October 31, 2014

Reflections

In taking leave of the active practice of law after 45 years, I’d like to share a few thoughts concerning my life and career. Perhaps you will find them helpful. No one makes themselves out of whole cloth. In my case, I have been fortunate to have the advantages of love from my parents, siblings, spouse, relatives, and friends, the kind of love that itself encourages a desire to help others; a quality of education that inflames the desire for even more learning; and just simple good luck.

To the extent I have had anything to do with it. I try to base my life and career on four pillars:

  1. Faith—I am, above all, Catholic in my beliefs and practices, notwithstanding my own shortcomings. Most of the time at least, the value of humility from that faith background outweighs regrets for my wrongs or for not doing enough good.
  2. Family—My experience in New York until I was 21 taught me to appreciate my own family despite my flaws and theirs, and to be self-reliant. But I could not have done anything personally or professionally without the love and support of my spouse and soul mate, Patte, and the help of our children Amy, Molly, Jay, and Mary and their families. The ancient Greeks tell us to call no one happy until he is dead. However, I am happy so far.
  3. Friends—Unlike relatives, friends are those with whom we choose to be and who choose us as well. I have been fortunate to be blessed with good friends, two of which were particularly strong influences—Fred DeLapenha in New York, whom I have known for 50 years and to whom I am indebted for his getting some appreciation of race and poverty through my thick Irish head, and Jeff Kleinman, a fellow transplanted New Yorker in Oregon, whose friendship and wise counsel personally and professionally has been with me over the last 40 years.
  4. Fervor for Learning—As a product of a Catholic education in New York, I was ambitious, reading extensively in history, geography, politics, and the classics, all of which have driven my desire to understand the world. As a young man, I was attracted to books and foreign movies, both of which I still find fascinating. I delight in reading passages such as this one from the beginning of The Iliad—first in Greek and then an English translation:

μῆνιν ἄειδε θεὰ Πηληϊάδεω Ἀχιλῆος οὐλομένην, ἣ μυρί᾽ Ἀχαιοῖς ἄλγε᾽ ἔθηκε, πολλὰς δ᾽ ἰφθίμους ψυχὰς Ἄϊδι προΐαψεν ἡρώων, αὐτοὺς δὲ ἑλώρια τεῦχε κύνεσσιν οἰωνοῖσί τε πᾶσι, Διὸς δ᾽ ἐτελείετο βουλή,

The wrath sing, goddess, of Peleus’ son, Achilles, that destructive wrath which brought countless woes upon the Achaeans, and sent forth to Hades many valiant souls of heroes, and made them themselves spoil for dogs and every bird; thus the plan of Zeus came to fulfillment,

Passages such as this are far more interesting than most things that pass for amusements.

We are all products of our personal histories and environments. From high school I knew I wanted to be a lawyer—not because, as the joke goes, it was inside work and no lifting—but because I thought I could effect a more just society. But experience teaches that even good change is ephemeral and circumstantial, and what matters is less how the world is ordered than how we order ourselves.

In college, I resolved to leave New York for Oregon after making a 10-state trip in 1965 to look at law schools and finding the Pacific Northwest the best fit. After graduating from law school, I settled on a career in state and local government law beginning with Washington County, Oregon, in the Portland suburbs, and later becoming legal counsel to the Governor of Oregon, before taking the first of my four sabbaticals to do another degree or engage in other academic work. When I returned from that first sabbatical, I went into private practice and met Patte, the love of my life. We’ve lived in the same house for our 32 years of married life and happily watched the kids and grandkids grow up.

Regarding the power of luck, I happened to work on two cases that became landmarks in American Planning Law, Fasano v. Board of Commissioners of Washington County and Baker v. City of Milwaukie. These decisions established Oregon as a notable source of planning law; they didn’t hurt me either. There were also the controversies, including representing the Rajneesh sect as it sought to establish a city-commune in our state and opposing efforts to repeal or eviscerate our planning laws.

These experiences led me to the groups in which I have expended time and effort and made lasting friends: the International Municipal Lawyers Association, in which I am a regional vice-president, the American Planning Association, where I serve on the Amicus Curiae Committee, and of course the ABA State and Local Government Law Section, where I am a Past Section Chair and now chair of The Urban Lawyer Advisory Board.

Two years ago, I decided to leave law practice at the end of 2014, but to continue to teach, write, and speak on planning law, to audit Latin and Greek at Reed College, and to participate in academic conferences. Patte and I will continue to travel. But after 45 years of practice, one spouse, four children, seven grandchildren, seven degrees, three theses, three bar admissions, over 60 law review articles, teaching at three graduate or law school programs for 42, 26, and 6 years respectively, and visiting 120 countries, it’s time to go in a different direction, free from the stresses of daily work and more focused on those four pillars that have served so well.

Thank you for this award, but it isn’t for me. Rather, it is for all those who challenged me to do whatever good I may have done. No man (or woman) is an island; what we do, for better or worse, comes from our choices among the many influences of our experiences. Any happiness we may have is derived from knowing we have chosen well. Thank you again.