Oregon State Bar Bulletin JUNE 2014
The May 2014 issue of the Bulletin may well be the best ever! Melody Finnemore’s “A Golden Century” article on the 100-year-old Oregon Supreme Court building was superb. It was fun to read and appropriately recounted the joy and awe of working in this venerable building. Add to that the well-written “Grace Under Pressure” by Jeff Howes (a prosecutor) and John Connors (a criminal defense lawyer) concerning the need for professionalism in criminal trials, and bar president Tom Kranovich’s President’s Message on “Building Bridges, Making Friends” with opposing counsel and you have three home runs.
The other articles were well-written and interesting, as well. The only downer was the necessary discipline reports recounting the sad experiences of five experienced lawyers — average years in the Oregon bar, 19.4 — who violated the Rules of Professional Conduct.
Thank you for enriching my day.
Edwin J Peterson, Salem
On Reading Good Writing
There is no better advice about how to become a good writer than the one given by Megan McAlpin, i.e., read things that are well written. Unless it is to read the writers that the best writers read. No one in the 20th century wrote better than Winston Churchill. As a young officer in the British army in India, he spent several hours every day reading Gibbon’s Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire and Macaulay’s History of England. No one in the 19th century wrote, or spoke, with greater elegance and precision than Lincoln. He learned the law by reading Blackstone, and mastered the language by reading Shakespeare and the Bible. In the 18th century, Jefferson, who wrote the Declaration of Independence because his contemporaries knew he could write it better than anyone else, read Greek philosophy in Greek and all the Roman historians in Latin.
Should this seem too remote from the present-day concerns of a practicing attorney, or irrelevant to the requirements of the profession, it might be well to remember that when Oliver Wendell Holmes was 90 years old and still a justice of the U.S. Supreme Court, he told his new law clerk that they would spend an hour every day reading Plato. When the clerk, Dean Acheson, who would 20 years later become the American secretary of state, asked why, Holmes replied: “To improve our minds.” And if that is not a requirement of what, after all, is a learned profession, it is hard to know what is.
D.W. Buffa, Napa, Calif.
Still Good Advice
While I enjoyed Elizabeth Ruiz Frost’s article entitled “Plainish English” (The Legal Writer, May 2014), I must admit that I flinched as she conceded that we should “write as we speak, kind of.” George-Louis LeClerc, Comte De Buffon, noted in his Discours sur le style (1753) that “[t]hose who write as they speak, even though they speak well, write badly.” The wisdom of that observation has not diminished over the last 261 years.
Wiliam C. Rooklidge, Irvine, Calif.
Unsealing Court Adoption Records
With the passage of SB 623, effective Jan. 1, 2014, Oregon became the only state to unseal court records for adoptees and first parents without requiring good cause. This law has received little attention, although it can be vitally important for those separated by adoption.
Section 4 of ORS 109.319 allows adoptees 18 and over to access their court file, other than the home study, without a court order. It also allows adoptive parents and their attorneys to access the entire file without a court order.
Section 5 of ORS 109.319 as amended by Section 7 of SB 1536 in the February session allows first parents (mothers and fathers whose consent was required) to file a motion to inspect and copy their child’s records when their child turns 18. The court must grant the motion of parents who surrendered their children voluntarily unless the court finds good cause to deny it. Although some personal information in the file must be redacted, the names of the adoptive parents and the adopted name of the child must remain intact. This is critical information for many parents searching for their children.
Courts may grant the motion of parents who lost their children through Department of Human Resources action only upon good cause. The names of the adoptive parents and the adopted name of the child must be redacted.
Forms and information are available on the Oregon Judicial Department’s website, http://courts.oregon.gov/OJD/OSCAlcpsd/courtimprovementljcip/Pages/SB622_SB623Modules.aspx.
Jane Edwards, Portland
We Love Letters
The Bulletin welcomes letters. In general, letters should pertain to recent articles, columns or other letters and should be limited to 250 words. Other things to keep in mind:
Letters must be original and addressed to the Bulletin editor. We do not reprint letters addressed to other publications, to other individuals, to whom it may concern, etc. Preference is given to letters responding to letters to the editor, articles or columns recently published in the Bulletin.
Letters must be signed. Unsigned or anonymous letters will not be published. (There are exceptions. Inquire with the editor.) Letters may not promote individual products, services or political candidates. All letters must comply with the guidelines of Keller v. State Bar of California in that they must be germane to the purpose of regulating the legal profession or improving the quality of the legal services available to the people of Oregon.
Letters may be edited for grammatical errors, style or length, or in cases where language or information is deemed unsuitable or inappropriate for publication.
Send letters to: Editor, OSB Bulletin, P.O. Box 231935, Tigard, OR 97281.
Because of an editing error, the article “Driving Progress” (Parting Thoughts, May 2014) failed to clearly state the presence of a measure on Oregon’s November ballot. One sentence in the article should have read: “But the law was stonewalled and will not go to Oregon voters until November” (emphasis added). We regret any confusion caused by the error. —Ed.