On Monday, 104 new students started classes at the University of Oregon’s law school. They’ll be following in the footsteps of these defining UO law school alumni.
Ellen Rosenblum made history when she became Oregon’s first woman Attorney General in 2012.
She earned her undergraduate degree in 1971 and her law degree in 1975 — both from the University of Oregon. After school, Rosenblum practiced law for 14 years, worked as a federal prosecutor then served a combined 22 years as both an appellate and trial judge.
The transition from a judge to politician allowed Rosenblum to contribute to society in a new way, said Kamala Shugar, assistant attorney in charge at the Oregon Department of Justice and one of Rosenblum’s mentees.
Rosenblum was prohibited from being political as a judge; when she was elected Attorney General, she was allowed to start voicing her positions on policy.
“She felt like all of a sudden she could speak her mind and be political,” Shugar said.
She took strong stances for medical marijuana and against predatory lending practices. Before marijuana was legal, Rosenblum promised in her campaign to make marijuana enforcement a low priority and protect the rights of medical marijuana patients.
Rosenblum will be in Eugene for the UO Law Alumni weekend to receive the John E. Jaqua Distinguished Alumnus Award.
Rosenblum has been “tireless” in mentoring young lawyers all her career, Shugar said and she also helped establish Oregon Women Lawyers.
Two years after he graduated from UO’s law school, Minoru Yasui walked into a Portland police station on March 28, 1942, and demanded to be arrested.
In Dec. 1941, the U.S. government had made it illegal for Japanese-Americans — US citizens or not — to be outside between 8 p.m. and 6 a.m.
Yasui wanted to change that.
He was arrested, and his case eventually reached the Supreme Court in Yasui v. United States, which resulted in a unanimous ruling that restricting civilian lives during war is unconstitutional.
In 2015, Yasui posthumously received the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest award a civilian can receive in the United States. Recipients of the medal include Martin Luther King Jr., Caesar Chavez, and Rosa Parks.
Yasui, who died in 1986, spent his life fighting for citizenship rights for Japanese-Americans.
“A military order distinguishing one citizen on one hand, [and] another citizen on the basis of ancestry [on the other hand] was absolutely wrong,” Yasui said.
Lauren Kessler, author and journalism professor at UO, wrote and published a book on Yasui and his family in 1993 titled Broken Twig.
During her research, she met Yasui, and described him as quiet, deeply intelligent and selfless.
“You knew you were in the presence of somebody who was important. He was all the more important because he didn’t think of himself as important,” Kessler told the Emerald.
He attended UO for his law degree, graduating in 1939. This year, UO established a fellowship in his honor. UO law student Weston Koyama is the first to receive the fellowship.
Koyama has spent time studying Yasui and believes he was a patriot, despite his country’s mistreatment of Japanese-Americans.
“It was precisely because of his loyalty to the United States that he felt he could basically bring himself forward as a test case,” Koyama said.
Greg Dotson, who graduated from the University of Oregon School of Law in 1995, is best known for his work with energy and environmental policy.
He participated in the investigation of the BP Deep Horizon oil spill and is the vice president for energy policy at the Center for American Progress, a public policy think tank in Washington, D.C.
But his post-graduate success hasn’t made Dotson forget his roots. Students such as Chad Marriott, who graduated from the UO School of Law in 2009, owe their first professional opportunities to Dotson.
Dotson called UO in 2007, setting up an internship for Marriott with the House of Representatives’ Committee on Oversight and Government Reform.
“He didn’t reach out to any other school,” Marriott said. “It was him personally who reached out to the law school.”
Marriott has built a successful practice representing energy development projects.
Helping students get their start in the field is only a fraction of what Dotson has accomplished since his graduation from the UO School of Law in 1995. He and Marriott contributed to the 2007 Energy Independence and Security Act, which is trying to reduce petroleum use by 20 percent each year until 2020 — which would have a similar impact to taking 28 million cars off the road.
Marriott describes Dotson as thoughtful, soft-spoken and measured.
“If you bring him into a room where […] the people there are really interested in environmental issues,” Marriott said, “they listen.”
Democrat Ron Wyden has served as Oregon’s U.S. senator since 1996. Before his career in Washington D.C., Wyden graduated from UO’s law school in 1974.
A free and open internet is important to Wyden. He was one of the first to speak out against the controversial Stop Online Piracy Act, which was designed to crack down on pirated content, however, Wyden argued, it was a tool for government overreach. After an Internet backlash, SOPA was voted down in 2012.
“The Internet has become an integral part of everyday life precisely because it has been an open-to-all land of opportunity where entrepreneurs, thinkers and innovators are free to try, fail and then try again,” Wyden wrote in an open letter on his website.
Wyden also prioritizes transparency in the US government: He partnered with Senator Rand Paul, pushing to declassify the CIA Inspector General’s 9/11 report.
The Senator also co-introduced the Geolocation Privacy and Surveillance Act, which is set to go on the floor in Congress this legislative session. It limits government surveillance use, including cell-phone GPS signal locating.
Wyden has also worked to protect the Northwest’s wilderness, writing laws that have extended Wilderness protections to more than 400,000 acres. He has served as the chair of the Senate Energy Committee and the Senate Finance Committee during his tenure in the Senate.
Contributions made to this report by Max Thornberry
This report has been updated to clarify the date that Yasui was arrested and Senator Wyden’s title.