Justice Jack Landau

Oregon Supreme Court

The Honorable Jack Landau recently moved to the Oregon Supreme Court from the Oregon Court of Appeals.

Judge Landau brings to the bench a strong work ethic developed from his experiences as a young man. He moved all over the country as a child, attending more than 20 schools before graduating from Franklin High and making Oregon his home.

At Lewis & Clark College, he obtained undergraduate degrees in history and psychology. In the process, he developed a passion for learning that, over the course of his career, would bring him back to the classroom, both as a student and as a teacher. After college, Judge Landau took time off to indulge another passion - music. He played guitar in a bluegrass band and indicates that the group met with some success, in that they actually "had some paid gigs."

"Don't be too impressed, though," he cautions. "Sometimes we played for audiences of six people, and that was counting our girlfriends."

Wanting to take on a new challenge, Judge Landau entered law school at Lewis & Clark. He enjoyed his experience, especially classes in environmental law and, he notes with some hesitation, legal research and writing. He was Editor-in-Chief of the Lewis & Clark Law Review and published several articles on environmental and natural resources law.

Upon graduation, Judge Landau followed his interest in teaching and writing and accepted a position as a legal writing instructor at the law school. It was during that year of teaching that Judge Landau developed an interest in clerking for a judge. "Actually, it wasn't my idea," he recalls. "The director of student employment, whose office was right next to mine, pretty much insisted that I apply for a federal court clerkship."

That led to an interview with US District Court Judge Robert Belloni. It proved an uncomfortable interview. "One of the case notes that I had published the previous year was fairly critical of Judge Belloni's famous Indian treaty fishing rights decisions," Judge Landau explains. "I had hoped that he didn't know anything about the article but, much to my chagrin, I saw that he had a copy of it right on his desk. I figured I was toast at that point." What followed was a "spirited" discussion of the case. Much to Judge Landau's surprise, at the end of the discussion, Judge Belloni said that he had enjoyed the experience so much that he wanted to offer Landau the job. Judge Landau says that he thoroughly enjoyed working for Judge Belloni for two years and that working for the judge caused him to dream of someday becoming a judge himself.

Later, Judge Landau joined the firm of Lindsay Hart, where he practiced in both the trial and the appellate courts. He spent more than six years with the firm and ultimately became a partner. In 1989, then-Attorney General Dave Frohnmayer hired him to lead the Special Litigation Unit within the Trial Division of the Oregon Department of Justice. In 1990, Frohnmayer appointed him to be Oregon's Deputy Attorney General, where he also served under Attorney General Charles Crookham. In December 1992, Governor Barbara Roberts appointed Judge Landau to the Court of Appeals.

A good appellate judge, Judge Landau says, is first and foremost fair and impartial. "The Court of Appeals is not a good place for anyone with an agenda," he notes. In addition, he suggests that the judge must be prepared to work extremely hard and, in particular, to read a lot of briefs. Judge Landau says that during his years on the bench he has read a stack of briefs more than 20 stories tall. He says it is also indispensable to be collegial. According to Judge Landau, "appellate courts work in panels, so you must be able to get along well with your colleagues, even in the face of vigorous disagreement. Otherwise you'll end up spending all your time writing nothing but dissents." He also says that a good appellate judge must have a "passion for the law" and must love to write. One of the things he enjoys most about his job is writing his own opinions, and one of his goals is that "whether or not you agree with it, you only have to read the opinion once to understand it."

In the meantime, Judge Landau has not lost his passion for learning or teaching. Despite his busy schedule at the Court of Appeals, he returned to the classroom to obtain an advanced law degree from the University of Virginia. He has been sharing his knowledge and experience as a visiting professor at Willamette University College of Law.

Originally authored by Tom Cleary and printed in the March 2005 Multnomah Lawyer
Updated for the Internet in 2007 and again in 2011