generous spirit as she grappled with challenging issues at the intersection of space exploration and law.