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Leonard W. Schroeter

Leonard W. Schroeter
Status: Deceased

(1924 - 2014)

Leonard Schroeter interrupted college to enlist in the U.S. Army and served in the Allied Area Command in Florence, Italy. He later worked for the Stars and Stripes. After the war he received his master's degree in International Relations and then graduated Harvard Law School in 1951. Immediately upon graduation, Leonard joined the legal staff of the NAACP's Legal Defense Fund which was headed by Justice Thurgood Marshall. His work eventuated into the historic case of Brown v. Board of Education. It was Lennys belief that segregation in and of itself was damaging which became a key point of emphasis in the opinion.

At the end of 1952, Lenny moved to Seattle to become Northwest Director of the Anti-Defamation League of B'nai B'rith. He continued to work tirelessly for civil rights and served as a board member and as president of ACLU-Washington, and in 1964 became the first national board member from the Pacific Northwest. After serving as deputy prosecuting attorney for King County from 1955 to 1956, he started a trial law practice and earned a national reputation as a plaintiff's trial lawyer and as an advocate for constitutional rights.

The first of Lenny's two major cases that he presented to the Inner Circle upon his admission was what he referred to as a 1982 "education malpractice verdict" of $6.4 million where there was no offer. His theory was that the school district failed to properly educate a high school student on how to properly tackle and teach him to not use his head as a battering ram. Lenny was particularly happy that based on this verdict, the number of the spinal cord injuries to high school students dropped from 20 to 2 the following year.

The second case as what he referred to as a "baby case" where the mother went to a community hospital for a high-risk delivery but ended with the child sustaining brain damage. He sued the doctor and the hospital. Before trial they settled with the doctor. He tired the case against the hospital on the theory that the hospital had the duty to transfer the patient to a tertiary care center for a higher level of care capable of handling a high-risk delivery. The jury returned a verdict of $5.6 million. There, again, was no offer to settle by the hospital.

For more than a decade, Lenny represented Samizdat (underground) writers and human rights advocates in the former Soviet Union. Making clandestine visits, he met with dissident Soviet writers, including Andre Sakharov, and with Jews striving to leave the USSR. This visit accelerated his involvement in their causes. After returning to the U.S. in September 1972 he tried, but failed, to interest the Nixon administration in these human rights causes. Lenny then turned to his senator, Henry M. Jackson of Washington State, who adopted them. The Trade Act of 1974, commonly known as the Jackson-Vanik amendment, was the result. This law made non-market economy countries that denied their citizens the right to emigrate ineligible for normal trade relations with the U.S. After 1994, Lenny focused his efforts on issues of access to justice and protecting Constitutional rights, eventually founding the Schroeter Constitutional Center.

Lenny was a major force in the plaintiff's bar and became known as "The Constitutional Challenge 'Guru'" for good reason.
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