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Judge Diarmuid O’Scannlain: From Politics to Judgment

 

The couple were affianced on Christmas Day, 1962, though O’Scannlain did not meet his future father-in-law, Joe Nolan, until the spring of 1963. Joe Nolan was general counsel to the Weyerhaeuser Corporation in Federal Way, Washington—then, as now, one of the nation’s largest and most valuable timber concerns. His wife, Jane, was a scion of the Fortune brewing family of Chicago. But O’Scannlain was undeterred by the distinctly indigo tint of the blood coursing through the Nolan veins, and he and Maura were married that September.

Maura Nolan and Diarmuid O’Scannlain are flanked by their delighted parents on their wedding day. Photo Courtesy of Judge O’Scannlain

 

Entering the Legal Profession

As Maura was planning the nuptials, O’Scannlain was jump-starting his legal career. Thanks to some extra classes on taxation he had taken, O’Scannlain had secured a position in the Standard Oil Company of New Jersey’s tax department during on-campus recruiting.  He started there three days after graduation.

He enjoyed the work and did well at the company. He soon learned, however, that advancement would require a series of overseas postings and numerous relocations within the United States. The prospect of such a “nomadic existence” did not appeal to the young couple, so O’Scannlain looked for law firm jobs near Maura’s family in the Pacific Northwest during a holiday vacation in winter 1964. He signed on with the firm then known as Davis, Biggs, Strayer, Stoel and Boley (now Stoel Rives LLP) in Portland. The couple moved to the city in February 1965 and have been pillars of the community for more than five decades.

The extended O’Scannlain family in summer 2013. Photo courtesy of Judge O’Scannlain

Much of their early civic involvement stemmed from raising eight over-achieving children. Those children (and 19 grandchildren) are a source of “great pride” for Judge and Mrs. O’Scannlain. All their children—Sean, Jane, Brendan, Kevin, Megan, Chris, Annie, and Kate—were brought up to be active in the Catholic Church and in extracurricular activities. They attended a dizzying array of local schools, including Jesuit (on whose board Judge O’Scannlain sat), St. Mary’s, Lincoln, Ainsworth, Cathedral, Catlin Gabel, and Oregon Episcopal School. The judge derives particular satisfaction from the fact that all eight of the children graduated from college in four years.

Gleeful grandparents and grandchildren on the beach. Photo courtesy of Judge O’Scannlain

Three of them are now lawyers. The eldest, Brendan, followed in his father’s footsteps and joined Stoel Rives LLP, where he is now a partner. Kevin began his legal career as a litigator at the Dunn Carney firm in Portland but eventually moved to Washington, D.C. After serving in the White House as associate counsel and special assistant to the president, he now serves as senior counselor to the secretary of the interior. The youngest of the lawyers, Kate, started her career in Washington, D.C., at Kirkland Ellis LLP. She was a litigation partner at the firm before being nominated by President Donald J. Trump and confirmed by the Senate in 2017 to be the solicitor of the Department of Labor. When asked about growing up in the O’Scannlain home, Kate reflects on the “lively discussions of current events” her parents fostered around the dinner table. She attributes her siblings’ shared love of debate, and their commitment to “criticizing ideas, but not people” to those feisty family forums.

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