This story was updated 1 p.m. Thursday
William H. Buckman, 61, of Cherry Hill, a prominent civil rights lawyer who helped expose racial profiling by the New Jersey State Police, died Tuesday, Oct. 14, in Mount Laurel.
Mr. Buckman was found dead in a motel room, a law enforcement official said.
Mount Laurel police said Thursday Mr. Buckman had committed suicide. They did not say how.
Mr. Buckman, a Northeast Philadelphia native, was part of a legal team in the 1990s that convinced a Superior Court judge that state troopers were targeting minorities for traffic stops and searches on the New Jersey Turnpike.
State v. Soto was the first case in the nation to successfully prove racial profiling by law enforcement. It led to U.S. Department of Justice oversight of traffic stops on the turnpike.
"Bill was a true believer and a dedicated advocate for the principles of freedom, justice, and equality, and New Jersey is a better place because of the work he did," said Edward Barocas, legal director of the American Civil Liberties Union of New Jersey.
"He was a man with a great sense of humor, a great sense of empathy, and a great sense of justice," Barocas said. "He will be greatly missed."
Mr. Buckman also represented state troopers who suffered retaliation for speaking out about misconduct, as well as local police officers in fights with their departments.
He also secured a settlement for four unarmed minority men who were traveling on the turnpike when state troopers fired at their van, injuring three of them.
Mr. Buckman's father was an optometrist and his mother was an office manager. He had two brothers and one sister.
He graduated from Richard Stockton College and earned his law degree from Rutgers-Camden.
He maintained a law office in Moorestown decorated with pictures of Abraham Lincoln and Clarence Darrow, and paintings of Philadelphia.
In a 2009 interview, he recalled how a black dentist testified in the profiling case about having been stopped more than 100 times on the turnpike.
Mr. Buckman said he had never been stopped on the turnpike, because troopers don't look for "a short, chubby Jewish white person."
After the profiling case, he moved to Vermont to lead a public defender's office, but later returned to New Jersey. He vacationed in Vermont, where he had 10 acres of land, tinkered with a tractor, and did cross-country skiing.
In recent years, Mr. Buckman advocated for changes in marijuana laws.
His family could not be reached for information about services or survivors.