we the people

Mission and History

Mission Statement

The Jaeckle Center for Law, Democracy, and Governance, a research center located within the School of Law, is dedicated to the study of the ways in which law, politics and the principles of democratic self-governance intersect.

The Center's activities focus on issues of political practice and governmental structure, with a special emphasis on questions of public participation, democratic responsiveness, power distribution and decentralization.

Specific topics of interest to the Center include:

  • The structure and operation of democratic institutions and processes, especially at the subnational level
  • The distribution of authority, autonomy and popular self-rule among different groups and levels of government
  • The nature and function of organic charters, including national and subnational constitutions and local government charters
  • The distribution of power between public and private stakeholders
  • The relationships among place, citizenship and identity
  • Regional questions of distributional justice

History of the Center

Jaeckles

The Jaeckle Center was established in 1980 with a generous gift from Edwin and Erma Jaeckle. Known originally as the Edwin F. Jaeckle Center for State and Local Government, its original primary missions were "(1) to improve the quality of legal services rendered by public and private practitioners in dealing with local government problems; and (2) to stimulate and sponsor research for developing long-range solutions to those problems." Under the directorship of former Deans Wade Newhouse and Tom Headrick and Professors Frank Munger and Bob Reis, the Center operated a curricular concentration in State and Local Government Law; mounted conferences, workshops and seminars for practicing attorneys and government officials; provided research assistance to the Erie County Charter Revision Commission and the Erie County Department of Environment and Planning; and provided consulting expertise to the City of Buffalo.

In 1993, the Center broadened its research and curricular focus to create the Government Law Program, a more inclusive program dedicated to studying and training students for the practice of all aspects of government law. During this phase, the Center, then known as the Jaeckle Center for Government Law, issued certificates to students who completed requirements not only in state and local government law, but also in environmental law, education law, taxation and other subject areas.

In response to changing conditions in the University, in the Law School and in the practice of state and local government law itself, the Center restructured in 2005 and 2014 to assume its current form.

Learn more about Edwin F. Jaeckle (1895-1992)

Edwin Jaeckle

Edwin F. Jaeckle, for whom the Center is named, had a long and distinguished career in the practice of law, in politics and in public service.

Born in 1895, on Lemon Street in the Fruit Belt section of Buffalo, Jaeckle was raised and educated in his hometown, and resided here for all but the last few years of his long and productive life. After graduating from the University of Buffalo Law School in 1915, Jaeckle began his professional career as a clerk in the law offices of Robert Schelling. Upon Schelling's death in 1916, Jaeckle continued in practice with Schelling's partner, Edward J. Garona. In 1921, they joined the firm of Palanis, Harah and Wichser, and in 1932 Jaeckle and Garona formed a new firm – Todd, Garona and Jaeckle – with Carleton E. Todd, Joseph Swart, Charles J. Avich and Harry Kelly. That partnership joined with Manly and Adelbert Fleischmann and Owen Augsberger in 1959 to form the firm of Jaeckle, Fleischmann, Kelly, Swart and Augsberger, forerunner to the present firm of Jaeckle, Fleischmann and Mugel. Jaeckle retired from the active practice of law in 1989, but remained of counsel to his firm until his death.

Jaeckle first became interested in politics in 1917 when Leo J. Schmidt, a candidate for Republican State Committeeman and a friend of the family, urged him to run for Ward Supervisor. By working the saloons, he won the election. This early victory ignited a lifelong passion for politics. Although Jaeckle's term was interrupted by military service in World War I, he was re-elected in 1919, but Jaeckle left elective office in 1920 to take a series of part-time government positions including clerk of the Board of Supervisors and tax collector in the County Treasurer's office, a position he held from 1928 to 1933, all the while continuing to practice law with his firm. Jaeckle's last run at elective office was an unsuccessful campaign for mayor in 1937.

It was not as a candidate on his own account, however, that Jaeckle made his greatest mark. In 1926, Jaeckle was elected to the State Republican Committee, and in 1935 he was elected chairman of the Erie County Republican Committee, a position he held until 1948. From his base in Western New York he rose to both statewide and national prominence.

Jaeckle was the first Republican leader in New York to promote Thomas E. Dewey as a candidate for governor. Jaeckle's partnership with Dewey extended through four gubernatorial campaigns: an unsuccessful campaign in 1938, followed by successful campaigns in 1942, 1946 and 1950. Jaeckle's success as Dewey's floor manager and campaign leader in the 1938 State Republican Convention helped propel Jaeckle to the chairmanship of the New York GOP Executive Committee in 1938, and to the chair of the New York GOP in 1940.

Jaeckle was the chief architect of Dewey's nomination as the GOP national standard-bearer in the 1944 presidential election (a remarkable campaign in which the sitting governor of New York ran against a former governor). After that campaign, Jaeckle resigned the New York State Republican chairmanship but again took on the campaign leadership role in Dewey's second run for the presidency in 1948.

Jaeckle resigned from the Erie County GOP chairmanship after the 1948 campaign, and soon thereafter left political life to devote himself to law practice and public and community service. During his many years of active political life, Jaeckle was known as Erie County's "Mr. Republican," an honorific he retained for the rest of his life.

Among the many charitable organizations and causes he supported, Jaeckle was particularly committed to higher education. He was a Regent of Canisius College, a Trustee of the State University of New York and a member of the University of Buffalo Council. In the latter role, he was highly influential in the decision to merge UB into the State University of New York and in the decision to bring the Law School to Amherst as the first academic unit to relocate to the North Campus.

Roswell Park Cancer Institute was another beneficiary of Jaeckle's efforts. He was a major advocate to Gov. Dewey regarding the transformation of the Gratwick Laboratory of the State Health Department, known since 1946 as the Roswell Park Cancer Institute, into a well-funded state and then nationally designated Cancer Research Center.

Edwin Jaeckle was a true practitioner of the public profession of law. He served his private clients rigorously and ethically throughout more than 70 years at the bar. He served his university, his community, his state and his nation with equal commitment and high standards. In recognition of his service to the University, Jaeckle received the Samuel P. Capen Award from the UB Alumni Association in 1968, and the University of Buffalo's Chancellor's Medal in 1969. In 1976 the Law School Alumni Association recognized Jaeckle's extraordinary career and accomplishments by conferring on him its highest award, fittingly named in his honor. He was a truly extraordinary servant of both people and institutions.

Learn more about Erma R. Hallett Jaeckle

Erma Jaeckle

Erma R. Hallett Jaeckle, a native of Niagara Falls, N.Y., is a UB alumna, J.D., 1936. She was one of the several generations of UB students who rode the trolley to UB's South Campus for her undergraduate study, but after completing three years she was admitted to the Law School. One of her fond recollections of her UB undergraduate days is participation in the UB Young Republicans, who occasionally met in the law offices of Edwin Jaeckle. Mr. Jaeckle's occasional appearances at those meetings were, as she recalls it, a memorable experience for the students.

A pioneering female lawyer, Mrs. Jaeckle was one of only four women in the Class of 1936. Upon graduation, she took a position in the law offices of John Brown before joining the Carborundum Co., where she specialized in patent work. She later enlisted in the Coast Guard, and served during the war years in the legal department of the Merchant Marine Division in both New York City and Washington, D.C. At war's end she returned to Buffalo and became an attorney in the firm of Moot and Sprague.

Shortly after her return, Ms. Hallett married Dr. Edward Viliaume and the couple had two sons, Edward III and William. When Dr. Viliaume suddenly and tragically died in 1950, Mrs. Hallett-Viliaume decided to relocate herself and her young sons to St. Petersburg, Fla.,  where her parents had moved following her father's retirement from his business. She passed the Florida bar; was admitted to practice there; and commenced practice in the law offices of Thomas Collins, who afforded her the opportunity to become a litigator in matrimonial and custody matters. From that launch pad, Erma Hallett quickly became one of Florida's pre-eminent trial attorneys. She formed her own firm – Hallett, Ford and Thurman – in which all the partners were women.

Over the balance of her career in active practice, Erma was a leader in the bar, serving for many years on the St. Petersburg Bar Association's Executive Committee and professional discipline committee. She was asked to consider appointment as a judge, but declined because she preferred her life in practice. She also was active in the community, organizing two women's groups. One, Altrusa, was a women's service organization, which she served as its first president. She also was a founder of the St. Petersburg Business and Professional Women's Club, and was a founding member of its Executive Committee.

During one of her visits to Buffalo late in her career, Erma renewed her acquaintance with Edwin Jaeckle. That renewal of an old friendship led to their marriage in 1971. Shortly thereafter, Mrs. Jaeckle retired from her Florida practice and returned home to Buffalo, of counsel to the Jaeckle firm and as the life partner to Buffalo's legendary Mr. Republican.

Soon after their marriage, Mr. and Mrs. Jaeckle expressed an interest in supporting the Law School's activities in the field of state and local government law. Those conversations led in 1980 to a generous gift that established the Edwin F. Jaeckle Center for State and Local Government Law. In recognition of her outstanding and path-breaking careers as a member of the New York and Florida bars, the Law School Alumni Association in 1999 conferred upon her its highest recognition, the Edwin F. Jaeckle Award – named, fittingly, for her late husband. In 2002 the State University of New York conferred upon Mrs. Jaeckle the Doctor of Laws, honoris causa. Before her death in 2015, Mrs. Jaeckle served as an honorary chair of the highly successful Campaign for UB, 2000-2005, which raised over a quarter of a billion dollars for the University.