Yet a proposed retirement bash for U.S. District Court Judge Michael Hogan has many Oregon lawyers’ brows firmly midforehead.
A fundraising letter for the party of 500-plus guests scheduled in January is circulating, and the $100,000-plus price tag is giving some in the legal community sticker shock.
“The ostentatiousness makes us lawyers look even worse than we already look,” says Michael Esler, a Portland lawyer who represented clients in numerous cases in front of Hogan.
The soiree for Hogan, 66, is the brainchild of lawyer Thomas Hoyt of the Eugene firm Speer Hoyt. Earlier this month, he formed a nonprofit corporation, Hogan Retirement Event Inc., to raise money for the bash.
“The committee’s goal was to put on one of the finest parties possible for one of the great American jurists of our time,” Hoyt tells WW.
Sylvia Stevens, executive director of the Oregon Bar State Association, says there is no conflict of interest for a lawyer to throw a bash for a judge who will no longer serve on the bench.
“It’s certainly an elaborate and generous function,” Stevens says. “I don’t see an ethics issue for the lawyers who are involved.”
Appointed by President George H.W. Bush in 1991, Hogan—a judge not known to mince words with lawyers in his courtroom—presided over many of the federal court’s most high-profile and daunting cases.
He’s issued rulings on logging timber lands, and in 1994 ruled to stall the state’s new physician-assisted suicide law until a court determined its legality. Hogan’s mediation skills played a role in sexual-abuse settlements with the Catholic church and a bankruptcy filing by the Catholic Archdiocese of Portland.
Hogan also single-handedly took control of a massive $1.25 billion restructuring of Sunwest Management, the nation’s fourth-largest adult-care facility company, based in Salem, after it filed for bankruptcy in 2009.
Hogan retired in October after nearly four decades on the federal bench. (He previously served as a federal magistrate and bankruptcy judge.) Hogan, a Georgetown University Law School graduate, attended the University of Oregon for his undergraduate degree.
Last week, Hoyt began asking for donations and selling tickets for $40 to the Jan. 12, 2013, fete. The party’s website—hoganretirement.com—features the judge’s face in profile, peering out from behind an American flag.
“After 39 years, U.S. District Judge Michael Hogan is hanging up his robe,” the site reads. “So we are throwing a party he’ll remember for the next 39 years.”
According to the budget for the party, obtained by WW, Hoyt had hoped to raise as much as $129,000, including up to $70,000 for catering and an open bar, $22,000 for a Eugene party-planning firm, $3,000 to rent a club room at Autzen Stadium, and at least $10,000 to pay a Eugene PR firm.
Hoyt says that price estimate has dropped by at least half. The valet parking and the menu have been cut, he says.
Now it’s a tailgate-themed shindig, in honor of the fact Hogan throws a tailgate party at Autzen for every Ducks home football game. Hoyt wouldn’t say how much the party might now cost, except to say it’s “being reworked.”
“We’ve gone from salmon and carved prime rib down to hamburgers, hot dogs and sliders,” Hoyt says.
Hogan is a longtime personal friend, Hoyt says, and he toned down the party after the judge expressed some reservations. Any money left over will be donated to the Campaign for Equal Justice in Hogan’s name.
Hogan tells WW he wasn’t thrilled with the lavish plans, although he’s heard of big parties for other retiring judges.
“That’s not been our pattern in Oregon, and it’s not my wish that something like that will happen,” Hogan says. “I don’t need to be fussed over.”
Hogan also dismissed any thoughts that the party was a return on his years of service, saying it is more the natural result of being in the same town for as long as he has been.
“No one [at Speer Hoyt] owes me anything, and I don’t owe them anything,” Hogan says. “They’re just another firm.”