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daily journal arthur 7-24-03qxd


  • pg 1
									                                          San Francisco
                 Daily Journal
                                                       July 24,2003


Arthur Bryant- “I remain optimistic and confident that I’ll be able to get back to the level of work that I once performed.”
Photo By S. Todd Rogers/Daily Journal
                                            ing-out party for Arthur Bryant,            game, however, for most of the
By Karen Coleman                            the organization's executive                past year.
Daily Journal Staff Writer                  director.                                       The 48-year-old public-inter-
                                                Bryant became the nonprofit             est attorney is still recovering
SAN FRANCISCO - The Trial                   organization’s second staff attor-          from a near-fatal car accident
Lawyers for Public Justice                  ney in 1984 and did much to                 last August that left him with a
Foundation’s 21st Anniversary               direct its growth into a legal              six-[week] blank spot in his
Gala and awards ceremony this               powerhouse. He had been out of              memory and injuries that require
week did double-duty as a com-              the office and away from the                continuing therapy.
    He made his first public         ered in bandages, and it started    university lost or settled all the
appearance since the accident        to sink in.”                        claims by 1998. The case ended
Sunday during the foundation's           As surreal as the accident      in the 1st U.S. Circuit Court of
annual meeting in San                may have seemed to Bryant, it       Appeals. Cohen v. Brown
Francisco.                           was worse for his colleagues,       University, 101 F.3d 155 (1996).
    He upstaged Attorney             who were the first to reach his         Bryant has pressed important
General Bill Lockyer, the            bedside and remained at his side civil rights and federal preemp-
keynote speaker, by drawing          throughout the ordeal.              tion cases. He is particularly
three standing ovations lasting          “They allowed us into inten-    proud of a $950 [million] nation-
five minutes or more each, the       sive care,” said Jeff Foote, of the al settlement in Tennessee in
last one punctuated by whoops        Portland firm Jeffrey Foote &       1995 over allegedly defective
and hollers. Bryant was received Associates and a past foundation polybutylene plumbing, the
with similar enthusiasm during       president. “We were part of their largest property damage class
the foundation’s awards                                                          action in the United
ceremony Tuesday evening.                                                        States. Cox v. Shell Oil
    Bryant said he was              Bones Broken But Spirit                      Co., 18844.
“thrilled” to finally see so                                                         Bryant who became
many colleagues in person.          Unshaken, Arthur Bryant the foundation's second
    “I spent close to a year       Survived a Horrific Crash executive director in 1987,
in hospitals and doctors’                                                        is credited with building
offices, and rehabilitation        Thinking About His Family the operation into a 3,000-
offices trying to get better.       and Public Interest Law                      member, $4 million con-
So to return to people and                                                       cern. Its law firm, Trial
work I love after that kind                                                      Lawyers for Public
of a period is just thrilling,”                                                  Justice, boasts 31 lawyers
he said in an interview.             therapy; we had voices they         in offices in Washington and
    In a speech during the annual knew.”                                 Oakland. Bryant moved West to
meeting, Bryant related his first        Foote, a personal injury        open the Oakland office three
memory after the accident, when lawyer, also volunteered his time years ago.
he fully “woke up” after weeks       to keeping Bryant’s personal            “This guy has a very rare
of lapsing in and out of con-        affairs in order after the acci-    ability to be a great lawyer and a
sciousness. He had no short-term dent.                                   great administrator,” Gwilliam
memory during that period.               Once it was clear Bryant        said.
He said he thought he was grog- would make it, “it was the head              The accident happened on a
gy from a nap until a doctor         injury that scared us,” said Gary rural section of Highway 97 in
asked him if he knew the date        Gwilliam, of Oakland’s Gwill-       central Oregon. Bryant was driv-
and where he was.                    iam Ivary Chiosso Cavalli &         ing his family home to Oakland
    “I got every question wrong,” Brewer, the new foundation             after speaking at the annual con-
Bryant said.                         president.                          vention of the Oregon Trial
    At the time, he said, he             Bryant, a Harvard Law grad- Lawyers Association in Sun
couldn’t believe he and his wife     uate, is known for his shrewd       River. A pickup coming in the
and son had been injured and         legal mind and his dogged devo- opposite direction turned without
that he had been in bed for the      tion to Title IX - particularly for warning in front of Bryant’s
better part of two months.           forcing Brown University to         Toyota. The vehicles collided
    “My first reaction was ‘get      grant parity to women’s sports.     head-on.
the hell out of here. I just took a Brown was the only school to             Bryant had to be cut from the
nap.’” Then the doctor told him      appeal a Title IX loss all the way wreckage. He suffered brain
to look down at himself in the       to the U.S. Supreme Court,          damage, two collapsed lungs,
bed. “I was lying there all cov-     where it was denied review. The broken bones in all of his limbs
and a crushed right hand. The        Stritmatter is a personal injury        “Once my brain came back I
doctors told his parents and his     lawyer with Stritmatter Kessler      never had any concerns about
colleagues he wouldn't survive       Whelan Withey Coluccio, in           my mental abilities - they just
the night.                           Hoquiam, Wash.                       seemed to be back. I did have
    Bryant’s wife, Nancy                 “Because of what I would         concerns about my physical sur-
Johnson, also was critically         call our medical-legal expertise,    vival and the health and safety
injured and unconscious after the    we were able to keep track of        of my family.”
accident. The couple initially       him and make sure [his family]           He said his biggest mental
was airlifted to the St. Charles     got good care,” Foote said.          challenge was the psychological
Medical Center in Bend, Ore.             Johnson recovered from her       adjustment of learning about the
Their son, Wally Johnson             injuries, but after about three      accident and focusing on recov-
Bryant, then 7, had a broken leg.    weeks in the Oregon hospital,        ery.
    The driver of the truck,         Bryant was moved to John Muir            His mind remained active
reported to have had a suspend-      Medical Center in Walnut Creek.      throughout his recovery, Bryant
ed license, was treated and          Three weeks later his faculties,     said, judging from observations
released that day.                   in his words, “came back.”           by friends and associates, though
    According to several             Stritmatter said his first inkling   he remembers nothing.
accounts, a hospital representa-     that his colleague was going to          For a time he thought he was
tive called the Oakland office of    be OK came soon after Bryant’s       presiding over a meeting in his
TLPJ first, asking Bryant’s assis-   return to California, when during    hospital room, “running through
tant for information about his       a telephone conversation he laid     agendas nobody else had,” he
family and medical history.          out several reasons why an           said.
    Paul Stritmatter, the founda-    action planned for the board’s           Through it all, he said, there
tion’s president at the time, said   next executive committee meet-       were two things he never forgot:
several colleagues rushed to the     ing was a bad idea.                  his family and closest friends,
hospital. Past TLPJ president            “Rather than comment on the      and his vocation as a public
Susan Saladoff, of Davis             substance of the argument, I said    interest lawyer.
Gilstrap Hearn Saladoff & Smith      ‘Arthur, you are back,’”                 “It was quite an adjustment,
in Ashland, and her daughter         Stritmatter recalled. He had         when you’ve been on top of
kept Wally company while his         Bryant reiterate his comments by     what's happening in an organiza-
parents lay unconscious.             phone during the meeting and,        tion and you know daily what’s
    “For the most part, the doc-     he said, the committee had the       going on, to being in a situation
tors related to us very well,”       same reaction.                       where you're getting the newslet-
Stritmatter said, although he            “He’s a very persuasive          ter and learning we won a case
remarked that one doctor was         lawyer,” Stritmatter said.           three months ago,” Bryant said.
especially reserved toward the           Bryant was moved to a                By fall, he was keeping tabs
pack of high-powered tort attor-     Marin County rehabilitation hos-     on TLPJ litigation again. In
neys at the patient’s bedside.       pital in November and went           October, for example, he made a
Another doctor with a sense of       home in mid-December. Since          point of ringing up Washington
humor made a point of ribbing        then, he has been undergoing         staff lawyer Leslie Brueckner to
them about their business.           regular physical therapy to          wish her well on her U.S.
    The attorneys made a point       recover full use of his legs and     Supreme Court argument in a
of putting the doctors at ease.      his reconstructed hand.              federal preemption case,
    “‘Don’t be afraid because it's       Bryant said his doctors told     Sprietsma v. Mercury Marine,
a bunch of lawyers walking           him he was cracking jokes while      536 U.S. 921 (2002).
down the hallway,” Stritmatter       his head was mending and that            “He called me before my
recalled telling them. “We just      “humor is a high-brain func-         Supreme Court argument from
happen to be a bunch of lawyers      tion.” Bryant didn’t worry about     his hospital bed and left me this
who have a dear friend in here.”     his mental acuity.                   message saying ‘don’t worry I
know you're going to do great,         easy, either directly or indirect-    held that the absence of federal
and just remember, keep on             ly” said Oakland staff lawyer         regulations requiring boat pro-
smiling,’” Brueckner said              Victoria Ni. “We were all wor-        peller-guards does not preempt
during a speech Sunday. The            ried about him personally.”           people injured by uncovered
high court ruled 9-0 in her favor.         Indeed, immediately follow-       propellers from suing for dam-
    These days, Bryant is up and       ing the accident, Stritmatter said,   ages.
about again, albeit with the           the board worried that the foun-          TLPJ lawyers, who often
assistance of a cane, and he is        dation wouldn’t be able to main-      oppose class action settlements
working part-time. His face and        tain its high level of activism       they deem unfair to plaintiffs,
body are nicked with scars and         without Bryant at its helm.           this year wrote an influential
his left eye is swollen closed.        Someone suggested that the            amicus brief in a U.S. Supreme
He’s thinner and slightly less         foundation cut back on its activi-    Court case in which the court
steady in gait and grip, but he        ties while Bryant was out of          ruled that the terms of an Agent
still has his striking broad smile     commission.                           Orange class action settlement
and bushy brown hair.                      “I insisted that we do no such    didn't bar subsequent suits. Dow
     “I remain optimistic and con-     thing unless I had an extremely       Chemical Corp. v. Stephenson,
fident that I'll be able to get back   well-documented memo as to            123 S.Ct. 2161.
to the level of work that I once       why we couldn’t proceed with-             TLPJ also scored one for
performed,” Bryant said.               out Arthur,” Stritmatter said.        opponents of mandatory arbitra-
    As before the accident, he is      Nobody ever came up with such         tion when the 9th Circuit Court
in charge of administration for        a memo.The staff pulled together      of Appeal held that a disabled
the TLPJ Foundation and litiga-        to keep everything humming.           plumber could sue insurer
tion for the TLPJ law firm.                “Frankly, they barely skipped     Lloyd’s of London for bad-faith
     His immediate goal, he said,      a beat,” Stritmatter said. “It was    denial of disability benefits,
is to catch up on TLPJ’s activi-       surprising. He was such a strong      despite a contractual arbitration
ties and figure out “where my          and forceful leader of the organi-    requirement. Boghos v. Lloyd’s
unfortunately still-limited time       zation that we couldn’t proceed       of London, 2003 DJDAR 7309
can best be used to fulfill our        without him, and we did succeed           “I would be proud of these
mission.” Going forward, he            without him.”                         accomplishments if I had been
said, his goal is to shore up the          TLPJ Foundation lawyers           there and been involved with
foundation’s financing, which          racked up several victories in        them,” Bryant said. “And to
lagged somewhat his absence.           Bryant’s absence, including           have them take place in my
     “We all at one point or anoth-    Brueckner’s Sprietsma case, in        absence makes me feel even
er have tried to tell him to take it   which the U.S. Supreme Court          prouder.”

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