Notice & Comment

A Tribute to Richard Parker, by Jamie Conrad

Richard Parker was a passionate scholar, a dedicated teacher and a longstanding, loyal member of the Section. He was also my closest friend among the dozens of people I’ve gotten to know through the Section, a connection forged when we met at the first Section meeting either of us had ever attended, 20 years ago this coming April. (Longstanding members should bear in mind that the easy camaraderie we share can sometimes be off-putting to neophytes.) Our continued closeness derived in large part from our shared leadership of the Section’s Outing Club, which was just a euphemism for our shared interest, back in the days when Saturday afternoons at Section Council meetings were free time, in finding the most adventurous thing we could do in six hours (for example, whitewater rafting rather than Fallingwater). Below are pictures from the rafting trip, as well as a hike to Turtlehead Peak, west of Las Vegas. Unfortunately, there are no pictures of us scuba diving in Bermuda (I passed on also riding motor scooters there, where they drive on the left) or the hikes we took in LA and Miami. Richard and his wife Edie also gave my wife and me helpful advice on hiking the Tour de Mont Blanc. Like me, he had two daughters of whom he was immensely proud. 

But these attributes were only part of what endeared Richard to me and to so many other Section members. He was disarmingly gregarious and affable, and remarkably modest for someone of his exceptional intellectual skills. Most of all, I admired and envied how intensely focused and enthusiastic he was. In addition to being about as tall as Lyndon Johnson, he had Johnson’s tendency to get somewhat in your face, a couple inches more than might be conventional, or to bump shoulders as you walked down the street, while he and you discussed whatever new project he was working on or issue that had captured his attention. And those issues evolved continuously. The last time I talked to him, about a month before he died, and he was all fired up, in his usual way, about the idea of small, standardized, inherently safe nuclear reactors as a solution to climate change. The call before that had to do with border adjustments for a carbon tax. I can only guess what the next call would have concerned.

Richard’s perspective also benefited from his experience as a practitioner, in addition to being an academic. He worked at law firms, EPA and USTR before becoming a professor, and afterward he oversaw three reg-negs and consulted for the European Commission. He was extraordinarily conscientious in everything he did, applying the same degree of diligence and care to a report and recommendation from another section that he would to a law review article or a client matter.

I also appreciated his honesty in presentations and publications about the extent to which the previous administration departed from legal requirements or conventional norms, rather than affecting the quasi-journalistic “balance” or “objectivity” that most others in his shoes felt constrained to exhibit, whether by custom or to avoid criticism.[1] I know I am not alone in missing him terribly.

Credit: White Water Adventures
River rats, from left to right: Jeff Litwak, David Conrad, Myles Eastwood, Richard, Chip Murphy & Jamie Conrad
Credit: Anonymous bystander
– Hikers: Cary Coglianese, Jamie Conrad, Richard & Jeff Litwak 

Jamie Conrad previously served as Chair of the ABA Section of Administrative Law and Regulatory Practice.

[1] See, e.g., Richard W. Parker, The Faux Scholarship Foundation of the Regulatory Rollback Movement, 45 Ecology Law Quarterly 845 (2018).

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