Oregon State Bar Bulletin — APRIL 2011
Profiles in the Law
The Avocation Vacation:
John Haub's Far-flung Passion for the Rule of Law
By Janine Robben

John Haub

John Haub is living a life many attorneys can only dream of. Frequent, prolonged foreign travel. Secure, full-time, well-paid, interesting legal work between trips. Did we mention the federal pension?

The catch — because there always is a catch — is that when he’s been on leave from his regular job as an assistant United States attorney in Portland, he hasn’t been on vacation.

He’s been with the Army Reserve and the U.S. Department of Justice in Haiti, the Western Hemisphere’s poorest country. He was called up with the reserve to Bosnia — after the former Yugoslavian republic had suffered through “ethnic cleansing” that included mass rape and genocide — to help implement the Dayton Peace Accords. And, most recently, he was back in the Balkans, as a U.S. Department of Justice lawyer, for a “Rule of Law” mission that lasted one entire year longer than he had expected.

“No way would I do it again,” Haub, who returned to Portland from Montenegro in October, wrote to his colleagues about his desire for any future such missions.

And yet no one who knows Haub, the prototypical G.I. Joe, would bet money that he won’t do it again.

“I don’t know if he was always that energetic,” says retired FBI agent Dennis Cosgrove, who worked with Haub, who is now 63, in Montenegro. “No one can keep up with him, in the classroom or on the tennis court.”

In fact, Haub has always been that energetic.

An Iowa farm boy, he lettered in four sports, playing quarterback at 165 pounds the same year he was state wrestling champion at 127 pounds.

The discipline behind that athleticism was evident in Montenegro almost a half century later.

“One time I was at the little gym at the U.S. embassy in Montenegro, and John was there,” says Cosgrove. “This was just shortly before John’s wife was due to fly in (to join him for his two-year tour there). John said, ‘I’m going to get a workout in.’ He made use of that 28 minutes he had, got dressed and left for the airport. I was laughing about that with the guys at the embassy: he was not going to waste 28 minutes when he could get a workout in.”

In college, Haub was in the Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC), following in the military footsteps of his father, an Army Air Corps B-17 bomber flight engineer in WW II, who died last August at age 92.

Despite his ROTC commitment, Haub graduated from the University of Iowa in three and one-half years, then promptly was deployed to Vietnam in 1970 as an Army military police officer.

“While in Vietnam, I met Doug Caldwell, who showed me pictures of Oregon,” says Haub. “I asked him, ‘Where’s the snow?’ He said, ‘We don’t get it much.’ ”

“That was during the time of Gov. Tom McCall and his ‘Visit but don’t move here,’ which increased my intrigue about Oregon,” says Haub.

So, when he returned from Vietnam, he packed his wife, two-year-old daughter and the family’s belongings into a 1966 Oldsmobile and moved here.

“In 1971, I got hired as a Clackamas County deputy sheriff, and we stayed with the Caldwells while I went to the state police academy,” says Haub. “I was lucky to land an assignment in the Clackamas County Sheriff’s office, first as a road deputy, and later assigned to the Courthouse, guarding and transporting prisoners and watching murder trials unfold in front of me.”

Haub then got a job as an investigator with the Clackamas County District Attorney’s Office and enrolled in Lewis & Clark Law School, making student appearances in Clackamas County during his third year of law school.

“I even got to try a civil paternity case to a jury,” says Haub. “I held the baby next to the defendant for comparative viewing. The defendant was ‘convicted’ of being the father: that was the form of the verdict in those days. It may have helped that both father and child had bright red hair.”

Following his graduation in 1976, Haub became a Clackamas County deputy district attorney, specializing in trying sex crimes against children. “I brought in my daughter’s Raggedy Ann doll, some children’s chairs and a couch,” he says. He also tried several murder cases involving insanity defenses.

“He was extremely conscientious about what he did at work and the military that he was involved in,” says then-D.A. James W. O’Leary. “The only thing that bothered me, and we had a little bit of humor about it, was that he’d come into the office at 5 a.m., work until 7:30 or 8 and then go to the tennis club, where he could be seen by members of the public playing tennis during working hours. I told him to go to the tennis club first.”

Haub’s intensity and passion for tennis were still evident when he was in Montenegro in 2009 and 2010.

“I told John I wish we’d worked together (in the States) as FBI agent and AUSA (assistant U.S. attorney),” says Cosgrove, who worked as a police training adviser while Haub was the embassy’s resident legal adviser. “But no, I couldn’t have worked every single case I had with him. He’d drive me into the ground with exhaustion. I would see e-mails that he’d written at 2 o’clock in the morning. I got along exceedingly well with John, but he was so high energy, sometimes we’d have to sit him down and say, ‘focus.’ ”

“John just loved tennis,” Cosgrove continues. “Montenegro can get really hot in the summer, and he would be just pounding away. One time I was guzzling water. I drank a gallon, and I don’t know if he had a sip. Or it would be pouring rain, and I’d say, ‘John, maybe you’d want to use an umbrella.’ And he’d say, ‘Nah, I’m an Oregonian. In Oregon, we don’t allow our day to be dictated by rain.’ I honestly don’t know if he even owned an umbrella.”

In 1989, Haub left the Clackamas D.A.’s Office for the job that he still has when he isn’t in Haiti, Bosnia, Montenegro and other far-flung places: as an AUSA in the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

Frank Noonan Jr., a now-retired AUSA who worked with Haub in the office’s violent crimes unit, describes him as a “very fine trial lawyer with lots and lots of experience and a multitude of interests.”

Former U.S. Attorney Karin Immergut says that when Haub joined the office, she was “immediately struck by John’s limitless energy and unbridled passion for being a prosecutor.”

“His relentless energy never seemed to abate during the entire time that I worked with him,” says Immergut, who met Haub when both were AUSAs, later became his boss and is now a Multnomah County circuit court judge.

In June, 2008, Haub took a leave from the U.S. Attorney’s Office. He spent three months in the Republic of Kosovo, formerly part of the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, before arriving in Montenegro, also part of the former Yugoslavia, where the James Bond movie “Casino Royale” supposedly was filmed.

“Not a single frame was filmed in Montenegro,” scoffs Haub. “What you saw in the movie was the Czech Republic. Montenegro is 85 percent mountains, and narrow roads and high speeds are the norm. Traffic accidents are the greatest threat to travelers in Montenegro, and its capital, Podgorica (formerly Titograd), is the second-hottest capital in Europe (after Athens). It is not a tourist destination.”

Given Montenegro’s location in multi-ethnic Southeastern Europe, its residents, and the residents of neighboring countries, also speak various languages. Haub also speaks various languages, including German, which he learned in the Army Reserve, and Russian, which he learned from his wife Olga, whom he met in Iowa.

“John is a unique person in the languages he has,” says Cosgrove. “I’m a Russian speaker, mostly, too lazy to pick up Montenegran. But John picked up enough that he could do a whole introduction of himself.”

“One night,” Cosgrove continues, “we were crossing the border into Albania (Montenegro’s neighbor to the East) when we ran into a problem with our visas or whatever. John broke out into Albanian. The guard was so impressed that he let us go on. It was hilarious.”

Cosgrove, who is now working in Tajikistan in Central Asia, sounds upbeat about his and Haub’s experience in Podgorica, Montenegro.

“This city is a little bit boring,” he acknowledges, “but Montenegro is an amazing country. In the 1990s, it was the only republic in the former Yugoslavian that didn’t have a war, although there was fighting all around it, that’s for sure.”

In 2006, Montenegro broke away from Yugoslavia and, by referendum vote, became one of the world’s newest countries.

“It was pretty exciting to be there a couple of years later,” says Cosgrove, who, like Haub, was in Montenegro as a U.S. government employee helping to train police and prosecutors.

“The U.S. wants these countries to succeed,” says Cosgrove, “to have democratic institutions, a functioning judiciary. It’s tough for them to do it on their own, so the U.S. has these programs all over the world. There are a lot of countries like Montenegro that are just finding their way, with no model to fall back on. They’re bright people; they just need a lot of help.”

Haub and Cosgrove learned that many of the law enforcement and prosecutorial tools they took for granted in the U.S. are unknown in these countries.

“Special surveillance measures, the use of undercover civilian informants, asset forfeiture and plea bargaining are novelties for Montenegran criminal law professionals,” Haub noted in his report on his two-year mission there.

Cosgrove says that “For the most part, they (the Montenegrans) were really interested in learning and taking advice. There’s a broad array of stuff with which they need assistance, from environmental crime to public corruption to trafficking in persons.”

“You have to really get into their heads, change how they do things,” Cosgrove concludes. “That’s really, really tough work. Sometimes you succeed, sometimes you don’t. John and I knew that. We both brought a mature outlook. If I’d had a tough day, he’d help my spirits. I’d do the same for him.”

Cosgrove says that despite how tough their assignment was, Haub volunteered to do even more.

“He’s not ambitious in the sense of wanting to advance his career,” observes Cosgrove. “It’s ambition in that he wants to do the job well. It’s really refreshing to work around someone with no personal ambition, no secret agenda. He engaged the law school there, and he didn’t have to do that. One time I really saw him shine the best, we went over to the law school and John talked to the students about how to be a courtroom attorney. He engaged them so masterfully that he really touched them. More than anything, I just enjoyed watching John that day. It was nothing related to ego: he just wanted to share his experience with them.”

“He’s just amazing,” Cosgrove concludes. “I’ve missed him something awful.”

Janine Robben has been a member of the bar since 1980 and is a frequent contributor to the Bulletin. She clerked for John Haub at the Clackamas County District Attorney’s Office.

© 2011 Janine Robben

return to top
return to Table of Contents