Sheldon H. Nahmod
Distinguished Professor of Law
Co-director, Institute for Law and the Humanities
The Chicago-Kent community salutes Distinguished Professor
Sheldon Nahmod for his recent Lifetime Achievement Award, granted
by the Jefferson Fordham Society, for his work in the area of Section
1983 civil rights law.
Best known for his expertise in Section 1983 civil rights law, Distinguished
Professor Sheldon Nahmod isn't satisfied with success in one area. Fueled
by a strong interest in the theoretical aspects of the law, Nahmod aspires
to further not just the letter, but also the spirit, of the law.
"I like to think of myself as a teacher and a scholar who combines
both the theoretical and the practical," Nahmod says. "I have
a lot of theoretical interests-in religion, in law, in philosophy
and jurisprudence-but I also live in the real world; I write briefs
and argue cases in the federal courts and before the Supreme Court."
That said, Nahmod makes it clear where his priorities lie: "Nothing
ever interferes with my teaching and scholarship."
Even so, 2001 has been a busy year for Nahmod outside the classroom.
Aside from winning two major civil rights cases, one of which reversed
a $6.2 million jury verdict, he was recognized with a Lifetime Achievement
Award for his work in the area of Section 1983 civil rights law by the
Jefferson Fordham Society of the American Bar Association's Section of
State and Local Government.
The award should come as no surprise to those who know Nahmod or his
work. His widely used casebook, Civil Rights and
Civil Liberties Litigation: The Law of Section 1983, is now in
its fourth edition, and his annual Conference on Section 1983 Civil Rights
Litigation has drawn thousands of lawyers from across the country to Chicago-Kent
over the past 19 years.
The secret to the success of Nahmod's annual Section 1983 continuing
legal education conference lies in his devotion to the subject, his relationships
with prominent academics and practitioners in the field, and his dedication
to furthering the understanding of civil rights law. As he explains, "The
program is part of the law school's mission, and part of my personal mission."
In 1996, Nahmod earned a master of arts degree in religious studies from
the University of Chicago Divinity School. He has written extensively
on both religion and philosophy as well as their relation to the law.
"There is a lot of philosophy in the legal system, more than most
law students appreciate," says Nahmod. "Good lawyers need to
know a little bit about the philosophical assumptions underlying the legal
Whereas Nahmod appreciates the close relationship between law and philosophy,
it's another story with institutionalized religion.
"I frankly think the separation of church and state is one of the
most fundamental precepts of our democratic way of life," Nahmod
says. "How can you have democratic decision-making if people are
at each other's throats for religious reasons? What you want to do is
keep that in your private life."
A professor so well-respected in his field and with such a long list
of achievements, including a Supreme Court victory, may seem intimidating
to a first-year law student. But that's the last thing Nahmod wants his
students to feel in the classroom.
"I think intimidation as a teaching technique is terrible,"
he says. "I try to be serious. I consider the law school classroom
sactum sanctorium-the holy of holies-but I try not
to be intimidating.
"My ideal classroom is one in which all students participate in
a free and open discussion. That is when learning most often occurs."