In 2003 I had the privilege to chair the thirty-year reunion of the Class of 1973 at " Northwestern School of Law of Lewis and Clark College " as my diploma reads. Being realistic, I know that I was lucky to get in to this fine law school being painfully aware of my mediocre grades from college. In 1970 the doors opened to the new law school as now configured near the Lewis and Clark campus. But in 1970 there were a number of us who were radicals and even cheeky enough to call the new Dean Fred Fagg on the carpet because we were unsatisfied with the education we were receiving from a new faculty. In short, we blazed the trail at this new fine facility.
The Class of 1973 attended the dedication of the new law school by United States Supreme Court Justice William O. Douglas who warned of the dangers of nuclear energy. He was accompanied by his youthful wife. Yes, even Professor Ron Lansing was our sterling teacher in the ways of the Rule of Law.
Since 1973 I have watched my profession steadily deteriorate. We were taught that we are a country subject to the Rule of Law. The Rule of Law means literally--- A legal principle, of general application, sanctioned by the recognition of the authorities and usually expressed in the form of a maxim or logical proposition. John Rawls, a professor at Harvard, provides a broader view in his book , A Theory of Justice. There Rawls speaks of The Rule of Law as a protection of citizens through the regular and impartial administration of public rules. The Rule of Law fails us when judges or others in authority do not care enough to apply the appropriate 'rule' to your factual circumstance. In law school we learned our craft by the case law method. As advocates we then articulate the case law which controls our client's factual case to the local judge. To my (and my client's) dismay, I have learned that many judges do not even bother to read my legal materials submitted much less the cases cited. The recourse is an appeal (expensive and time consuming), a complaint to the Judicial Fitness Commission (which does nothing) or turn out the offending judge at the next election. The last remedy has become meaningless. In 2006 the Oregon State Bar Board of Governors reversed a decision by the same body in 2004 to require statewide judicial evaluations on all Oregon judges. A curious politically correct decision.
The thirty-year reunion went well. We even had real cajun shrimp (eaten with the heads still on!!), a tradition inaugurated during our time in law school by Bert Buford from Louisiana. But something has changed. Lewis and Clark no longer refers to it's law school by its real name--Northwestern School of Law. Nor does the present law school administration regard this Class of 1973 as anything special. We do! One of our members can legitimately be called Oregon's King of Torts because he has secured some of the largest jury verdicts in the state. Sadly, one of our members committed suicide in a lonely setting near the Columbia Gorge. Another has been convicted of a felony, tossed off the Bar yet remains a contributor. One of our members has been suspended in disgrace from the Oregon State Bar Board of Governors. I read about one of my law school friends in the disciplinary pages; nothing there resembled this friend who had won the Moot Court competition in law school. Our story yet unfolds.