Law making

Senators leave politics out of the classroom

While most students at Seattle University School of Law are learning about the law, State Sen. Cheryl Pflug is doing so while also making law. And coincidentally, the 3L was in a course this fall taught by a former state senator: Adjunct Professor Randy Gordon.

It's believed to be the first time at the law school that a professor and student shared Senate experience. Pflug and Gordon served together in 2010 - on opposite sides of the aisle.

State Sen. Cheryl Pflug and Adjunct Professor Randy Gordon

State Senator Cheryl Pflug with Adjunct Professor Randy Gordon.

"The one deal we have made is in the classroom: she calls me 'professor' and I call her 'Cheryl,'" Gordon said.  "I was pleased to see her in class. She's a good student."

They keep politics out of the classroom, but their shared experiences made for lively conversations.

"I think it's good for students to see that I'm a Republican and he's a Democrat, and we're really not so far apart in some of these issues," Pflug said.

Gordon is a principal in the Bellevue law firm of Gordon Edmunds Grelish PLLC with an active practice embracing complex commercial and tort litigation, products liability, personal injury, professional liability, mediation, arbitration and special master services. He has represented clients in forums ranging from a United States Senate subcommittee to litigation and mediation in federal and state trial and appellate courts including the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, the Washington State Supreme Court, the Board of Industrial Insurance Appeals, and other judicial and administrative bodies.

He is one of the many adjuncts the law school relies on to bring their practical experience and academic credentials to the classroom. He has taught Remedies and Product Liability since 1999. He was selected to give the December Commencement address three times and received the Outstanding Faculty Award in December 2003.  He was appointed to serve in the Senate in 2010.

"I'm keen on teaching, and one of the biggest losses for me was having to take those semesters off," he said.  

After he lost a close election, his first thought was getting back into the classroom.

"The day after the vote was decided, I was on the phone" with Associate Dean Paul Holland, who oversees adjunct professors. "I love everything about teaching. I love trying to remind law students why they went to law school. It's not about money, it's about service."

Pflug is a registered nurse who has served in the Senate since 2004 after five years in the State House. Her nursing experience includes cardiac surgical care, operating room, family practice, medical-surgical and school nursing.

When she graduates, she will be one of just three practicing attorneys in the state Senate. The other two are both graduate of Seattle University School of Law who took courses from Gordon: Nick Harper '04 and Joe Fain '07.

"I have a changing view of what a life span of work is like," she said.

She decided to pursue law school after a great lawyer helped her through a divorce. She decided she wanted to become a lawyer to help others -- especially those who have traditionally had less access to the judicial system.

"I thought, 'thank God for this person,'" she said of her attorney. "If going through the system is this difficult for me, what must it be like for others who have less knowledge of the legal system?"

She said it's sometimes difficult to balance her schoolwork with her Senate responsibilities, but it's worth it. She hopes to practice law and to use her legal education in matters of health law policy. She lives in Maple Valley and has four children, the youngest a junior in high school. The opportunity to be among law students from different backgrounds, many of a younger generation, is as important as the legal education she's getting.

 "I think it's important to expand your horizons and see how other people think," she said. "You should never stop learning."

Winter 2011-12