Oregon State Bar Bulletin — JUNE 2004


Learning from Literature
There has been an ongoing discussion of whether to grant CLE diversity credit for seeing The Laramie Project, an artistic perspective on the Matthew Shepherd murder in Wyoming.

Some opposition seems to focus on the play being a dramatization of events, and therefore not showing actual handling of evidence and law enforcement issues. That argument misses the point. Lawyers work with hypotheticals every day. Teaching tools need not be journalistically accurate to be educational. As to being less useful for evidence issues, that would be more of a concern if The Laramie Project were offered as an evidence CLE.

The Laramie Project, as put on by Lane Community College (and also last year by Artists Repertory Theater in Portland) is a dramatic work, not a documentary on the circumstances surrounding the Matthew Shepherd murder. Some characters are fictional, but based upon interviews. It does not purport to be a journalistic effort.

It is, however, an amazing play, one which brings into sharp perspective the issues of diversity, tolerance and the "isms" that divide society. It is also, simply, excellent theater. There is no intent to make anyone feel "blame" generically because they may or may not be GLBT (gay/lesbian/bisexual/transgendered).

Attorneys can and should learn something from literature, and not be limited merely to reviewing cases. Our role as a learned profession should be intellectually and conceptually broader than that. The question of whether credit should be granted for seeing To Kill a Mockingbird or Inherit the Wind should be answered in the affirmative.

A more valid concern is whether credit should be granted without opportunity for discussion or written materials. I recently attended the excellent presentation on Civil Liberties after 9/11 put on by the Civil Rights Section and received CLE credit for going. There were no written materials, which allowed the section to open the program to all comers free of charge. That concern can be addressed discretely and without reference to The Laramie Project.

As a member of the House of Delegates, I would welcome a discussion of what levels of rigor and interaction suffice for receipt of CLE credit. As a lawyer, The Laramie Project caused me to think long and hard about how far we have yet to go in ensuring justice for all in this society. That is a valid basis for awarding CLE credit for this excellent literary achievement.

Marc Abrams

Remember the Statutes
Roy Pulvers’ noteworthy article on "Ted and Betty’s Constitutional Union" (Parting Thoughts, April 2004) puts much in current perspective but does not cite Oregon’s statutory law. True, Oregon’s use of state constitutional law is relatively frequent and outstanding. That legal phenomena has been joined, in the past at least, by our state’s leadership in legislating equality for individuals and in prohibiting the kinds of discrimination that detract from that equality.

In the 1970s and early 1980s the Oregon legislature enacted such laws against discrimination by those who would treat citizens differently based on the citizens’ gender or on their "sexual orientation."

Even before that the legislature had protected de facto marriages the same as de jure marriages in the context of workers’ compensation.

Edward N. Fadeley
Creswell, Ore.
Oregon Supreme Court, Retired

Uncomfortable, Yes, But Accurate
I am a legal assistant for a non-profit agency in Eugene, and I read the bar Bulletin each month. I was stunned to read the letter from Mr. Tepedino attacking Professor Miller’s comments as "inflammatory" (Letters, April 2004). For even the most cursorily educated individual, the statement quoted by Mr. Tepedino is not inflammatory — it is accurate. While such statements may make some people feel uncomfortable, that is not always an undesirable outcome. I had the good fortune to take a class from Professor Miller several years back, and I found him to be highly intelligent and fair-minded. The strong negative reaction exhibited by Mr. Tepedino to such a factually accurate statement only underscores the importance of continuing education on this subject.

Melissa Mona

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