Professor Christopher Lasch (1965-2021)
Professor Christopher Nelson Lasch (1965-2021)
Professor Christopher Nelson Lasch, a respected member of the University of Denver community and an influential figure in the American clinical legal education movement, passed away in June 2021, after a period of illness.
A graduate of Columbia College and Yale Law School, Chris entered the legal academy in 2006 as a prestigious Robert Cover Clinical Teaching Fellow at Yale, having previously served as a public defender in Louisville, Kentucky, representing clients in capital and other criminal matters at the trial, appellate, and postconviction stages, and as a partner at Goodwin & Lasch, handling civil rights cases, including several significant police abuse cases and a federal case that successfully permitted jockeys to wear advertising on their uniforms.
Chris joined the faculty of the University of Denver Sturm College of Law in 2010, redesigning and co-directing the Criminal Defense Clinic – the nation’s first – and securing its stature as one of the preeminent legal clinics representing accused individuals. In 2018, he co-founded the Immigration Law & Policy Clinic, extending the reach of the Sturm College of Law’s nationally recognized Student Law Office to the realm of immigration detention. Most recently, he served as Ronald V. Yegge Clinical Co-Director. He continued to represent capital clients until his death.
A fierce advocate for social justice, a revered teacher, and a scholar of immense range and significance, Chris profoundly shaped the lives of his clients, the professional identities and pathways of his students, and the contours of the multiple areas of law impacted by his scholarship. In collaboration with his clinical students and fellow clinical faculty members, he advocated for clients in the most challenging of legal circumstances, including, most recently, at the complex intersection of criminal law and immigration detention. Through his thoughtful, rigorous, and principled approach to clinical teaching, he impacted the professional identities and careers of numerous students and graduates – including the many who pursued careers of public service in the Office of the Colorado State Public Defender, contributing immeasurably to the Office’s excellence and national reputation.
His scholarship was equally catalytic and transformative. Among other prominent examples, his 2017 article in the Yale Law Forum, which argued for a common law privilege against arrest in state and federal courthouses, has been widely credited with spurring legislation limiting the ability of law enforcement agencies to arrest undocumented individuals lawfully coming to court pursuant to legal process.
In a memorial celebration held at the Sturm College of Law in July 2021, Dean Bruce Smith described Professor Lasch as “a consummate teacher-craftsman whose pedagogy was characterized by intentionality, dedication, and ethical conviction,” “a brilliant scholar whose research exhibited commanding intellect, range, and incisiveness,” and “a peerless institutional citizen whose contributions were driven forward with urgency, authority, and effectiveness.”
In Professor Lasch’s honor, the clinical fellowship program at the Sturm College of Law – which trains future clinical faculty members through a three-year course of teaching, research, and study culminating in an LL.M. degree – has been named The Christopher N. Lasch Clinical Teaching Fellowship Program. Contributions in Chris’s memory may be made to the Student Law Office Program Fund at the Sturm College of Law.
A Memorial Celebration was held July 16, 2021.