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Why We Do What We Do

Having practiced as a criminal defense attorney for more than 37 years, I am acutely aware of the deep flaws in our broken criminal justice system.

Attorneys who represent the indigent are overworked and underpaid. Prosecutors suppress exculpatory evidence. Police officers commit acts of violence and falsify evidence without consequence. Against strong odds, criminal defense attorneys stand up for the rights of their clients.

Police officers In Minneapolis took the life of George Floyd for no valid reason. Last night a DUI suspect in Atlanta was shot dead by the police because he wielded a taser and attempted to flee. Protesters have been brutally assaulted by tear gas and batons because they had the audacity to protest police brutality at a spot where the President desired a photo opportunity for political purposes.

In cities and towns across America, citizens have taken to the streets to proclaim BLACK LIVES MATTER. And indeed, if black lives do not matter, how can anyone maintain that all lives matter?

Against this backdrop, and against strong odds, we also have truly noble examples of attorneys who have waged heroic struggles for justice.

On June 13, 1967, President Johnson nominated Thurgood Marshall to serve on the US Supreme Court. I had the distinct honor and privilege to argue an important case involving Constitutional rights before Justice Marshall in 1985. That remains one of the high points of my legal career, and a day I shall always remember.

While in law school, I clerked at the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, which Thurgood Marshall had led prior to going into government service. To this day, being associated with the LDF remains a source of pride and satisfaction.

Our profession has modern heroes as well. Today we viewed Just Mercy, which recounts the epic work of Bryan Stevenson, a courageous and brilliant attorney who has successfully defended Death Row prisoners in Alabama.

Anyone who watches Just Mercy cannot be unmoved by the struggle for justice that Mr. Stevenson has waged on behalf of his clients.

I am proud to be the leader of a law firm which is devoted to the defense of persons facing criminal charges in the State of Oregon. We are proud of the work we do for our clients. We know that the struggle for justice is never completed.

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