july 2018 bar bulletin
By Harry H. Schneider, Jr.
More than 30 years ago, I met Fred Tausend. He taught me two important lessons that have served me well and made my life as a lawyer more rewarding.
The first occurred when I was defending a third-party witness in a deposition. Fred was asking the questions. I don’t remember who was opposing counsel. I was there as the lawyer for a non-party witness who happened to be the managing partner of my law firm. I was eager. I was young.
I wanted to do well in front of an important audience. And I was determined that no possible objection to Fred’s questions would slip by without me making a statement on the record. (In those days, speaking objections were still within the bounds of accepted procedure.) I objected early and often.
When a recess was taken, Fred caught me in the hallway. Outside the presence of anyone else he said simply, “When I was your age, I used to do the same thing.” He didn’t scold me. He hadn’t responded in kind on the record. He didn’t embarrass me in front of others. He could not have been more cordial. Nor could he have been more effective.
I have not defended a deposition that way since. Fred probably never gave it another thought. But I will never forget it. He didn’t offer his advice to make his deposition more orderly or his job any easier. He was going to obtain the evidence he needed despite my antics. Fred offered that advice for my benefit, not his. As a seasoned, well-respected litigator, as prominent as any lawyer in the state of Washington, he took the opportunity to help a young attorney be a better lawyer. I’ve considered Fred Tausend a friend ever since.
The second lesson came years later when I was in a management position at my law firm. Fred phoned early on a Monday morning. Having heard that two of my partners had departed the previous Friday night, Fred wanted to know the inside story. Then he told me the real reason he had called, saying, “You know, one of your former partners was on the King County Bar Foundation Board of Trustees.”
Fred explained that he was president of the Foundation and, given the number of lawyers in our firm, he wanted a Perkins Coie partner on the Board. “We need one of your partners on our Board and, as of this morning, we don’t have one. Will you help me identify someone?” Feeling empowered and somewhat self-important, I responded quickly, “Fred, just tell me who you want and I will make it happen.” Even if Fred was not so affected, I was pretty impressed with what I said and how I said it. Without hesitation, Fred replied, “In that case, I want you.”
As usual, Fred Tausend was more than a few steps ahead of me. I could do nothing but graciously acquiesce to take a position on the Board that I did not seek, and which I probably was not qualified to assume.
That’s how I first became involved with the King County Bar Association, by accident. Prior to that conversation I had not had any involvement in, and not much exposure to, either the KCBA or the KCBF. I’m embarrassed to say it, but I didn’t even know the distinction between the two organizations. But because of Fred Tausend, I spent the next 12 months learning, and I spent the next 12 years serving on the Foundation’s Board of Trustees.
Although my first introduction to the KCBA was inadvertent, my involvement has been quite deliberate ever since. I liked what I learned. I discovered that the KCBA was an organization of motivated individuals who championed principles that all lawyers should revere, whose commitment to service focused on supporting and assisting practicing attorneys, our judiciary, and the communities in which we live, all for the public good.
I learned that the core values of the KCBA dated back to its very founding in the late 19th Century, and that those principles remain as relevant today as they were when first adopted. The predecessor organization of what we know as the King County Bar Association was created in the mid-1880s. The founders were prominent Seattle attorneys who were offended and alarmed when a group of fellow lawyers actively participated in a vigilante effort to force Chinese immigrants to leave town. In the view of the instigators, these immigrants were taking jobs that rightfully belonged to “Americans.”
Tensions spiraled out of control in February 1886. Hundreds of Chinese workers were rounded up, apprehended by outlaw groups of Seattle citizens, including lawyers, and forcibly marched to a ship docked in Elliott Bay waiting to take them away.
Acting pro bono, a handful of other Seattle lawyers, including the U.S. attorney, intervened to liberate the detained Chinese men. They went to court and successfully obtained a writ of habeas corpus ordering the release of those immigrants who were being held against their will. Yet, the detainees remained captive on the dock. Ultimately, a skirmish escalated, fighting erupted, shots were fired, and several individuals were wounded. One died of his injuries. Gov. Watson Squire and President Grover Cleveland had to impose martial law before order was restored.
Appalled that some of the more prominent agitators and vigilante leaders taking the law into their own hands were fellow attorneys, a majority of Seattle lawyers organized themselves into a formal bar association to take action to censure or penalize those attorneys who had incited the riots and participated in the efforts to expel the Chinese workers. By a vote of 37–1, the newly organized bar brought charges of unprofessional conduct against the lawyers involved, and sought to suspend them from the practice of law in Seattle. The lone dissenting vote was cast by one of the attorneys whose own conduct was at issue.
The very first resolution passed by this newly organized group focused on the legal profession’s obligation to always respect the Rule of Law, rather than bow to mob mentality, and the need to ensure that inclusion would always triumph over ethnic persecution and exclusion.
KCBA’s origins say a lot about its character and that of its members. And perhaps there is no more appropriate time than right now to reflect on that history and to appreciate the mission and purpose of the KCBA. We find ourselves today at a time in our history when the path to immigration is under heightened scrutiny. Patriotism is defined, by some, based on whether we are willing to suppress freedom of expression and keep our opinions to ourselves.
Observance of the Rule of Law is being tested and challenged as an impediment and unnecessary obstruction to necessary executive action. It is a time of unprecedented attacks on our judiciary from the highest levels of elected government, by people who consider it appropriate to ridicule and insult a judge’s intellect and integrity based solely on whether executive action was found to have passed constitutional muster.
Lawyers have a unique and important role in our society, a role that is ever more important in times when threats to our national security and public safety are urged to be so imminent and real that we might consider dialing back our traditional notions of due process, equal protection under law, and access to justice. A nation that prides itself on adherence to the Rule of Law is nothing without lawyers.
Throughout its history, the KCBA has done its part in our little corner of the world to assist our lawyers engaged in civil discourse; to promote inclusion, acceptance, and greater diversity in our profession; to ensure access to justice for those without means who otherwise would be unrepresented; and to support our independent judiciary charged with the considerable responsibility to decide important questions of liberty while dispensing justice equally and without favor.
Ours is a proud tradition. Thanks to Fred Tausend, I’m proud to be part of it.
Harry H. Schneider, Jr., is the president of the King County Bar Association and a litigation partner at Perkins Coie. He can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 206-359-8508.