Monday, February 22, 2010

Breean Beggs to Leave Center for Justice

In a letter sent this week to the organization's board and staff, the Center for Justice's litigation director and chief administrator has announced his resignation.

"Last week marked my sixth anniversary as an employee at the Center for Justice," Beggs wrote. "As I reflect on my remarkable experiences here, I know in my heart and mind that it is time for a change."

Beggs, 47, is a Whitworth University graduate, born in Weaverville, California, who came to the Center from private practice in Bellingham. He is widely regarded as having one of the best legal and policy minds in the Northwest. His numerous awards and recognition include a Local Hero Award from the Washington Bar Association in 2003, Outstanding Young Lawyer from the Washington State Bar Association in 1996, and his selection as an Uncommon Contributor to the Community by the Spokesman-Review in 2008. He has initiated and guided a number of high-profile cases and causes during his tenure as the Center's "Chief Catalyst."

As Beggs acknowledged in his letter, his decision to leave comes in the wake of a difficult year in which the nonprofit law firm has been trying to re-organize its work in light of a declining budget.

"At the same time," he wrote, "my continued development as a catalyst for positive social change seems to be preparing me for more formal public office in the coming years. I believe that both causes will be best served if I step away now as an employee of the Center."

Beggs wrote that he remains "absolutely committed to the Center's missions, its causes and clients," and that he will continue to serve at the Center as the law firm considers whether and how to replace him as its day to day leader. Beyond that, he wrote, "my next step is to join my longtime lawyer friends at the firm of Paukert & Troppmann, where I will continue to represent those of limited means and influence as a legal advocate."

Jim Sheehan, the Center's founder and board president, said he was both surprised and saddened by Beggs's announcement.

"It really is hard to explain to people on the outside just how important Breean has been in guiding the Center's litigation and public policy initiatives over the past six years," Sheehan said. "He really was able to take our work to a whole new level, especially when our community needed a fierce public advocate for open government, government accountability, civil rights and due process. I guess if there's a silver lining here it's that Breean clearly has the gifts to be a dynamic public servant, if that's where he's headed."

Sheehan said the Center's board and staff will be deeply engaged in discussions about whether and how the Center will move to replace Beggs.

"To be honest, these have been trying times for all of us," Sheehan said. "We're deeply committed to being the Community's law firm but, as Breean noted in his letter, we're continuing to wrestle with how best we can do that with our limited resources."

Sheehan said that while Beggs's departure will undoubtedly affect the Center's future litigation strategies, current cases such as the Federal civil rights suit brought on behalf of the estate of Otto Zehm will not be affected.

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