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Richard Lipsitz, Sr.

Born: 1920
Death: 2018

Richard Lipsitz, Sr. was born November 25, 1920.  A graduate of Lafayette High School (Buffalo, NY) at the age of 15, he attended the University of Buffalo one year later.  By age 18 he earned his Bachelor's degree and enrolled in UB Law School.

In 1942, Lipsitz was drafted into the army and served as lieutenant under Douglas MacArthur during WWII.  Post-war, he worked for the National Labor Relations Board before returning to Buffalo, where he formed a law firm with Carl Green (Lipsitz, Green, Fahringer, Roll and James).

Over 53 years of practice in the labor field, his cases covered many areas including arbitration, National Labor Relation Board appearances, equal employment opportunity commission proceedings, Public Employment Relations Board and other administrative agencies. He appeared for clients in New York Supreme Court, Appellate Division and Court of Appeals, Federal District Courts, United States Courts of Appeals and the United States Supreme Court.

An ardent supporter of civil rights, Lipsitz's most famous case was as attorney for plaintiffs in Keyishian et al. vs. Board of Regents et al., 1964, in which four faculty members and a librarian at the State University of New York at Buffalo challenged New York State's Feinberg Law on public employees and subversive activities. The case was heard by the Supreme Court in 1967.  Lipsitz won the decision, which ended the Feinberg Law,* protecting academic freedom and freedom of association under the First Amendment. The University at Buffalo archives holds his papers relating to the case: Richard Lipsitz papers, MS 5.

Among his many accolades are those from the New York Civil Liberties Union in October 1988, the Industrial Relations Research Association in May 1997, the American Arbitration Association in June 1989, and the Buffalo AFL-CIO (American Federation of Labor Congress of Industrial Organizations) Council Lifetime Achievement Award in 2003. Although he retired in 1992, Lipsitz maintained clients for the next two decades and practiced law into his 90s.

Richard Lipsitz, Sr. died in Buffalo, New York on May 18, 2018 at age 97.

*The Feinberg Law of 1949 amended both the State of New York Education and Civil Service Laws to contain provisions barring employment of persons by the state for subversive activity or background and made the public schools responsible for policing themselves against subversive employees. In 1953 the statute was extended to faculty members and other personnel of state operated institutions of higher education. 


Affiliation(s): Alumnus

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