U.S. Magistrate Judge Mustafa T. Kasubhai: “The friend and mentor I needed”

By Gabriela Sanchez

Former Lane County Circuit Judge Kasubhai was appointed U.S. Magistrate Judge for the District of Oregon in September 2018.  Oregon Benchmarks is grateful to Ms. Sanchez for writing about her work and friendship with Judge Kasubhai.

After 15 years in practice and three firms, the framed Ansel Adams photos that Mustafa T. Kasubhai gave me still hang in my office at Lane Powell PC. They remind me how Mustafa helped shape me as a lawyer during my formative years.  His lessons have served me well.

US Magistrate Judge Mustafa Kasubhai, December 2018

I walked into the law offices of Mustafa T. Kasubhai looking for a job as a summer clerk in 2001. Back then, those Ansel Adams photos decorated the small lobby of the three-room office where Mustafa worked as a Workers’ Compensation and plaintiff’s attorney.

There were three of us: me, Mustafa, and his assistant, Helen. I was his first law clerk. When I started, he did not have an office ready for me. He cleaned out a room he was using for storage and had a large desk delivered. I still use that desk in my home office.

Mustafa taught me several lessons during that summer and through my second and third years of law school. One of the earliest was how to be fiscally responsible. He said I needed to pay myself first, learn to invest, and read Rich Dad, Poor Dad, which sat on the corner of his desk. We’re both children of immigrants. I think Mustafa recognized that immigrant parents do not always have these conversations with their children. I realized that Mustafa was going to be more than an employer and mentor. He would be my friend.

Mustafa was the David to the Goliaths of the world. He was a tireless advocate for his clients: creative, quick-witted, intelligent, and a skilled writer. He took on difficult cases for people of little means and gave them strong voices. His sense of fairness and equality made him a formidable opponent. No matter the odds, Mustafa would passionately advocate for his client. I’ve always admired that about him and I try to emulate it.

Some of my most memorable cases were from those days. For example, Mustafa once represented a florist who broke her tooth when she ate a piece of candy provided by her employer. In another case, a car salesman jumped on a bicycle someone else had brought, popped a wheelie, and eventually popped more than a wheelie. In both cases, Workers’ Compensation refused to cover the employees’ claims as coming within the scope of employment. As you can imagine, Mustafa took some ribbing from his colleagues for taking these cases. I don’t remember if he won, but he gave both of them everything he had. This taught me not to back down from a fight and to persevere for justice for every client no matter the result.

Outside of work, Mustafa was an avid cat lover and woodworker. He kindly adopted a couple of cats that somehow mysteriously appeared at his home after I house sat for him.  I’m not sure he’s forgiven me for that. I also do not understand why he never seems to age.

When Mustafa asked me to write him a letter in support of his appointment to the Lane County Circuit Court, I did not hesitate. I still cannot think of a better jurist. His sense of fairness and his ability to analyze complicated law, then apply it to the facts to create a fair and pragmatic ruling are his greatest qualities. Now I am even more excited and proud to see that he has been appointed as a U.S. Magistrate Judge.  The federal bench is better for it.

I have often said that Mustafa was the brother I never wanted. He’s better. He is the friend and mentor I needed.  I am truly grateful for his friendship.