Mr. Buckel started his career as a Legal Aid lawyer, and gained national prominence by arguing cases with Lambda Legal, an organization that fights for the civil rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people.
In one of his most noted cases, he represented the mother of Brandon Teena, a transgender man who had notified a Nebraska sheriff that he had been raped. The sheriff informed Teena's assailants who killed him in the days that followed. "It should not be the case that reporting a crime makes matters worse for you," Buckel told The Daily Nebraskan in 2001. Eventually the sheriff was found liable for failing to protect Teena and his brutal murder was dramatized in a film called Boys Don't Cry starring Hilary Swank.
Mr. Buckel ended up focusing on environmental causes and his suicide is suspected to be an act of protest.