This weekend, the New York bar lost one of its most accomplished lawyers, David Buckel, 60. Buckel reportedly burned himself to death in Brooklyn’s Prospect Park on Saturday morning. Buckel was the lead attorney in the lawsuit brought by Teena Brandon, a transgender man who was raped and slain in 1993 in Nebraska. The case inspired the 1999 movie “Boys Don’t Cry.” He left a suicide note reading “I am David Buckel and I just killed myself by fire as a protest suicide. I apologize to you for the mess.”
Buckel also represented Jamie Nabozny in Nabozny v. Podlesny, in the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit in a challenge to “consistent and significant anti-gay bullying and abuse.” He also argued Lewis v. Harris in the New Jersey Supreme Court against the use of “civil unions” which he insisted assigns us a second-class status.”
Buckel also fought for the environment and was the prototypical public interest attorney. His horrible death has shocked many across the country after his charred remains were found in the park. He left a suicide note in a shopping cart near his body that said he hoped his death was “honorable” and “might serve others.”
Those who worked with him posted their shock and grief at the news of his passing.
He leaves behind a daughter, Hannah Broholm-Vail, who he was raising with Terry Kaelber. They co-parented with Rona Vail and Cindy Broholm.
He was a 1987 graduate from Cornell Law School.
David Buckel left a remarkable legacy of fighting for civil rights and the environment. His suicide leaves a giant void in the communities that he served. However, his legacy helped guarantee a new generation of young lawyers committed to these same public interest values.