His Honor Diarmuid O'Scannlain

His Honor Diarmuid O'Scannlain, who was nominated to the United States Court of Appeals (Ninth Circuit) by President Ronald Reagan in 1986 and has served that court ever since, has devoted his life to service to his nation, his beloved Oregon, and the pursuit of justice. Long a friend to the Uni­ver­­sity and to the Congregation of Holy Cross, Judge O’Scannlain has served on the President’s Advisory Council at the University, and, at the invitation of University president Father Bill Beauchamp, C.S.C., will deliver the 2011 Commence­ment Address today.

Born in New York City of Irish immigrant parents (his father, Sean, was from Sligo, and his mother, Moira Hegarty, was from Derry), Judge O’Scannlain grew up speaking Gaelic as his first language, but learned English well enough to earn degrees with honors from Saint John’s University (1957) and Harvard Law School (1963); he later earned the LL.M. degree ­(judicial process) from the Uni­ver­sity of Virginia Law School, in 1992. He also enlisted in the United States Army in 1955, serving 23 years in the National Guard and Reserve until his retirement, as a major, in 1978. After graduating from Harvard, where he had the great good fortune to fall in love with and soon marry Miss Maura Nolan, of Tacoma, Washington, he entered private practice, first in New York, but soon in Portland. He quickly became a remarkable civic resource in Oregon, serving the state as deputy attorney general, public utility commissioner, and director of the Department of Environmental Quality before returning to private practice after a run for Congress in 1974. He was also chairman of the Oregon Repub­lican Party from 1983 to 1986.

On the morning of August 8, 1986, as O’Scannlain was showering, as he has reported with a smile, President Reagan telephoned with news of his nomination to the bench. “In light of the current confirmation environment,” he says, ­“I feel I am the luckiest member of the entire federal appellate judiciary.” His Senate hearing lasted 20 minutes, Oregon’s Senator Mark Hatfield called him two weeks later to report his confirmation, and 25 years later he has become one of the most respected and honored judges in America. In those years he has been engaged in some 6,000 cases, written hundreds of opinions, served as chairman of the U.S. Judicial Conference’s International Judicial Relations Committee (appointed by Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts) and the American Bar Association’s Judicial Division, taught a course on the Supreme Court at Lewis & Clark College, and been at the nexus of riveting legal matters like cyber law and assisted suicide, among many other activities, particularly in service to the Catholic Church and his family he and Maura have been graced by eight children and many grandchildren.

Judge O’Scannlain today joins a fascinating array of Commencement speakers over the years on The Bluff: among the many interesting souls who have delivered a final word to the University’s graduates are environmental visionary Paul Hawken, Costco founder Jim Sinegal, Catholic journalists Peggy Noonan and Peggy Steinfels, Oregon entrepreneur Al Corrado ’55, authors Jean Auel ’84 and Harrison Salisbury, and the fine Oregon writer Ben Hur Lampman.

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