2017 Justice Robert D. Rucker Lecture
Thursday, October 12, 4 – 5 p.m. Wesemann Hall, Benson Classroom
Lawrence G. Albrecht (’73)
CONFRONTING GOVERNMENTAL IMPUNITY AND IMMUNITY “FROM BELOW”
The hierarchy of judicial doctrines advancing governmental immunity have created a legal thicket of obstacles for civil and international human rights victims to overcome. Powerful policy pronouncements often accompany judicial decisions dismissing or limiting such litigation – policy which reinforces and often expands judicial absolution of alleged civil and human rights abuses. Impunity or qualified immunity may triumph regardless of the egregiousness of governmental conduct. Missing from this immunity architecture is fulsome judicial consideration of the legal interests of victims of injustice and public policy factors supporting a more balanced and inclusive legal framework. This missing law circumscribes consideration of unsettled or novel constitutional and statutory interpretation and embedded policy assessed from the plaintiff’s perspective and impedes the development of law responsive to new realities.
The primary focus of this presentation is the quest for judicial recognition of this perspective “from below” in the context of qualified immunity challenges to civil and human rights quests for justice. First, the judicial doctrine of qualified immunity and its inherent policy underpinnings biased towards the defendant’s perspective will be addressed. Several significant civil rights cases applying core qualified immunity principles will be analyzed. Second, recent international human rights decisions by the Supreme Court and other federal courts will be analyzed to ascertain how the judiciary has responded to specific Congressional enactments which frame the universal tension between governmental immunity and remedies for civil and human rights violations. As pertinent, principles derived from international human rights law which exhibit a remedial policy approach supporting judicial doctrines advancing “justice from below” will be referenced. An implicit concern throughout this article is the broadest question of how to assess the measure of justice available in an ever more entangled world in which the United States’ judiciary is confronted with unique civil and human rights crises but judicial remedies are ever more foreclosed by gate-closing doctrines which orchestrate a quick judicial side-step.
Lawrence G. Albrecht received a B.A. in English and Political Science from Valparaiso University as a Pullman Foundation Scholar and his J.D. from Valparaiso University Law School in 1973. He is admitted to practice in the states of Wisconsin and New York and before the U.S. Supreme Court, the U.S. Courts of Appeals for the Second, Third, and Seventh Circuits, the U.S. District Courts for the Eastern and Western Districts of Wisconsin, the Northern District of Indiana and the District of Connecticut. In 2007, he was honored with the ABA Rule of Law Initiative Rule of Law Award.
Mr. Albrecht was formerly the acting Executive Director for Legal Action of Wisconsin, Inc.; visiting Director of Clinical Programs and Assistant Professor of Law, Valparaiso University Law School; ABA/CEELI Legal Specialist: Romania, Bucharest University Faculty of Law, Bulgaria, Serbia, and a consulting lecturer at ten Balkan region law schools; Adjunct Instructor, Constitutional Law, South African Human Rights Law, University of Wisconsin – Milwaukee. He also served as an Assistant Attorney General of the state of New York.
He has represented thousands of individuals in a wide array of judicial and administrative proceedings from small claims court to the U.S. and Wisconsin Supreme Courts. He has been lead counsel in numerous federal court class actions on behalf of hundreds of thousands of persons in reported cases involving health care, food stamps and financial benefits for poor children, migrant workers’ rights, and also in over 100 civil rights cases regarding employment, mental health, housing and insurance discrimination, wrongful death, police misconduct, prison conditions and political asylum. He has a Martindale-Hubbell AV Preeminent peer review and Judicial Edition AV Preeminent rating.
Mr. Albrecht is an international human/civil rights lecturer (at, e.g., the Center for International Legal Studies, Salzburg, Austria, University of Trento, Italy, and University of Western Cape, Cape Town, South Africa) and annually attends international law conferences sponsored by the ABA, the Union of International Advocates and other legal organizations. He has authored numerous human/civil rights publications and annually publishes on the death penalty. He has been a long-standing member of the Steering Committee of the ABA Section of International Law Human Rights Committee. He is a former member of the Wisconsin Bar Professionalism Committee and, ex officio, Legal Assistance Committee.
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