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Notable faculty from years past

Over a century and a quarter, a long parade of distinguished teachers have brought both wisdom and knowledge to their students at what is now SUNY Buffalo Law School. Many have riveting life stories – experiences that intersected with their teaching and scholarship in sometimes surprising ways. Here are a few of the notable faculty from years past.

Thomas Buergental

Thomas Buergenthal

Professor Thomas Buergenthal established a six-week summer session at the University of Brussels, Belgium, in 1968, in which five Buffalo professors and five Belgians led 40 students in a comparison of Angle-American common law and European civil law. Born to parents who had moved from Germany to Czechoslovakia in 1933, he grew up in the Jewish ghetto of Kielce (Poland) and later in the concentration camps at Auschwitz and Sachsenhausen. (His memoir of that upbringing, A Lucky Child, has been translated into more than a dozen languages.) A specialist in international law and human rights law, Buergenthal served in the early 2000s as a judge on the International Court of Justice at The Hague. He currently teaches at George Washington University Law School.

Louis A. Del Cotto

Louis A. Del Cotto

“The consummate teacher,” one former student wrote of Louis A. Del Cotto ’51, who over more than 40 years introduced generations of Law School students to the vagaries of tax law. Del Cotto and Professor Kenneth Joyce were the heart of the school’s tax program for decades. He specialized in tax matters as a partner in the law firm of Jaeckle, Fleischmann, Kelly, Swart and Augspurger, and later joined the Buffalo law firm of Kavinoky and Cook as tax counsel. Considered a top tax authority in New York State, he was expert in the intricacies of the tax code, statutes and regulations. He also published many scholarly articles on tax matters. He was also an accomplished musician on the classical and jazz guitar, piano and mandolin. In 2011, the Louis A. Del Cotto Professorship in Tax and Finance was established with a $500,000 gift primarily from Brian D. Baird '83, as well as other students of the tax legend.

Listen to Louis Del Cotto's oral history

Mark DeWolfe Howe

Mark DeWolfe Howe

Mark DeWolfe Howe served as the Law School’s sixth dean, during the wartime years of 1941 to 1945. After graduating from Harvard with a bachelor of laws degree, he clerked for U.S. Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes (he later wrote a two-volume biography of the justice), then practiced law in Boston. “War or no war,” notes the centennial history of the Law School, “Howe refused to relax academic standards.” Earlier in his life he had taken a turn in Hollywood, serving as a second assistant director for Paramount Pictures, where he worked on movies starring Jimmy Durante and Fred Allen. He received the Legion of Merit and the Distinguished Service Medal for his service during World War II, then joined the Harvard Law School faculty. He wrote extensively on questions of constitutional law, particularly on church-state relations. He was also an active advocate for civil rights, especially with the Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts.

Jacob D. Hyman

Jacob D. Hyman

Jacob D. Hyman, well-remembered by those he taught or mentored during his 54 years of association with the Law School, served as the school’s 10th dean, from 1953 to 1964. Holder of both bachelor’s and master of laws degree from Harvard, Hyman practiced in his uncle’s New York City law firm, then worked as a staff attorney with the federal Department of Labor and as associate general counsel of the Office of Price Administration, before deciding to enter academia. His teaching and scholarship centered in the areas of administrative law, constitutional law, jurisprudence, and state and local government law. So deeply was he entrenched in the Law School that it took two tries for his retirement to stick – he retired in 1981 but kept teaching part time until he recused himself for good in 2000, at age 90. He was also active in civic organizations, served as a labor arbitrator and maintained an unceasing advocacy for equal opportunity at all levels of education.

Listen to Jacob D. Hyman's oral history

Louis L. Jaffe

Louis L. Jaffe

Louis L. Jaffe, who joined the faculty in 1936 and served from 1948 to 1950 as the Law School’s eighth dean, was a leading scholar of administrative law. He was a clerk to Justice Louis D. Brandeis of the U.S. Supreme Court. Jaffe’s analysis of the role of courts in the review of administrative agencies, particularly the Federal Communications Commission (which regulated the then-developing television industry), gained him national recognition. The U.S. Supreme Court frequently cited his arguments and positions on the scope and nature of judicial review of agency decisions. A graduate of Harvard Law School, Jaffe returned to the school in 1950 and taught there for 27 years. Said a colleague: “He was a gentle philosopher of administrative law whose commentary brought a depth of understanding, a breadth of vision, a historical perspective and a sense of realism equaled by few and surpassed by none of his contemporaries.” Jaffe’s interest in the arts centered around the Italian Renaissance.

David Kochery

David R. Kochery

David R. Kochery, who joined the Law School faculty in 1953 and taught until his death, at age 58, in 1980. A graduate of the Indiana University School of Law, he was known for his warmth, his respect for students and his skill in conflict resolution. His course in New York Practice was especially popular with third-year students. Nicknamed “The Coach,” he also taught labor law and served for many years as an arbitrator for the construction industry in Western New York. In a eulogy in the Opinion, Amy Jo Fricano ’81 wrote, “It was impossible to ask him a silly question. He guided us through the most difficult concepts with ease, bringing us independence, self-confidence and a sense of achievement.” An annual award in Kochery’s name is given to a graduating student who has taken an active part in the student community through service and involvement in student organizations.

Virginia Leary

Virginia Leary

Human rights had no greater friend than Virginia Leary, who taught at the Law School for 19 years and retired in 1995 as a Distinguished Service Professor. In a sense her life came full circle in Geneva, Switzerland, where she earned a doctoral degree from the Graduate Institute of International Studies, and where she retired after leaving academia. As a pioneer in teaching and scholarship in human rights law, Leary put SUNY Buffalo Law School on the global map. She was long a leader in international law and served with distinction on the Executive Council of the American Society of International Law, including as vice president of the organization. She consulted extensively for non-governmental organizations and intergovernmental organizations, including the United Nations, and was one of the first women to attain universal recognition in international law. Leary was beloved as well as a mentor to countless women and men in international human rights.

Howard Mann

W. Howard Mann

W. Howard Mann joined the Law School faculty in 1967. A graduate of the University of Iowa College of Law, he clerked for the Hon. Wiley Rutledge of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia, then for U.S. Supreme Court Justice Harold H. Burton, before going on to teach at Indiana University School of Law for 21 years. His main constitutional interests were the First Amendment, the separation of powers and the powers of the president. After he reached the mandatory retirement age of 70 in 1981, he was granted three one-year extensions. In retirement, he moved to Montana, where he died in 1998. In an appreciation published in 1982 in the Buffalo Law Review, Philip B. Kurland of the University of Chicago wrote, “W. Howard Mann is a curmudgeon, an iconoclast: ‘God’s Last Angry Man.’ And we are all the richer for it.”

Alan Reisman

David Riesman Jr.

David Riesman Jr., an attorney and sociologist who joined the faculty in 1937, gained fame with the publication of his co-authored book The Lonely Crowd: A Study of the Changing American Character in 1950. He even ended up on the cover of Time magazine. “The book generated academic debate, opposition and occasional derision,” noted The New York Times. “Its champions considered it a brave and unusual effort to define the shifting relationship between the general culture and individual behavior.” Riesman, who also wrote a dozen other books, also taught at the University of Chicago and at Harvard. In an essay, he wrote, “What is feared as failure in American society is, above all, aloneness. And aloneness is terrifying because it means there is no one, no group, no approved cause, to submit to.” He urged Americans to find “'the nerve to be oneself when that self is not approved of by the dominant ethic of a society.”

Francis M. Shea

Francis M. Shea

Francis M. Shea, fifth dean of the Law School (1936-39), came to Buffalo from Harvard Law School and immediately began to recruit his compatriots from that august institution. Under his deanship, the law library was expanded by 6,300 volumes and the moot court program was expanded. Where previously the school’s part-time faculty had favored the text-lecture method of teaching, Shea emphasized the casebook method, which had been used at Harvard since 1870. In 1936, Buffalo Law was admitted to the Association of American Law Schools, and in 1937 it received American Bar Association accreditation. Following his deanship, Shea joined the administration of President Franklin D. Roosevelt as assistant attorney general heading the Claims Division (now the Civil Division) in the Department of Justice. He personally argued over 50 cases before the Supreme Court and other federal courts. He also prepared cases against accused Nazi war criminals to be argued at the Nuremberg war crimes trials.

Christopher G. Teideman

Christopher G. Tiedeman

Christopher G. Tiedeman was the third dean of the Law School (1902-03) and the first to hold down the post full time. A graduate of Charleston College and Columbia Law School, who also held a master of laws degree from New York University, Tiedeman was only 45 when he came to Buffalo. But he was no novice when it came to legal education, having taught already for 10 years at the Missouri Law School and for six at NYU. Tiedeman was a conservative legal scholar who was part of the group known as the “laissez-faire constitutionalists”; they defended a natural-rights “hands off” approach to interpreting the Constitution. He argued, for example, that the police powers of the government were strictly limited under the Constitution to protecting the rights of minorities from control or interference by the majority. At Buffalo, Tiedeman taught Elementary Law, Constitutional Law, Negotiable Instruments and Real Property. Unfortunately, he died suddenly in 1903. But even at that early age he had published seven full-length treatises, two textbooks, more than 20 articles and a major centenary reconsideration of the Constitution.

Albion W. Tourgee

Albion W. Tourgee

Albion W. Tourgee, the first professor of legal ethics at the Law School, was a colorful character whose career included stints as a Union soldier in the Civil War, a lawyer, judge, novelist and diplomat. He founded the National Citizens’ Rights Association and represented the plaintiff in the infamous 1896 Supreme Court case Plessy v. Ferguson, which upheld the doctrine of “separate but equal” in racial segregation. He was wounded at the First Battle of Bull Run and held as a prisoner of war in Richmond, Va., until 1863. As an activist Republican in North Carolina, he successfully advocated for equal political and civil rights for all citizens; ending property qualifications for jury duty and office holding; popular election of all state officers, including judges; free public education; abolition of whipping posts for those convicted of crimes; judicial reform; and uniform taxation. Appointed by President William McKinley as consul to France in 1897, he served there until his death in 1905. One source also notes a victory, of sorts, in the war between the sexes: In 1880 Tourgee sued his wife, Emma, over a financial dispute, and won; Emma received a $35 fine and was imprisoned.