Roger Pascal, the long-time and beloved General Counsel of the ACLU of Illinois, died over the weekend from cancer.
It is impossible to overstate the positive impact Roger had on the ACLU, the law, and all of us who knew him. He was a great lawyer and even better man. He leaves behind an ACLU that is bigger and more effective than the one he found in 1985, when he began his long tenure as our General Counsel.
Roger was a highly respected partner the Chicago office of Schiff Hardin, and for many years the head of its general litigation practice. He was a driving force in intellectual property law and handled many high profile pieces of litigation. He also recruited so many talented Schiff lawyers to work on ACLU cases and to counsel us on issues great and small, contributions for which the ACLU will always be grateful.
Roger’s career is truly marked by his personal engagement in numerous ACLU cases –too many to specifically identify. Four are particularly noteworthy. Shortly after graduating law school, Roger joined the legal team in Gautreaux, at that time a joint ACLU/BPI case that challenged successfully the discriminatory placement of public housing facilities in Chicago. That case was necessitated by the fact that the City of Chicago located its public housing units in a manner that perpetuated and indeed exacerbated the racial divisions that still plague the City today.
Roger and a team of lawyers he assembled at Schiff Hardin played a major role in the ACLU’s litigation successfully challenging the care of foster children in the Illinois child welfare system. That case, which started in 1987, transformed the Illinois child welfare agency from the worst in the nation to one of the most effective ones and resulted in permanent homes for thousands of children. It remains relevant today, both as a vehicle for improvement and as leverage to appropriations going to foster care services.
Roger also was a key part of the legal team in K.L. v. Edgar, the case that challenged the horrific conditions at Illinois’ state-run psychiatric hospitals. That case was a landmark challenge to those hospitals.
Finally, just last year, Roger led the legal team in the Khorrami case, filed on behalf of a U.S. citizen and pilot who was wrongly detained and abused by the FBI in the immediate aftermath of 9/11.
Roger was an outstanding, persistent lawyer. His hallmarks included a brilliant, quick and creative intellect as well as a tenacity and persistence that really never quit. Those of us who worked with him as a lawyer, and I count myself lucky to be part of that group, were inspired, mentored, taught and led by this truly remarkable lawyer. Roger hated injustice and was always among the very first to recognize important civil liberties and civil rights issues — long before those issues became part of the national consciousness. Among his “early alerts” are concerns about the intrinsic racism in our juvenile justice system (Roger also is one of the founding directors of the Moran Justice Center in Evanston) and our system of mass incarceration. Roger never hesitated to take the tough case – or act on principle – even when those decisions were hard to explain to the general public, or even cherished ACLU constituencies.
Roger was the consummate General Counsel and board member. He was always generous with his encouragement, strategic counsel and constructive advice. And, in a profound and yet understated way he did so much to assure future generations of wise counsel for the ACLU. Not only did he recruit many talented cooperating lawyers to work on ACLU cases, lawyers from both Schiff and other firms, he also left his mark on the ACLU Board.
Roger had an incredible family, including his wife Missy, daughters Debbie and Diane (married to Thomas Richie), and son David (married to Amy Melnicsak), two grandsons, Sam and Bennett, and a granddaughter, Sophia, and his brothers, Charles (married to Tassie Notar) and Ross (married to Laurie) Pascal.
A memorial service will be held on January, 11, at the University Club in Chicago, beginning at 11:00 a.m.