Bob Joondeph, whose civil rights actions reshaped Oregon, was recognized by the Multnomah Bar Association
Bob Joondeph has spent most of his legal career fighting for a level playing field. He served as an attorney for Disability Rights Oregon for 30 years. He was instrumental in protecting the civil rights of people with disabilities in Oregon and making public spaces more accessible to all.
“I went to work there in 1986,” Joondeph recalls. “I started out as an executive lawyer and then became a director in 1991.”
Joondeph, 70, who lives in Portland’s Goose Hollow neighborhood, said his ambition to remodel a broken system led to his career at Disability Rights Oregon.
“I worked there mainly because I was interested in reforming Oregon’s mental health system,” he said. Joondeph was successful.
During his tenure at Disability Rights Oregon, Joondeph initiated important changes including legal work that resulted in the shutdown of the state’s dysfunctional and abusive mental hospitals and separate litigation that closed the former Fairview Training Center. State investigations and a class action lawsuit filed by the DRO found thousands of people with developmental disabilities were institutionalized and often sterilized, neglected, or abused. The facility was closed in 2000.
The closure of the Fairview Training Center also paved the way for an important law – Kitzhaber vs. Staley. The lawsuit, in which DRO was involved, ensured the 7,000 Oregonians displaced by the Fairview shutdown had access to state support services. These services remain intact today. “Every child in Oregon with a mental or developmental disability is eligible for home support through the brokerage service system that helped create the Staley case,” said DRO.
The effects of Joondeph’s career as a lawyer and advocate live on to this day.
Under Joondeph’s oversight at DRO, landmark legislation was also passed that gradually phased out Oregon’s system of segregation and pay for workers with developmental disabilities who were below the minimum wage in exchange for vocational training.
“Under Bob’s leadership, DRO’s legal counsel reshaped the Oregon Disability Rights Act, and those changes have had an impact across the country,” said Jan Campbell, president of the Board of Directors, Disability Rights Oregon. “And these are issues that are really important to people’s everyday lives. If you look at the lives of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities in Oregon today compared to their lives before the Fairview Training Center closed, it’s radically different. His pioneering advocacy will have a lasting impact on the lives of thousands of Oregonians with disabilities across the state. ”
In the past few years, Joondeph and DRO have joined a case in Columbia County where a sheriff-approved sheriff’s dog attack on a prison inmate with mental health problems during a forced cell extraction resulted in new state law banning the practice.
The Multnomah Bar Association recently presented Joondeph with the Professionalism Award, the highest honor for lawyers.
“The MBA Professionalism Award recognizes an attorney who goes beyond the ethical standards of the legal profession and serves the well-being of clients and the public in general. Throughout his career, Bob Joondeph’s advocacy has and is committed to the life of his clients and others has expanded Oregon disability rights and helped create a more inclusive community, ”said Guy Walden, executive director of the Bar. “His work at Disability Rights Oregon has also increased the professionalism of those who have worked with him.”
Joondeph was humble at the news.
“I was delighted to have earned the award. The Multnomah Bar Association is a wonderful association,” he said. “The fact that there are awards for professionalism and diversity work really says a lot about the organization. That really is a big pat on the back.”
Joondeph may have retired, but he’s not finished with work. He currently serves as an interim executive director at Disability Rights Connecticut while the organization is between directors. He is also a member of the Social Security Advisory Board, a position to which he was appointed by Senator Ron Wyden.
“One of the things that some people who don’t do this type of work don’t see that it’s really legally challenging,” he said, reflecting on more than three decades of civil rights as he wandered his neighborhood in southwestern Los Angeles Portland went. “It takes a lot of effort, energy, and creativity to bring about change in the legal system. I’ve been very fortunate to be able to do the kind of work I love. It’s very interesting, and in many ways, very challenging.” [you’re] Doing your job not only for what you love but for what you believe in and that is a luxury. ”
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