Honoring Sanford M. Saunders

Celebrating the Life, Leadership and Legacy of Sanford M. Saunders
Co-Founder, Jerusalem Leaders Summit
Executive Advisory Board Member of International Leaders Summit
August 28, 1958 – December 31, 2017

By Elizabeth Saunders

Sanford (Sandy) M. Saunders, a founding member of the Jerusalem Leaders Summit, attended the first two Summits in Israel as an international Rule of Law expert and a keynote speaker. The inaugural Summit took place in November 2015 when the Iran Deal had just been signed and when terrorist attacks escalated within Israel with stabbings in the streets of Jerusalem, leaving Israel’s citizens on high-alert surrounded by an environment of uncertainty.

Safety was a concern, yet Sandy and an American and European delegation made the journey to Israel to show support and solidarity.  Sandy would not have missed that journey, and was committed to participating in every additional delegation that would follow.  He was a life long Jewish Republican and nothing would stand in the way of promoting Conservative values and virtues.

Sandy was very proud of Natasha Srdoc and Joel Anand Samy, co-founders of the International Leaders Summit and Jerusalem Leaders Summit for what they were accomplishing, and honored to be a part of it. He referred to their actions as principled perseverance, for they never waver in their convictions and fight to the end to bring like-minded people together to tackle complex global issues. He had every intention of continuing this work with them and taking an even more active role. Unfortunately, that will not happen, but his legacy will live forever.  It is the highest honor to pay tribute to my late husband, and to say how grateful I am to have this opportunity to tell a great story about this amazing man.


Born on August 28, 1958 in Brooklyn, NY, Sandy attended Poly Prep, one of the finest college preparatory schools in the nation.  This fine education was the cornerstone that shaped Sandy into a man of high character, integrity and morals.  His parents instilled the importance of education, which drove Sandy to attend The Johns Hopkins University for his undergraduate degree and Georgetown Law School thereafter.  He seized every opportunity and went for it.  Through hard work, determination and unwavering character he was able to excel, while inspiring so many along the way.

In personal circles Sandy will always be remembered affectionately as the Sandman.   He went out of his way to make everyone feel comfortable, relaxed and welcomed.  He cherished his roles of son, husband, cousin, brother, uncle, dad to his beloved pets and friend.  Sandy was the go-to person for so many, and was always generous with his time and resources.  He loved to help and always seemed to have a solution, or a way to make one feel like everything was going to be okay.

“Sandy was the best man I ever met.  He was an outstanding husband, son, brother, cousin, uncle and friend”Gus Bondi Sr…brother (in law).  Such simple words summarize Sandy to a tee, and so rightfully spoken by one of Sandy’s closest friends and brother.

One of Sandy’s dearest friends, John Lunde said, “For me and for many others, Sandy was our True North.  He was dependable, always available and stood for goodness, integrity, joy and character.  He possessed a powerful intellect and a great sense of humor. 

His favorite moments were hanging out with family and friends after a holiday or special dinner.  Sandy loved to grill and to enjoy a glass, or several, of adult beverage.  He was truly in his element, especially when lighting up a cigar with his brain trust.  And he loved the young people in his life and would do anything for them.  He was always ready to lend a hand, help with an internship, give college or career advice or just simply do whatever he could to give these special people a chance.

Sandy loved his nephews, Gus and John, as if they were his sons, and they idolized their Uncle Sandy.  His most cherished moments were with them and their father, outside around a fire, taking in the best moments of life.  Nephew Gus Bondi said, “It was always a true privilege and honor to be with Uncle Sandy.  He was the most influential and inspiring man I ever met.  He was a true champion for everyone who had the opportunity to be a part of his life.”

Nephew John Bondi said, “Uncle Sandy was not only a great man but also a great role model for me and my brother.  My favorite memory of us is when we would sit outside in Eddie’s Lounge, smoke cigars and just talk about life.  I learned so much from him and I will never forget him.”

Our niece, Emily, was Uncle Sandy’s light.  Emily and Uncle Sandy had a special bond and unspoken understanding.  The days she stayed with us during summer internships were some of the happiest, and Sandy took great pride in helping her obtain internships and excel.  And Emily loved her Uncle Sandy.  She wrote, “It’s hard to describe Uncle Sandy in one sentence, but for me he was one of the most down to earth, humble and kind human beings.  He was honestly one big teddy bear who I would run to when I was little for a big hug.  None of that changed when I got older, but one of my favorite memories that pretty much sums up our relationship was the summer I interned in DC and we would ride into work together.  Those 30-minute car rides are now what I cherish.  We talked about politics, law, sports and life.  When we arrived at his office I would get out of the elevator and walk the two blocks to my building, and he always left me with “See you later kiddo”.

My sister in law, Kimberly, truly appreciated Sandy and constantly acknowledged how remarkable he was, and the role he played in mentoring her children.  She said, “When someone asks me to describe Sandy I immediately tell them that he was the most unassuming and humble man I ever met.  He was the epitome of what you strive to be…kind, considerate, and always willing to do for others.  For my children Sandy was the greatest role model I could have hoped for. 


In his professional life, Sandy was a dragon slayer.   He was an international rule of law expert who fought ferociously for his clients and for the rule of law.  Morning, noon and night.  He never stopped.

“In the hypercompetitive world of international litigation, the temptation exists to overpromise and overcommit for short term gain.  In more than three decades of practice, Sandy’s character and honesty were never questioned.  He was a brilliant and relentless advocate who always put his clients’ interests before his own.  Sandy was by every measure a lawyer’s lawyer.  For me he was a cherished friend and role model of true character, unwavering loyalty and boundless generosity” David Catania, dear friend,  colleague and Managing Director of Georgetown Public Affairs LLC

Sandy was passionate about his work representing clients in court.  He spent his last 16 years of private legal practice in the Washington, D.C. office of Greenberg Traurig, LLP where he was a Senior Shareholder in the White-Collar Defense & Special Investigations Practice group.  He served as Co-Managing Shareholder of the D.C. office from 2010 -2016.

For more than 35 years Sandy served tirelessly as an international trial and white-collar criminal defense lawyer, representing corporations, business executives and legislative and ministerial level public officials in cases alleging fraud, money laundering and corruption.  He represented the Chairman of Yukos Oil (Mikhail Khodorkovsky) in two criminal trials in Moscow involving the largest allegations of money laundering ever prosecuted.   He said of Sandy, “Most of my time with Sandy as my U.S. lawyer was from a distance at the Russian Court in Moscow.  I was locked in a cage and could only speak to my Russian lawyers through that cage.  His confident look and occasional smile were always encouraging as if he was telling me that America is behind you.  I am enormously grateful for all his efforts to make me a free man.”

Maria Logan worked extensively with Sandy on the Khodorkovsky case, and she said “We travelled extensively together between 2004-2010.  Sandy’s most favorite toast after a long day was “Za Komandu”, which in English translation from Russian means ‘for the team’.  Those six years were the best in my team work experience, and I learned a lot from Sandy.” 

His clients also included financial institutions and individuals engaged in the banking and securities industries on anti-corruption issues.

Nicoleta Timofti also travelled the world with Sandy for many years, and was involved in much of the high-profile litigation that consumed their professional lives.  She remembered Sandy as saying, “Sunlight is the best disinfectant.”  Sandy used to say this phrase many times, and it was his credo in litigating cases that had an impact on the development and evolution of the rule of law.  Sandy’s reputation in Russian and Eastern European cases brought ‘out of the darkness and into the light’ the abuses to the rule of law. 

Another trusted friend and colleague, Ron Slimp, shared this quote, “When encountering a messy international political or business situation, I once said, ‘Sandy, this is a dirty pond, full of pollution and toxic waste.  Sandy’s response was, “Ron, it’s not how dirty the water is, it’s knowing how deep it is.”  Sandy also said something that became a TDI ethos, “motion is not progress”, meaning it’s not how much you do, but more so how meaningful it is.”

Sandy took great pride in the work he did and cherished the relationships he developed along the way.  For as much as he loved to return home after a long trip, he was equally as excited to leave on the next adventure.  The complex legal work coupled with the colleague comradery, that came directly from his brain trust, gave him endless energy to fight for his clients.  Those mentioned above and below were members of that special group until the end.

Richard Levick, Chairman and CEO of LEVICK said, “Sandy was a symphony of wisdom, intellect and joy.  Throughout the years, I was with him as a client, friend and brother.  His steady hand and baritone laugh all the way from the center of his soul told you everything, no matter the odds, was going to be okay. 

Another great friend and colleague, Maury Nunes, commented as follows, Sandy was patient and kind in being, but was a ferocious fighter in the courtroom.  He was a champion for his clients and colleagues.   Sandy was one of the best lawyers I’ve ever known in 43 years of practicing law.  What made him so special was his combination of great intelligence, ability to sort fact from fiction, bedrock realism, incredible insight and awesome creativity, but all that paled in comparison to the man of great character, unshaken integrity good humor, warmth and openness that he embodied.  If only men measured up to the standards that Sandy set, the world would be a better place.”

One of the most poignant quotes comes from Ben Young, another dear friend, colleague and Managing Director of Georgetown Public Affairs, LLC.  He nailed it by saying, “Above all Sandy was a gentleman.  He was an even-keeled and calming presence to everyone.  To his friends Sandy was someone who always had our backs.  And we knew it.  Though he was a force in the legal field, Sandy was never too busy to spend time talking about family, politics, the Washington Redskins or life in general.  I enjoyed his company immensely.”

Sandy achieved professional success at a level that most cannot imagine.  He was sought after as an international legal expert and took this role very seriously.  Yet, he was as normal as they come, and always humble and appreciative of every client, legal matter and success.  He treated everyone with the utmost respect and did not have an arrogant bone in his body.   These traits are rare in general, and made Sandy exceptional


In Sandy’s words, he would summarize how he approached life as “HELL YEAH!”  These words were his  lifetime mantra.  Sandy seized life every day.  He led by example by treasuring his life and sharing his wise heart.  His ‘will do’ attitude seemed at times unsustainable, but nonetheless he went for it.  Constantly.  He was unwavering in his convictions and always dedicated to life, liberty and happiness for all.  I know he is with us today in spirit, and that there is no place else he would rather be then in Israel, for the Third Jerusalem Leaders Summit.  He would be humbled by the distinct honor of having an award in his name – The Sanford M Saunders Rule of Law Award – and even more humbled to have this award presented to the Israeli Minister of Justice, Ayelet Shaked.  It is my honor and privilege to recognize his legacy, today and always.  Sandy was my champion for 24 years, and now I am his, for the rest of my existence.