Longtime disability rights advocate Scott LaBarre dies at 54

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Scott LaBarre served as the current chair of the Solo, Small Firm and General Practice Division and was a past member of the Board of Governors. ABA Journal file photo by Earnie Gafton.

Scott LaBarre, a longtime member of the ABA who advocated for the rights of people with disabilities, died on Dec. 10 after a short battle with cancer. He was 54. "Scott was a top lawyer in the disability law area, but he was so much more," ABA President Deborah Enix-Ross told the ABA Journal. "He was a great leader, inspiring, always cheerful and upbeat and loved by all who had the good fortune to know him. He worked tirelessly on behalf of the ABA, making the association a much better organization. He will truly be missed, but his legacy endures."

LaBarre, who was born in St. Paul, Minnesota, lost his sight at age 10, but lived by the motto “that he could do anything,” according to an online obituary. He graduated in 1990 from St. John’s University in Collegeville, Minnesota, and from the University of Minnesota Law School in 1993. He clerked in the office of U.S. Rep. Gerry Sikorski, D-Minn., in Washington, D.C.

He later moved to Colorado, where he met his wife, Anahit, and according to the LaBarre Law Offices website, acted as general counsel for the National Federation of the Blind of Colorado for five years. He launched his own law firm in 1998 in Denver, where he practiced in employment law, disability rights and international copyright policy.

“Scott was a tireless champion for lawyers with disabilities,” according to a statement from the ABA Commission on Disability Rights, which LaBarre chaired from 2004 to 2007. “He was a mentor to many young disabled lawyers and spoke frequently about the unique talents and skills disabled lawyers bring to the profession. … In many ways the commission would not be where it is today without his energy, enthusiasm, support and skill.”

His work with the Commission on Disability Rights included proposing policies that called on the United States to ratify the Marrakesh Treaty to Facilitate Access to Published Works for Persons Who Are Blind, Visually Impaired or Otherwise Print Disabled and urged Congress to grant a private right of action to air travelers with disabilities whose rights to equal access were violated. They were adopted by the House of Delegates.

Among his other ABA leadership roles, LaBarre served as the current chair of the Solo, Small Firm and General Practice Division and was a past member of the Board of Governors.

He remained active in the National Federation of the Blind of Colorado, becoming the organization’s president. He also served as the National Federation of the Blind’s national general counsel and chairman of the Colorado Center for the Blind, according to a joint statement from the National Federation of the Blind, National Federation of the Blind of Colorado and Colorado Center for the Blind.

“We are overwhelmingly grateful for the decades of work that Scott did for the blind of his generation and beyond, from arguing in the courts on behalf of blind people who experienced discrimination, to his service as president of the Colorado affiliate, to the close personal mentorship he freely gave to hundreds of individuals,” the three groups said in their statement.

LaBarre additionally served as president of the National Association of Blind Lawyers.

He is survived by his wife and their two children, Alexander and Karter. He is also survived by his brother, Craig; his sister-in-law, Debrah; and his parents, Donna and Charles.

Memorial contributions can be directed to the Colorado Center for the Blind or the National Federation of the Blind, according to his obituary. A celebration of life will be held in his honor on Jan. 21. There will be an option to join remotely.

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