October 19, 2015

Schmitz to deliver Emeritus Faculty Lecture

by Pete Rosenbery

Suzanne SchmitzCARBONDALE, Ill. -- Suzanne J. Schmitz, who taught at the SIU School of Law for 18 years, will return to the law school to discuss the methods of legal compensation for mass catastrophe victims and whether it constitutes justice for the victims. 

Schmitz will present “Rough Justice -- Compensating 9/11 and other mass catastrophe victims, but is it justice?” at the 2015 Emeritus Faculty Lecture. The lecture is at 7 p.m., Oct. 27, in the Hiram H. Lesar Law Building auditorium. Admission is free and the public is welcome to attend. 

Schmitz said that in the aftermath of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, Congress authorized compensation for victims and gave “unprecedented authority” to a Special Master, who resolved thousands of claims in just 33 months. The funds were used for burial and medical expenses, lost wages and other losses. Since then, a similar system has been used to manage compensation funds for people harmed by the 2010 British Petroleum Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico and, most recently, in claims from faulty ignition switches in General Motors vehicles. 

But people who participate in these programs also give up the opportunity to sue in court. Schmitz said that while victims might receive speedier monetary compensation they might not receive justice. She will discuss whether the program works, whether those negligent are held accountable, if victims believe there was justice, and whether the program deters future misconduct. 

Schmitz retired from the law school in July 2011. From 1993 to 2005, she coordinated the law school’s alternative dispute resolution (ADR) clinic, teaching mediation to law students. She also supervised law school students who mediated at local courthouses and offered pro bono mediation services for the First Circuit’s family mediation program. She then coordinated the law school’s academic success program. 

Before coming to the law school in 1993, Schmitz was an assistant attorney general for the state of Illinois and worked in a private law firm. She began her career as a high school teacher after earning her bachelor’s degree from St. Xavier College. She earned a master’s degree in education from SIU Edwardsville and her law degree from St. Louis University School of Law.

She has written about mediation and served on state and national alternative dispute resolution committees. She continues to serve on bar association committees, teaches for Southern Illinois Learning in Retirement and volunteers at her church. 

The SIUC Annuitants Association is sponsoring the lecture.