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“Legal Sustainability”: An Intangible Right and Obligation?


Living Legally Sustain-ably (or sustain-fully) is about more than reducing our use of tangible resources. We need to pay equal attention to those intangible resources: truth, justice, equal opportunity, and legal health.

Today’s Oregonian article about a visit to Portland by Myron Orfield and an October 2009 article in the Oregon State Bar Bulletin by Barry Woods, “Advancing the new economy: Oregon lawyers embrace sustainability” nudged a buried thought, until I remembered (among other buried treasure) a June 2009 Oregon State Bar Bulletin article by Ritchie Eppink:

1) “A Case for public legal health: Are we missing something?

Excerpt: “… In this way, prevention and public education in the law fell into a gap that no one was clearly authorized to fill. By the middle of the last century, however, the organized bar began to realize that community legal education was a missing piece that the canons kept lawyers away from. The ABA itself, through its Joint Conference on Professional Responsibility, plainly acknowledged a fault in the case-by-case approach to justice as early as 1958, exhorting:….” (link to full Eppink article)

2) The article about Myron Orfield: Linking a sustainable Portland with how fair it is to all, by Eric Mortenson, The Oregonian, October 30, 2009

Excerpt: “… If sustainability isn’t also linked to social justice, Portland’s vaunted livability and vitality — the qualities that separate us from the decaying cores of Detroit, Cleveland, Milwaukie and Kansas City — could be in jeopardy….

Social justice signals many things:

Keep watch on banks’ lending practices, Orfield says. Find out if real estate sales people steer whites to white areas and minorities to poorer parts of town. Pay attention to municipal and regional land-use decisions, such as Metro’s on-going designation of urban and rural reserves and whether to expand the urban growth boundary. Then decide which areas of your part of town benefit from mass transit and which are bypassed – those choices could reveal bias that favors the affluent while punishing others.

Creating a sustainable, equitable city, it turns out, involves elements not traditionally thought of as “green.” It’s all about not being out of balance, for an out of balance city brings strife and need – things that can challenge a sustainable future….” (link to full Mortenson/Orfield article)

3) The Oregon State Bar Bulletin article: by Barry Woods, “Advancing the new economy: Oregon lawyers embrace sustainability

Excerpt: “…Sustainability can seem abstract and difficult to pin down. Yet if you’re an attorney in Oregon you need only look for insight as far as ORS 184.421, which lies at the heart of current governmental operations and principles: “Sustainability” by Oregon statute means “using, developing and protecting resources in a manner that enables people to meet current needs and provides that future generations can also meet future needs, from the joint perspective of environmental, economic and community objectives.” This definition codifies several important themes, and captures a forward-looking appreciation for what we bequeath to future generations and a concern for social and environmental justice. In short, it enunciates a new “triple bottom line” of doing business: planet, people, profit….” (link to full Woods article)

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