The latest issue of Oregon Super Lawyers & Rising Stars, now available online as a digital magazine and in print, features Robert C. Weaver Jr., a litigator with Garvey Schubert Barer and a former federal prosecutor who chased the red-robed Rajneeshee cult out of town in the 1980s.
The religious group had taken over a town in Central Oregon, terrorizing local residents and causing general mayhem. Weaver, at the time chief of the criminal division of the U.S. attorney’s office for Oregon, successfully prosecuted Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh.
Judge Edward Leavy remembers the case well: “The Rajneeshees, from my perspective, would have gotten out of the country without prosecution had it not been for Weaver. He may be too modest to tell you that, but if Weaver hadn’t been decisive, it would have been too late. In my mind he was a hero.”
Weaver is in private practice now, handling business litigation and criminal defense at Garvey Schubert Barer in Portland. He has represented a number of celebrities, including figure skater Tonya Harding. But having famous clients has its downsides, he notes.
“I would come home late at night and my 8-year-old would be talking to Katie Couric on the phone, who was trying to get to me to get to Tonya to get an interview,” he recalls. “That happened all the time.”
The case of which Weaver is proudest? A class action case that he worked on pro bono with Disability Rights Oregon in 2000, on behalf of hundreds of Medicaid-eligible, developmentally disabled young adults who at the time were receiving no services from the state of Oregon. It ended in a $350 million settlement.
Also highlighted in the issue is employment lawyer Judy Snyder, who originally went into family law. But after hearing Anita Hill’s testimony at the Clarence Thomas confirmation hearings in 1991, Snyder decided to change course.
“I was at a family get-together with people of all different ages and generations from my husband’s side of the family,” explains the attorney, with the Law Offices of Judy Snyder. “I heard the women, [ranging from] young women all the way up to the older women in the family, talking about their own personal experiences being sexually harassed in their working lives. That was on a Sunday, and I walked into the firm the next day and I said, ‘I’m taking no more domestic relations cases.’ My partner said, ‘Why?’ I said, ‘Because we are about to do a lot of sexual harassment litigation.’ That proved to be true. … I just knew we would be hearing from a lot of women who had sat there through the Anita Hill testimony and said, ‘She’s right; we should not put up with this.'”
We also talk to Parna Mehrbani, who practices intellectual property law at Lane Powell‘s Portland office. She manages the trademark practice, which covers federal, state and international clearance registration and prosecution, and works mostly with consumer-product manufacturers.
Mehrbani says the Internet keeps her practice area challenging, because everything on web-related is intellectual property. “It’s fun, because who the heck knows what’s going to happen? There are potential new laws; you’re trying to apply laws that were passed with no understanding of the Internet to this new forum. It’s challenging, but I like that aspect.”
Finally, we hear from business attorney Jerry Carleton, founder of his firm, Immix Law Group. Carleton relates particularly well to his clients, having co-founded his own business-Keen Mobility, which creates equipment for people with disabilities- fresh out of college.
“[I enjoy] understanding what the business owner is going through and being able to relate to them and then help them,” he says, “so that the law isn’t a scary thing or an intimidating thing. It’s an empowering thing.”