On October 21, 2006, Oregon Supreme Court Justice Wallace P. Carson, Jr. received the prestigious American Inns of Court Lewis F. Powell, Jr. award for Professionalism and Ethics. Justice Carson is a member of the Willamette Valley American Inn of Court, the only Inn in the country to boast two winners of this award, the first being former Chief Justice Ed Peterson. The current and last two presidents of the Willamette Valley American Inn of Court, Judge Claudia M. Burton, Judge Joseph C. Guimond and Senior AAG Tom Elden, and numerous lawyers, judges, and law clerks were instrumental in this recognition for Justice Carson through support of his nomination for the award.

The ceremony was in the elegant rotunda dining room of the Ronald Reagan Center, on the ninth floor overlooking Washington, D.C. Justice Carson's award was presented by Justice Ronald Moon, Chief Justice of the Hawaii Supreme Court. Other attendees included United States Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Celebrating with Justice Carson were his family and Salem attorneys Kathryn Jackson and Tom Elden.

When you pay $175 per plate you don't necessarily get more interesting food but you definitely get more interesting names for the food, such as "Blood Orange Sorbet" (query, could a vegan eat that) or "Pan Seared Organic Tenderloin with Celery Root Mousseline and Candied Baby Carrots". I knew it was going to be interesting when the first half of the first course arrived - four scallops were dumped into a big soup bowl sitting on a plate whose sole function was to hold the soup bowl. Then a waiter arrived to pour broth over the scallops.

Unlike our very successful Marion County Bar Awards Dinners (where a couple of years ago Justice Carson received about the only award not named for him, the Professionalism Award) I didn't see any chicken or veggie option. But it was black tie and I guess when you dress up you eat tenderloin or else.

Before the dinner there was an impressive social hour with a string quartet on the first floor of the Reagan Center. One wonders how they get much done in Washington if that is the standard way of spending an evening.

What truly made the night something to remember was that out of thousands of lawyers who are in the national Inns movement to foster professionalism and education and collegiality, Justice Carson was recognized for the incredible person he is. Lawyer, legislator, military officer, trial judge, and appellate judge with a career culminating in guiding our Supreme Court and our Judicial Department through good times and bad, Justice Carson has been above all a caring and dedicated person and professional. It is gratifying to see this sort of recognition just as it was to see Judge Lipscomb recently honored in Oregon for Judge Lipscomb's leadership during the Marion County courthouse fire recovery.

Justice Moon's wife presented Justice Carson with a traditional Hawaiian lei of polished kukui nuts. Justice Moon's remarks somewhat echoed the statements in the program. The program said in part that Justice Carson has championed professionalism, improvement of the judicial system, diversity, and children's rights; he embodies the highest standards of legal expertise, dedication to public service, professionalism, respect for others, and ethical behavior.

Cindy Dennis, among her other roles at the American Inns of Court, is in charge of Awards; she organized the October 21, 2006, Celebration of Excellence. Justice Carson was nominated twice for the Powell award and received it on the second year's nomination. Cindy told me sometimes a person is in effect in a pipeline and as the significance of and interest in these awards grows, one often has to wait a year or more to be recognized. She also told me that Justice Carson's career and what people said about him made it a lock he would receive the Lewis F. Powell, Jr. Award for Professionalism and Ethics; he simply could not be denied.


View a photo gallery of photos provided by Tom Elden and Kathryn Jackson.