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OGC Key Personnel Archive - 1977-1979

Former General Counsel Peter L. Libassi

Former General Counsel Peter L. Libassi

General Counsel, DHEW, 1977-1979

Yale Law School, 1954
Colgate University, 1951

Nominated by President Jimmy Carter
Served Under Secretary Joseph A. Califano

Peter Libassi was nominated by President Jimmy Carter to serve as General Counsel of the Department of Health, Education and Welfare.

Before his tenure at DHEW, Libassi held various positions in the Johnson and Carter Administrations. Libassi was Deputy Staff Director for the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights and later, Director of the Office of Civil Rights of the Department of Health, Education and Welfare, in the Johnson Administration.

Throughout Libassi's tenure at DHEW, the General Counsel's office was frequently involved in high profile policy issues and other politically sensitive matters.This was the direct doing of the then DHEW Secretary Joseph Califano who relied on the office for formulating Departmental policies in addition to its normal role of providing legal opinions and advice.

One of Mr. Libassi's most memorable moments as DHEW General Counsel involved the implementation of section 504 of the 1973 Rehabilitation Act, which prohibited discrimination on the basis of disability and handicap in any program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance. Just two weeks into their posts at the Department, Secretary Califano and Mr. Libassi faced a great deal of political pressure from groups such as the American Coalition of Citizens with Disabilities (ACCD), which were demanding an immediate signing of the regulations. Public outcry culminated when word came out that Secretary Califano was proposing a further review of the regulations before he would sign them. ACCD staged an overnight sit in demonstration in Secretary Califano's office and the nearby suite area. Secretary Califano assigned Libassi to spend the night at the Department in order to negotiate with representatives of the group. At one point, Libassi fell asleep on the Secretary's couch but was awoken by the demonstrators around 2:00 A.M. When the regulations were completed, Califano invited some of the demonstrators back to his office to witness them being signed into law.

Libassi went on to serve as Vice President for The Travelers Companies, now known as Citigroup, and was Dean of the University of Hartford Barney School of Business and Public Administration in West Hartford, Connecticut.

Presented for archival purposes. Current as of November 25, 2002.

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