RIP Bill Buckman: Ladybud Attorney, NJ NORML Board Member & Celebrated Civil Rights Activist

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PHOTO: Bill Buckman speaking at a Coalition for Medical Marijuana – New Jersey press conference in 2012 with Ladybud Publisher Diane Fornbacher and Managing Editor Vanessa Waltz/Credit: Peter Rosenfeld

UPDATE on Bill’s funeral arrangements: 

Sunday, October 19th at Platt’s Memorial Chapel, 2001 Haddonfield Berlin road, Cherry Hill, NJ at 1pm.

The Ladybud family is mourning the loss of William H “Bill” Buckman, a prominent New Jersey attorney and member of the National NORML Legal Committee who was a tireless supporter of cannabis reform in the Garden State and beyond.

According to local media reports, Buckman was found dead at a Mount Laurel hotel Tuesday. Police do not suspect foul play. UPDATE: Police have determined Buckman’s death a suicide, though they have not disclosed any more details as of October 16. He was 61 years old.

In addition to serving as Ladybud’s legal counsel and writer, Buckman was a board member of NORML New Jersey and worked with the Coalition for Medical Marijuana – New Jersey (CMM-NJ). Along with attorney Anne Davis, he filed suit against the New Jersey Medical Marijuana Program and the New Jersey Department of Health last year to improve patient access to medical cannabis. The suit succeeded in improving the program’s accountability and review process.

Buckman represented Ladybud publisher Diane Fornbacher in her struggles over her cannabis activism with New Jersey Child Protective Services prior to her family’s move to Colorado. He was also a beloved friend of Fornbacher and many other members of the New Jersey and Philadelphia tri-state cannabis reform community:

“Our family is devastated by the loss of Bill Buckman, close family friend and all-around wonderfully funny and charismatic person. He cared deeply for the human condition and took on countless cases, many of them pro-bono because he believed that those wronged by the system should have quality representation when they were served an injustice. We will always make sure people never forget him, as he helped keep our family together. We can never repay our debt to him.”

Ken Wolski, Executive Director of Coalition for Medical Marijuana – New Jersey offered his feelings on our community’s loss:

“This is a great and shocking loss to our community as Bill was only 61 years old.  He was always ready to contribute to drug policy reform, and often to do so pro-bono. He had just agreed to be interviewed by me for CMMNJ TV and I wanted to tape a show with him in early November. I’m very upset and saddened to hear this news.”

Evan Nison, Executive Director of NORML NJ, echoed the sentiments of his colleagues:

“Bill was an amazing advocate for civil rights and an active board member of NORML NJ. He selflessly took on cases to defend those who didn’t have the means to defend themselves and dedicated his life to fighting inequality and injustices. His loss will be mourned by advocates across the state and country, and our quest for a more just world will be made more difficult without him.”

Buckman was also well-known for his victories in numerous civil rights cases, including a landmark 1998 suit involving police action toward minorities, which in turn “paved the way for a 1999 consent decree in which federal monitors assessed state police stops of minority drivers,” according to coverage in the Burlington County Times.

Many knew he was a warrior for all manner of civil liberties but to his family and friends, he was a jovial prankster who enjoyed life and time at his retreat in Vermont. He loved his family fiercely and was an avid fan of architecture and helped friends with electrical work for fun. He will be missed by many countless people, many of whom will see his work in action for decades to come. Rest well, dear brother and soldier.

More about the wonderful Bill Buckman:

Buckman represented New Jersey State Police troopers who suffered retaliation after speaking out about misconduct within the ranks of the State Police. Bill served as a member of the Board of Trustees of the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, and was President of the Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers of New Jersey. He was a former Vice President of the ACLU of N.J. and also served on the board. Mr. Buckman was a recipient of the 1992 Presidential Award for Furthering the Cause of Civil Rights, Southern Gloucester County Chapter of NAACP; 2001 Professional Lawyer of the Year Award from the Burlington County Bar Association and the New Jersey Commission on Professionalism in the Law; 2001 Mary Philbrook Award for Public Interest Work from Rutgers Law School – Camden Women’s Law Caucus; as well as a recipient of the 2002, Justice Award, Black Ministers’ Council of New Jersey and in 2005, Bill received the Roger Baldwin Civil Liberties Award from the ACLU of New Jersey. Bill wrote and taught extensively for the benefit of criminal defense lawyers nationwide in areas such as attacking racial profiles, understanding law enforcement agencies, discovery techniques in criminal matters as well as cross-examination techniques.

Articles by Bill for Ladybud: 
The Pathos of the War on Drugs
War of the Womb