Oregon lawyers ignore the death of Ivan Ilych at their peril. Leo Tolstoy tells the tale of a lawyer, who had lived a proper life and who has just died. His friends, his family, his colleagues are all appropriately sad; yet simultaneously they consider whether his death may advance their fortunes somehow.
Each month the Oregon State Bar Bulletin portrays the names, this month there are eleven of them, of Oregon lawyers who, for all practical purposes, have died. Not in the corporeal sense, but one takes away one's life when one takes away one's ability to make a living.
" Here, read it yourself," replied Peter Ivanovich, handing his friend the paper still damp from the press. Surrounded by a black border were the words from Ivan Ilych's widow informing the Court of Justice and his relatives and friends of his demise. "The funeral will take place on Friday at one o'clock in the afternoon." There had been conjectures about his illness that it was incurable, so Alexeev was told he should be ready to fill his position in case Ivan Ilych died. So, on receiving the news of Ivan Ilych's death, the first thought of each of the gentlemen in that private room was of the changes and promotions it might occasion among themselves when Mr. Ilych died.
Roger Weidner has died. He had lived a proper life. He is alive, but dead in the eyes of the Oregon State Bar. Roger Weidner had friends, many of them; family, colleagues who cared about him and cared about his profession as a lawyer. Roger Weidner had served as a public prosecutor and battled corruption in Oregon's court system for years. Now they only speak of him in hushed tones and shun him.
Besides considerations of possible promotions for themselves, Ivan Ilych's colleagues who heard of his passing had the complacent feeling that, "it is he who is dead and not I." They ask not for whom the bells toll even though deep down they know.
LS had died. She is your colleague. She had lead a proper life and was even held in high esteem by most, particularly when she was in government service as well. But, in the eyes of the Oregon State Bar she had stumbled, therefore, the Oregon State Bar wanted her dead even though her only offense was being financially challenged for the nonce. She hired one of your own to defend her and she won. That is a death sentence at the Oregon State Bar and now she is dead.
Each of Ivan Ilych's friends could not help thinking that they now would have to fulfill the very tiresome demands of propriety by attending the funeral service and paying a visit of condolence to the widow. Fedor had studied with Ivan and considered himself to be under obligations to him. Traveling to his house, he was greeted by a mutual colleague who stopped and winked at him as if to say: "Ivan has made a mess of things--not like you and me."
LD had become a whistle blower on an Oregon public governmental agency. The governmental agency wanted to show LD who was boss and reported him to the Oregon State Bar for a conflict of interest since he was a lawyer too and could be considered as a lawyer representing that governmental agency he was ratting out. It was determined that LD's whistleblowing allegations had merit. But, the Oregon State Bar had other ideas. The Oregon State Bar is a public governmental agency too, according to them. Who do you think they sided with? LD is now dead in the eyes of the Oregon State Bar even though he had lead a proper, even salutary life.
Peter was aware of the faint odor of Ivan Ilych's decomposing body. Ivan Ilych, when he was alive was particularly fond of Peter. Peter now observed the body and determined it was much changed; thinner somehow, but as is always the case with the dead, his face was handsomer and above all, more dignified than when he was alive. The expression on the face said that what was necessary had been accomplished and accomplished rightly.
IC is a vulnerable local lawyer who had been nominated to the Oregon State Bar's list of rogue lawyers, but respectfully declined. It cost him almost $100,000 to refuse the honor of being on the Bar's list of rogues. His declination was successful. But the Oregon State Bar is a determined group. They are willing to spend their treasure to insure that these nominations are not declined. IC is not yet dead, but he is fighting the beast again. He is one. They are ninety. Like most lawyers, his treasure is small while the Bar has $1.7 million shekels to spend to kill IC. That is what they want to do. His colleagues turn quietly away even though they sense the odor.
Their names are in the obituary in the Oregon State Bar Bulletin under "Discipline".