From Whizbang to the Federal Bench and the “Best Saddle in the Arena”: Celebrating the Remarkable Life of Judge Owen M. Panner (July 28,1924– December 20, 2018)

Magistrate Judge Mark D. Clarke emphasized the tremendous privilege it was to have Owen Panner as a very close friend and unique mentor. Despite his tough exterior, Judge Panner was always a gentleman who showed a big heart and who believed in a fundamental goodness of people and the power of redemption. He sought to uplift us all with his kind, gracious, and positive spirit and his wonderful sense of humor. Judge Clarke noted that Judge Panner’s Portland chambers served as a virtual museum of the things he really loved in life: his family, his country and state, Native American tribes, golf, horses, and, of course, the law. Judge Clarke cherishes a book on his desk from Judge Panner’s personal library, Don’t Squat with Yer Spurs On: A Cowboy’s Guide to Life, by Texas Bender.

Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs Chief Delvis Heath and Judge Owen Panner sharing a laugh. Photo courtesy of Karnopp Peterson Law Firm

Chief Delvis Heath and former Chief E. Austin Greene Jr. of the Confederated Tribes of Warms Springs performed a compelling Native American drum ceremony in Judge Panner’s honor. Raymond Trumpti, the current Chair of the Warm Springs Tribal Council, also attended. Howard Arnett, an attorney at the Bend law firm Karnopp Petersen, aka “The Panner Firm,” shared some of Judge Panner’s early professional history. After serving in the U.S. Army in World War II, Panner graduated with high honors from the University of Oklahoma Law School in 1949, and moved to Bend, where he initially worked as a car salesman! After passing the Oregon State Bar, Panner formed a law firm with Duncan McKay.

Former Chief Greene recounted how the Tribe was looking to hire a lawyer in 1955. Some members knew Panner from his car-selling days. They also respected his friendships and golfing associations with Native Americans in Oklahoma (having grown up in Whizbang in Oklahoma Indian territory). The Tribe ultimately hired Panner to “keep them out of court” and “outsmart the white man.” Panner represented the Warm Springs Tribe for many years, and Chief Greene spoke of the tremendous leadership Panner provided to them and the ultimate respect they had for him in return.

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