By Adair Law
There was warm weather and warmth of feeling in evidence when family and friends gathered in Courtroom 9A of the Hatfield Courthouse on May 13, 2019 to unveil portraits of U.S. Magistrate Judge Paul Papak and U.S. District Judge Anna Brown, as well as to honor the work of historian Janice Dilg. Under the gaze (via separate portraits) of U.S. District Judges James Redden and the late Garr King, USDCHS President Julie Engbloom welcomed a packed courtroom.
Kerry Tymchuk, Executive Director of the Oregon Historical Society, introduced Janice Dilg. He reminded the crowd, that, in the words of historian and writer David McCullough, “History is who we are and why we are the way we are.” Janice Dilg became oral history coordinator in 2008 after earlier years of transcribing and conducting oral histories. Her time with the Society saw the advent of digital formats and led to her work on the conversion from magnetic tape to digital files. Once recordings were stabilized, transcripts were created, then indexed, many for the first time. Jan oversaw the work of many who volunteered to transcribe the newly stabilized sound files, thereby making the collection more accessible. But Jan’s magic can most readily be found in the rapport she developed with her interview subjects. Eliciting laughs and introspection, Jan’s oral history are a master study on the form. On taking the podium, Jan thanked a core group of committed transcribers attending the event. She spoke of her appreciation for the Attorney Admissions Fund support that keeps the oral history program active. She mentioned the reach of the work, noting a 2015 oral history conducted with U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Elizabeth Perris cited in the 2017 book, Detroit Resurrected: To Bankruptcy and Back by Nathan Bomey. Jan looks forward to a range of future projects, including a 2020 centennial exhibit at the Oregon Historical Society on American women receiving the right to vote.
Chief Judge Michael Mosman introduced U.S. Magistrate Judge Paul Papak, noting that during his days in the U.S. Attorney’s office he had tried cases against future-Judge Papak, who served as an assistant Federal Defender. The Chief Judge had special praise for Judge Papak’s work on the Portland Re-entry Court (a program that works to reduce recidivism among drug involved offenders in the federal system), calling his work “wise, compassionate, holding people to account.”
The photo portrait created by Keene Studio was unveiled. Judge Papak extended his thanks, noting that while there is a tradition of portraiture for Article III judges, Oregon is one of the few districts to extend this honor to magistrate judges. He recalled 14 years ago, when he received a morning phone call from then-Chief Judge Ancer Haggerty. The Chief Judge informed him that he would indeed be Oregon’s newest U.S. magistrate judge. He could start after lunch. In thanking all those who helped him achieve his success, Judge Papak quoted an expression Judge King liked to use, “If you see a turtle on fence post, you can be sure it didn’t get there on its own.” Judge Papak extended his gratitude to a wide range of judicial mentors (Chief Judge Mosman, Magistrate Judge Donald Ashmanskas, the late Judge Garr King and the late Judge Owen Panner) past and present co-workers (Steven T. Wax, Mary Moran), and law clerks (“You made me a better thinker and writer”). He was grateful to his wife Krista Van Engelen for her support during law school. He informed the audience that she was the first magistrate in the family, having served in Iowa. He thanked his son Charlie, born just before his formal judicial investiture, for keeping him young at heart.
While introducing Judge Anna Brown, Chief Judge Mosman noted that often when people learn he is from the District of Oregon, the only thing people want to know is whether he knows Judge Brown. The Chief Judge spoke of her extraordinary work as a trial judge and her leadership in the work of the court. “I appreciate the spirit she brings to the court,” and he noted that she was also the first (and likely only) judge to knit him a scarf. Judge Brown’s portrait was unveiled.
Stepping to the podium, Judge Brown said, “Ever since I first heard Oregon Senator Betsy Johnson’s advice that speakers should always ‘be sincere, be brief, and be seated,’ I’ve tried to take that advice to heart.” She informed the crowd she wished to speak of “gratitude, legacy, and the future.” She spoke of her gratitude to her large, extended family, and to her husband Paul, the first person to suggest she should go to law school. She made special mention of her longtime clerk, Sandra Dixon, as well as “members of my stellar chambers team from over the years, two of whom, Judge Ericka Hadlock and Judge Xiomara Torres, have also committed to judicial service.” She thanked several people “who particularly shaped my professional life, teaching me to be a good trial lawyer and then to be a judge who has always tried her best to ‘do the right thing the right way.’” Judge Brown’s gratitude extended to the completion of her judicial portrait. She chose a photographic portrait and requested that an additional panel be added to show the six judges who served in Judicial Position No. 2 before her. Judge Brown joined the bench in 1999.
Moving on to the topic of legacy, Judge Brown noted that she is the first woman to serve in Judicial Position No. 2. With the late Judge Helen Frye joining the federal bench in 1980 and Judge Ann Aiken in 1998, three of the 29 U.S. District Judges who have served Oregon since 1859 have been women. Judge Brown hopes that it will not be another 20 years before the District of Oregon welcomes additional female colleagues to the bench.
As for the portion of her remarks related to the future, Judge Brown drew the audience’s attention to a detail in the portrait, a gavel and strike plate made for her from her client in her final trial as a lawyer. Not visible in the portrait are the words on the strike plate. They came from a fortune cookie message her client received while waiting for the jury. The fortune read, “The law sometimes sleeps but never dies.” Judge Brown spoke of her strong belief that the lawyers and judges coming after her “are the reason for firm optimism that the rule of law survives and will abide whatever our current challenges. I , for one, am counting on each of you to carry on what I was taught, always to try to do the right thing the right way for the right reason. With heartfelt gratitude, I will now “be seated.”
By Adair Law