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Thursday, April 12, 2012

Among the giants

We took a ride to the state capital yesterday for a special event. The Oregon Supreme Court was honoring one of its greats from the past, and it was someone we know. Judge Alfred T. Goodwin, currently a senior judge on the Ninth Circuit, was feted for his service on Oregon's highest court for roughly a decade, the 1960s. The immediate occasion was the donation of a history of the judge's work on the court by Stephen Wasby, a political science professor at the University of Albany. Wasby is a long-time student of the laws and politics of Oregon; he got his graduate degrees in Eugene when Judge Goodwin was on the state appellate bench.

Yesterday's ceremony was grand, attended by many of the living legends in the state's judicial history. Assembled were many federal judges, state judges, and prominent lawyers from up and down the West Coast, and there were even a few stragglers like ourselves who had been lucky enough to serve as a Goodwin law clerk at one point or another. The judge himself was on hand, still going strong at age 88, and as beloved by the group as ever. He is an unassuming man, and as usual he brushed off most of the accolades, but they were heartfelt, and he was obviously grateful for them.

Wasby spoke about several of Goodwin's opinions from his Oregon Supreme Court years. Among them were the case that established public access to all of Oregon's beaches, and another striking down the erection of a large hilltop cross on City of Eugene property on Skinner Butte. Much of that history had taken place in the very room in which we all sat, more than 40 years ago.

The Supreme Court courtroom is an impressive place, although perhaps not as intimidating as it seemed to us when we were younger. Its huge ornate stained-glass skylight lets in lots of natural light. As the afternoon weather varied, there were subtle changes to the colors of the room, a reminder that we were indeed in Oregon, and it was an unsettled spring.

One of our fellow attendees, a senior judge who once sat on the Oregon high court, took us aside and let us in on some insider information. He showed us where some of the judges, in slow moments during oral arguments over the years, had penciled in their names in a desk drawer in the podium that they sat behind. Historic graffiti, as it were. Among the doodles were the names Goodwin, and Kulongoski, and "Bobby Jones."

The ceremony was short, and afterward some of us adjourned to a local watering hole for a drink. We hobnobbed away with the present and soon-to-be chief justices of Oregon, and several other accomplished and impressive people. At one point, we looked over, and there were Goodwin and Hans Linde, another major player in the state's legal history, sitting together, just the two of them, catching up. You don't see that every day, at least not in this millennium.

We came home from Salem resolved to keep trying to contribute to the life of the state, in whatever ways may materialize before us. Despite its flaws, it's a pretty fine place.

Comments (4)


One of your better posts, IMO. Thanks!

Beautiful. Is Mr. Wasby's history available to the public?

Inspiring read.

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