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Law School Remembers Contributions, Influence of Philip Frickey

JULY 21, 2010—Former University of Minnesota Law School faculty member Philip Frickey, a nationally respected scholar in federal Indian law, constitutional law, legislative process, and statute interpretation, died July 11, 2010, at age 57 of cancer. He was a professor at the Law School from 1983 until 2000, when he joined the University of California Berkeley School of Law, becoming its Alexander F. and May T. Morrison Professor of Law in 2006.

The Kansas native completed his B.A. in political science at the University of Kansas in 1975 and his J.D. at the University of Michigan in 1978. After law school, Frickey clerked for Judge John Minor Wisdom of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit and for Justice Thurgood Marshall of the U.S. Supreme Court. During his clerkship for Justice Marshall, several Indian law cases came before the Supreme Court, sparking an interest that Frickey would pursue throughout his life.

When his mother became ill, Frickey returned to Kansas and took a brief visiting associate professor post at the University of Kansas School of Law. The experience introduced him to another lifelong love: teaching. After practicing with Shea & Gardner in Washington, D.C., for three years, he joined the faculty at Minnesota.

At the Law School, he was the Irving Younger Professor of Law, Julius E. Davis Professor of Law, and Faegre & Benson Professor of Law and held the John K. Fesler Research Fellowship. In 1996, he was a visiting professor at Harvard Law School. He chaired the Law School’s dean search committee and faculty appointments committee and the University’s Senate tenure committee.

He held leadership roles in many organizations, worked to strengthen tribal sovereignty, and served as an advocate in numerous areas. He petitioned the Minnesota Supreme Court to reform the state bar application, testified on the legislative veto before the Minnesota Senate’s Ethics and Elections Committee, and provided written and oral testimony on proposed amendments to the American Indian Religious Freedom Act to the U.S. Senate’s Select Committee on Indian Affairs.

Frickey wrote and spoke widely on several legal topics. Among his works used frequently by law students are two co-authored casebooks: Cases and Materials on Legislation: Statutes and the Creation of Public Policy and Cases and Materials on Constitutional Law: Themes for the Constitution's Third Century.

In 2006, the University of Kansas and its Alumni Association awarded Frickey their highest honor, the Distinguished Service Citation, for his professional leadership and community contributions.

In 2009, the Berkeley School of Law selected Frickey to receive its Rutter Award for Teaching Distinction. In addition, the Indian Law Section of the Federal Bar Association honored him with its Lawrence R. Baca Lifetime Achievement Award, describing him as "legendary as a lawyer, scholar, teacher, and mentor in the field of federal Indian law. Perhaps like no other individual, he has substantially influenced theoretical developments in the field, through a prolific body of articles and books in the nation’s most prestigious publications. At the same time, Phil has bridged the gap between academia and Indian Country, urging his students and colleagues to engage in research that is grounded in the real experiences of Tribes."

Frickey is survived by his wife of 27 years, Mary Ann Bernard; a son, Alexander Bernard Frickey; a daughter, Elizabeth Bernard Frickey; a brother, Charles Frickey; a sister, Michele Scherzer; and nine nieces and nephews.

The family asks that any gifts go to one of the funds established in his honor. At Kansas, the Philip P. Frickey Indian Law Fund support the tribal courts program (Kansas University Endowment Association, P.O. Box 928, Lawrence, KS 66044).

At Berkeley, the Philip Frickey Public Law Fund supports law students with a strong commitment to Indian law or other public law, and the Philip Frickey Fellowship supports students pursuing summer employment in an Indian law or public law position involving legal advocacy (U.C. Berkeley School of Law, Boalt Hall Alumni Center, 2850 Telegraph Ave., Suite 500, Berkeley, CA 94705; bhf@law.berkeley.edu; 510-642-2590).

Portrait of Judge Heaney

Philip Frickey
Photo courtesy of UC Berkeley School of Law