Matthew Joel Zinn

December 12, 1936 ~ September 28, 2021 (age 84)


Matthew Joel Zinn of Washington, D.C. passed away on September 28, 2021.  He was 84.


Born in Brooklyn, New York and a resident of the Washington area for more than half a century, Matthew graduated from the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania in 1958.  He earned his law degreee at Harvard Law School in 1961, where he served as an editor of the Law Review. 


Matthew was a partner at the law firm of Steptoe & Johnson in Washington, where he worked for more than 40 years, serving in various leadership roles.  He previously worked as the Tax Assistant in the Office of the Solicitor General of the United States.  He argued multiple cases before the United States Supreme Court, including some of the most significant tax cases of his time.  He loved practicing law and was a student of the Supreme Court, reading virtually every opinion even after his retirement.  An old school lawyer, he was the only attorney at his firm in recent years never to use a computer, preferring to handwrite his briefs on yellow legal pads.  He viewed the education of younger lawyers as his most important responsibility, training generations of tax lawyers who became his partners and close personal friends.


Most of all, Matthew loved spending time with family.  He was the center of weekly family dinners with his wife, Lenore, his children, in-laws, grandchildren, and various friends.  Matthew was always ready to talk politics and current events.  He was an avid reader, consuming multiple newspapers per day and stacks of books.  He also listened to countless hours of news radio, tuning in every night on the AM dial, in the pre-podcast era.  A loyal Washington sports fan, he spent Sunday afternoons watching the local football team with his son, grandson, nephews, and others.  A natural pessimist, he predicted losses every week, and for 30 years, was almost always correct.


He grew up in Neponsit, New York, footsteps from the beach.  The love of the ocean stayed with him throughout his life.  He spent summer weekends on the Delaware shore, reading and relaxing with family, Washington far from his mind.


He is survived by his beloved wife of nearly 60 years, Lenore Gordon Zinn; son, David Zinn, and daughter-in-law, Ellen Harris; daughter, Deborah Shiffman, and son-in-law, David Shiffman; grandchildren Sara, Sydney, and Tyler Shiffman, and Jaren, Amalie, and Sophie Zinn; his sister Carla Bloch; and a host of loving cousins, nephews, and nieces.


A private graveside service will be held by the family.


In lieu of flowers, donations may be made in Matthew’s memory to the Michael J. Fox Foundation ( or the Parkinson’s Foundation (



A service summary is not available
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