Monday, May 31, 2004

Alan Morrison . . . living greatly in the law.

Alan Morrison is closing shop at the Public Citizen Litigation Group in Washington and leaving for a teaching job at Stanford, according to an article in the May 24th Legal Times (requires paid subscription; also available on WestLaw). This is the lawyer who brought us Virginia Pharmacy Board, Chadha, Bowsher, Mistretta, and the motion to recuse Justice Scalia from the Cheney energy case (which Scalia denied, but which probably led to Chief Justice Rehnquist's recent announcement that he has created a panel to look into judicial ethics on the high court).

Morrison's bold attempt to get Scalia out of the Cheney case is illustrative of his career:
The episode captures an essential truth about Morrison, one of the nation's top public interest lawyers, as he looks back over his 32 years with the Ralph Nader-founded Public Citizen Litigation Group. He is fearless about challenging government and corporate interests, yet also has no fear of befriending -- or at least being cordial to -- their advocates and icons.

"There's no reason not to deal with people in a civil manner," Morrison says. "I don't consider myself a rebel. I like having people return my phone calls."

Even in his parting, a range of luminaries returned his phone calls and formed a host committee for a June 3 farewell dinner for Morrison that will also fund a fellowship in his name. The list spans the spectrum of the legal establishment -- from former Whitewater Independent Counsel Kenneth Starr to Harvard Law School professor Laurence Tribe, Reagan Solicitor General Charles Fried to Clinton SG Seth Waxman, Reagan White House Counsel Fred Fielding to Clinton Chief of Staff John Podesta. "Alan Morrison is deeply respected throughout the entire Washington community," says Starr, now partner in the D.C. office of Kirkland & Ellis. "His conservative friends may not always agree with him, but they know he is a person of complete intellectual honesty."
For my students, the closing words of the article are memorable:
Throughout his career, Morrison says, he was never tempted by the astronomically higher salaries he could have made if he had put his tenacity and litigating skills to work for a private firm. At Public Citizen he was paid no more than $80,000 a year, he says, and even when he supplemented that with an adjunct law school teaching gig, "I'm still making less than a first-year associate at a New York firm."

But Morrison says the rewards have been incomparable. Pointing to Craig's book about the litigation group's early days, he says, "I hope young people read it and say to themselves, 'You know, there's a better way to spend my life.' You work here, and there's no competition, you don't have to make partner." One young lawyer on his staff once told him the job was so fulfilling and fun, "I don't think we should get paid."

Morrison recalls the words of his friend the late public interest activist Joseph Rauh Jr., who once said, "They made all the money; we had all the fun."
posted by tommayo, 1:09 PM

Health care law (including public health law, medical ethics, and life sciences), with digressions into constitutional law, poetry, and other things that matter