NPI's Cascadia Advocate

Offering commentary and analysis from Washington, Oregon, and Idaho, The Cascadia Advocate is the Northwest Progressive Institute's unconventional perspective on world, national, and local politics.

Saturday, May 20th, 2017

Lynn Allen Award honoree Paul Lawrence: We need a resurgence of progressive activism

Edi­tor’s Note: Three weeks ago, NPI pre­sent­ed Paci­fi­ca Law Group senior lit­i­ga­tion part­ner Paul Lawrence with one of the first Lynn Allen Awards at our 2017 Spring Fundrais­ing Gala. Paul’s com­men­da­tion reads:

A for­mi­da­ble attor­ney spe­cial­iz­ing in com­plex appel­late and civ­il lit­i­ga­tion, Paul Lawrence has ably rep­re­sent­ed pub­lic ser­vants and work­ing fam­i­lies in our courts for more than thir­ty years. Dur­ing a five year stretch rang­ing from 2011 to 2016, Paul skill­ful­ly secured a series of land­mark ver­dicts against a crop of right wing ini­tia­tives that grave­ly threat­ened Washington’s future. Pri­or to those cas­es, Paul defend­ed Sound Tran­sit against mul­ti­ple law­suits intend­ed to weak­en or destroy it. His mas­tery of con­sti­tu­tion­al law and sound tri­al strat­e­gy have repeat­ed­ly led to cru­cial vic­to­ries for pro­gres­sive caus­es.

Below is the text of Paul’s accep­tance speech. We are pleased to be able to share Paul’s remarks with those of you who could­n’t be at the event. Enjoy! 

Thank you to Andrew, the North­west Pro­gres­sive Insti­tute and its part­ner orga­ni­za­tions; it is an hon­or to be rec­og­nized by peo­ple and orga­ni­za­tions so focused on improv­ing our com­mu­ni­ty.

I want to note it is a spe­cial hon­or to share the stage with Joni Earl – I have worked for Sound Tran­sit since its incep­tion – rep­re­sent­ing it in many of its bet the Agency Lit­i­ga­tion – includ­ing suc­cess­ful­ly fight­ing Tim Eyman’s Ini­tia­tive 776’s effort to cut back the MVET vot­ed by the peo­ple to sup­port Phase One of Sound Transit’s plan [Sound Move, approved in Novem­ber 1996].

Paul Lawrence and Joni Earl

Paul Lawrence and Joni Earl with their Lynn Allen Awards (Pho­to: Lin­coln Potter/Samaya LLC for the North­west Pro­gres­sive Insti­tute)

Work­ing with Joni Earl and Sound Tran­sit is emblem­at­ic of the part­ner­ship between my law firm and many of the pub­lic agen­cies that are so impor­tant to the qual­i­ty of life in our com­mu­ni­ty.

It is fit­ting this gala takes place on the one hun­dredth day of the Trump pres­i­den­cy. It is a strong reminder that NPI’s pro­gres­sive activism is espe­cial­ly need­ed at this time and an equal­ly strong reminder of the need for all of us to be part-time activists.

Being a part-time activist is a con­cept that I learned from one of the lead­ers of the first law firm I worked at here in Seat­tle: Pre­ston Thor­grim­son Ellis & Hol­man. That firm leader was Jim Ellis. He was an inspi­ra­tion. I know that some of you in this room know about Jim Ellis. But I imag­ine that many of you do not.

Jim was a munic­i­pal bond lawyer; he nev­er held pub­lic office, nev­er head­ed a major cor­po­ra­tion, and was nev­er rich.

Yet, as a cit­i­zen activist for more than half a cen­tu­ry, he left a big­ger foot­print on Seat­tle and King Coun­ty than per­haps any oth­er sin­gle indi­vid­ual.”

He was a leader in the cam­paigns to clean up Lake Wash­ing­ton; to finance mass tran­sit, parks, pools, and oth­er pub­lic facil­i­ties through “For­ward Thrust” bonds; to pre­serve farm­lands; and to estab­lish the Moun­tains to Sound Green­way along the I‑90 cor­ri­dor.

The con­cept of a part-time activist stems from the real­i­ty and impor­tance of the com­mit­ments each of us have to our fam­i­lies and to our col­leagues at work.

Those com­mit­ments can take up more than full-time, but we also have a respon­si­bil­i­ty to the com­mu­ni­ty and we ful­fill that com­mu­ni­ty com­mit­ment by being part-time activists.

Being a part-time activist is not a solo activ­i­ty. It is a result of being in a fam­i­ly that is sup­port­ive (thanks to my wife Cyn­thia Jones for that sup­port!). Iit is a result of work­ing with col­leagues who are sup­port­ive – thanks to my col­leagues at Paci­fi­ca Law Group – which was start­ed by for­mer mem­bers of the Pre­ston Firm in part to car­ry out Jim Ellis’s vision of com­bin­ing a law prac­tice with civic work.

Being a part-time activist requires a vision.

As Jim Ellis said: “Try to imag­ine a future pic­ture of your best hopes. This moti­vat­ing vision should be thought through care­ful­ly and believed in deeply. It needs to inter­est and chal­lenge you enough to sus­tain your effort over time.”

My vision was born of the civ­il rights strug­gles I observed as a child and the role of lawyers in that strug­gle and then expand­ed when I moved here in the 1980s to help­ing the com­mu­ni­ty grow right and pre­serve and enhance its his­to­ry of pro­gres­sive val­ues. Being a part-time Activist requires per­sis­tence and patience. The effort to over­turn Eyman’s two-thirds tax ini­tia­tives took over twen­ty years.

Being a part-time activist requires a depth of com­mit­ment to fight hard, to fight well and to bring your best to the effort.

The sat­is­fac­tions from being a part-time activist are great: to help with lit­i­ga­tion to defeat destruc­tive ini­tia­tives filed by Tim Eyman; to help to pre­serve the Pike Place Mar­ket and our pub­lic school sys­tem; to sup­port the growth of Sound Tran­sit; to help pre­serve civ­il rights and civ­il lib­er­ties through work with the ACLU, all have been reward­ing enough with­out any addi­tion­al recog­ni­tion.

This award is appre­ci­at­ed, but tru­ly one to be shared with my fam­i­ly, my col­leagues at work and part­ners such as the North­west Pro­gres­sive Insti­tute.

In clos­ing, I would observe that now more than ever is a time to lead a resur­gence of civic life by all of us serv­ing as part-time activists.

As Robert Kennedy, anoth­er inspi­ra­tion for me, said: “Each time a [per­son] stands up for an ide­al, or acts to improve the lot of oth­ers, or strikes out against injus­tice, he sends forth a tiny rip­ple of hope, and cross­ing each oth­er from a mil­lion dif­fer­ent cen­ters of ener­gy and dar­ing, those rip­ples build a cur­rent that can sweep down the might­i­est walls of oppres­sion and resis­tance.”

Here’s to all of us being part-time activists.

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