Law Professor Wesley J. Liebeler Dies

Posted: September 27, 2002 at 1:00 am, Last Updated: November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

Wesley (Jim) Liebeler, a professor in the School of Law, died on Sept. 25 in an airplane crash in New Hampshire. He was 71.

Liebeler received a B.A. in 1953 from Macalester College and a J.D. in 1957 from the University of Chicago Law School, where he served as articles editor of the University of Chicago Law Review and was a member of the Order of the Coif.

Liebeler practiced law with the Wall Street firm Carter, Ledyard & Milburn and was a staff member of the Warren Commission, which investigated the assassination of President Kennedy, before joining the faculty of the UCLA School of Law in 1965. He taught antitrust there for more than 30 years. During 1975-76, he also served as director of the Office of Policy Planning and Evaluation of the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). He successfully urged the commission to challenge anticompetitive restraints enforced by state boards and commissions, such as restrictions on the retail price advertising of eyeglasses and prescription drugs. In the intervening years, this work has become a major part of the FTC’s enforcement program.

Both in his published work and in the classroom, Liebeler was a critic of the old antitrust law, developed during the 1950s and 1960s, which put the interests of business owners and managers above those of consumers. His work helped convince the U.S. Supreme Court to change its interpretation of the Sherman and Clayton Acts so that consumer welfare became a much more important criterion of its decisions.

In 1999 Liebeler joined George Mason’s School of Law and taught courses in antitrust and constitutional political economy. “Jim Liebeler was a dedicated and enthusiastic scholar and teacher, and he will be sorely missed by his former students and colleagues,” says School of Law Dean Mark Grady. “He taught antitrust to literally hundreds of law students here and at UCLA, including me and Tim Muris, the current chairman of the FTC. You could not have a better start than to be taught by Jim Liebeler. He was a unique combination of enthusiasm, warmth, and acute intelligence. His passing is a great loss to the law school.”

“Jim was my teacher, my mentor, and above all my friend,” says Muris. “He had a tremendous impact on me and on antitrust law. I will miss him greatly.”

A memorial service at the School of Law is being planned. In lieu of flowers, the family requests donations be sent in memory of Jim Liebeler to the University of Chicago Law School at 1111 E. 60th St., Chicago, IL 60637.

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