Equality Committee Multnomah Lawyer Articles

July/August 2007 Multnomah Lawyer article

Standing on the Shoulders of Giants - Judge Richard C. Baldwin

By Fay Stetz-Waters, Oregon State Bar Affirmative Action Program

The MBA Equality Committee is committed to showcasing individuals, activities and programs developed and/or sponsored by MBA members and their firms or organizations that promote and provide better understanding of diversity in our legal profession and community. If you would like to recognize an individual, group or firm for their commitment to equality, please contact Kathy Maloney at the MBA. The following is the third article in a series.

It was a great pleasure to interview Judge Richard C. Baldwin of the Multnomah County Circuit Court. I met him while I was a law student. As a student of color, I grew to know him as representing all that I admired in the legal profession. Judge Baldwin is one of many whose professionalism, respect for the law and commitment to inclusion helped me to decide to become a member of the OSB.

Judge Baldwin chuckles, "You don't have to be 60 years old before you admit that your parents are right." His parents stressed education and made it clear that ignorance is never an option. He incorporates education into his commitment to racial equality and social justice.

He believes equal treatment is at the core of our legal system; so it is not surprising that he has a broad view of civil rights and inclusion. Like anyone who works over a long time on social justice issues, he recognizes there is advancement and backlash. To sustain his energy, he knows he must dig in for the duration and not sweat the small stuff. "It is about fighting the good fight, not about whether you win them all." He adds, "Given the nature of the problem, we are really standing on the shoulders of giants."

One high point he notes is the Day of Acknowledgment. Judge Baldwin noticed that 1999 marked the 150th anniversary of the Oregon Territorial Act of 1849, an act that excluded blacks from the State of Oregon. He spearheaded a movement in the Oregon legislature to propose a Day of Acknowledgment resolution as a way to reflect on Oregon's racial history, and to have a community impact that would move people forward. More than 800 Oregonians turned out to acknowledge the state's discriminatory past and the work towards racial equality. The legislature approved a resolution commemorating the struggle for racial justice.

Another high point for Judge Baldwin is the increase in the number of law students of color. In 1972, there were only five law students of color in the whole state. In 2006, at the OSB House of Delegates annual meeting, Judge Baldwin saw students of color fill the public assembly area. Visually, it was stunning. "The sight represented something completely different from when I entered law school. I am awed whenever I walk into an OLIO conference and see it filled with law students of color. These are inspirational changes that recharge my batteries," he explains.

Judge Baldwin was referring to Opportunities for Law in Oregon (OLIO), the bar's ethnic minority law student recruitment and retention strategy with year-long programming in which he is an active participant. Besides joining a panel of judges at this summer's OLIO Orientation, Judge Baldwin will co-facilitate a CLE which draws from the highly successful Uniting to Understand Racism (UUR) series, originally the brainchild of former Chief Justice Edwin Peterson.

UUR's mission is to advance racial justice and reconciliation through honest dialogue, acts of reconciliation and education. UUR works throughout the year with local businesses, schools, government and nonprofits to sponsor a six-week dialogue program within their organizations. Judge Baldwin is enthusiastic about his personal and professional growth from his UUR experiences. Imagine sitting in a relaxing environment, in a trustful atmosphere, and feeling comfortable sharing what you really think...about race. That is what more than 3,000 Oregonians have achieved during UUR's six-week course.

Judge Baldwin, current UUR Board President said, "My work with UUR keeps me aware of the fact that there is not just one American experience. There are many experiences. Making assumptions based on one's own experience is often not very respectful and can result in one's actions and statements being misunderstood." He adds, "I've learned from each experience and that tends to make me a whole person." He invites anyone interested in scheduling a workplace dialogue CLE (six credits) to contact UUR Director, Sheila Griffie at understandracism@qwest.net. For more information about UUR, visit www.understandracism.org.

In addition to working with UUR, Judge Baldwin serves as chair of the Multnomah County Circuit Court Judicial Outreach Committee and on the Executive Committee of the OSB Diversity Section.

Judge Baldwin's energy is unlimited, and he strikes a satisfying balance between his professional life and his personal life. As a newly admitted bar member, I see Judge Baldwin as a role model.