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August 01, 2016

Edward D. Spurgeon: Key Innovator in Law and Aging

(The pdf for the issue in which this article appears is available for download: Vol. 37, Issue 6.)


Edward D. “Ned” Spurgeon is the recipient of this year's American Bar Association Senior Lawyers Division's John H. Pickering Achievement Award, which honors the life and accomplishments of John H. Pickering, an outstanding lawyer who was involved in various pro bono activities and law-related societal issues affecting older people. Ned Spurgeon's unparalleled efforts in addressing the law-related needs of older persons crossed numerous domains: legal education, scholarly research, the delivery of legal services, innovative programming, and policy development.

Spurgeon’s remarkable contributions, foresight and dedication to elder rights has greatly impacted the field by increasing its visibility and vitality. Initiatives spearheaded by Spurgeon forged a momentous and continuing path of justice for older persons, especially those in poverty.

As a practitioner, academic leader, advocate, and visionary in law, particularly in the field of aging, Spurgeon epitomizes the highest ideals of the John H. Pickering award. He has demonstrated throughout his career outstanding legal ability, compiled a distinguished record of dedicated service to the profession and the community at large, and made significant contributions to the furtherance of access to justice.

As President of the Albert and Elaine Borchard Foundation, Spurgeon founded The Borchard Foundation Center on Law and Aging in 1998 and serves as its Co-Director. The Center is the only law-related foundation whose central mission is to help improve the quality of life for older persons through education, research and service – especially for those who are impoverished or otherwise isolated by lack of education, language, culture, disability, or other barriers.

Spurgeon practiced law for 15 years, including 12 years as an associate and partner with Paul, Hastings, Janofsky and Walker, before beginning his career in legal education. He earned his undergraduate degree in English from Princeton University, his law degree from Stanford University Law School, and a Master of Laws degree from New York University Law School.

Currently, Spurgeon serves on the Board of Directors and is past president of Justice in Aging (formerly the National Senior Citizens Law Center). Beginning in 1991, he also forged a lasting relationship with the American Bar Association Commission on Law and Aging, serving as active member, special advisor, and collaborator on many initiatives. Spurgeon was co-founder of the Utah Legal Services Senior Lawyer Volunteer Project, and is also a member of the American Bar Foundation (Utah Chapter).

Since 1980, Spurgeon has been a legal educator, with faculty and administrative appointments as Professor of Law at the University of Utah College of Law and the University of Georgia School of Law; and as visiting Professor of Law at New York University, Stanford University, and Pacific McGeorge School of Law, where he was the first holder of the Gordon D. Schaber Chair in Health Law and Policy. He also served as Dean of the law schools at University of Utah and the University of Georgia. His teaching and writing have focused on law, public policy and aging; taxation of gifts, estates and trusts; and estate planning. His recent scholarship includes Federal Taxation of Trusts, Grantors and Beneficiaries (with Prof. John Peschel, 3d ed., 1997; supplements 1998-2010), as well as selected law and aging articles.

Advancing the Law and Aging Field

His level of dedication has far exceeded the ordinary and customary role of individuals in similar positions. He exhibited a remarkable penchant for attracting talented, committed young lawyers to the law and aging field; he has gone the extra mile to guarantee sustainability by nurturing and cultivating these lawyers’ interest and growth.

Under Spurgeon’s leadership the Borchard Foundation Center on Law and Aging created a Fellowship Program for recent law school graduates interested in or pursuing an academic and/or professional career in law and aging. The program provides the opportunity to pursue research and professional experiences for one year. The Fellowship Program, the only such program dedicated to supporting new lawyers pursuing careers in elder law, has funded some 30 fellows to work in across the country since 1999. Fellows have helped forge new and ongoing programs to assist seniors with a range of legal problems including access to Medicare, Medicaid, and Supplemental Security Income, and other vital benefit programs. Many fellows continue to contribute to the field of law and aging today and represent the next generation of law and aging leaders.

The Center also has provided stipends to a substantial number of law student interns, many of whom served summer internships with programs such as the ABA Commission on Law and Aging, Justice in Aging, Utah Legal Services, and the University of Georgia School of Law. The internships directed career paths, leading them toward public service and in many instances toward various aspects of elder law.

Beyond these formal means of support for catalyzing the law and aging field, Spurgeon has served as a personal mentor to a number of young lawyers entering the field. He enables connections that open doors for new opportunities, provides ongoing guidance, and maintains an ongoing relationship that sparks excitement about key legal issues.

A Planter and a Visionary

With respect to his support of access to justice for older persons, he has planted many seeds of justice. The continuous production and growth of these seeds are evidenced by his accomplishments. Seventeen years ago, Spurgeon recognized a need to pilot imaginative new approaches to legal resources for older people. In 1999, he proposed a Partnerships in Law and Aging Program to be jointly funded by the ABA Commission on Law and Aging and the Borchard Foundation Center on Law and Aging. For 11 years, the program awarded “mini-grants” designed to encourage new, collaborative, community-based projects to enhance the legal awareness of older persons and to improve their access to the legal system. Over this time period, nearly 100 mini-grants totaling $730,000 were awarded to local non-profit law-related organizations to enhance the rights of older persons. The Partnerships Program was one of very few grant programs in this funding range specifically targeted to legal services for older persons. In some cases, the funding triggered ongoing efforts that benefit older people today.

Addressing Complex Legal Issues in Aging

Spurgeon led the Borchard Foundation Center in providing annual academic research grants of up to $20,000 to scholars in multiple disciplines. These grants were to further scholarship on new or improved public policies, laws and/or programs that will enhance the quality of life for older persons; each grant recipient must publish an article on their research in a top journal. Some 60 scholars in multiple disciplines have received grants since 2000.

Additionally, from the early 1990s to the present, Spurgeon has supported a collaborative symposium model of problem-solving calculated to address emerging policy and practice issues facing older persons. Under Spurgeon, the Borchard Center has co-funded and conducted several working symposia that produced major policy and practice recommendations, reflected in special issues of collaborating law schools’ law reviews.

Each of these working consensus conferences brought together key leaders from around the country to make recommendations on complex legal issues; and resulted in policies used to impact law, policy, and practices affecting older persons on both a state and federal level. ■