Notice & Comment

Remembering Richard W. Parker, by Bernard W. Bell

I was shocked and truly saddened to learn that our colleague Richard W. Parker has passed away last fall.  The American Bar Association’s Section on Administrative and Regulatory Law is so robust and so highly regarded in part because of members like Richard.  One indicia of the regard the Section had for Richard is obvious, he recently served as the Section’s delegate to the American Bar Association’s House of Delegates.  During my involvement with the Section, the Section’s delegates have truly been extraordinary and have greatly advanced the Section’s reputation within the ABA.  Richard, of course, was no exception.

In this forum I will share two memories of Richard.  The first, which is the second in time, involved Richard’s role as the Section’s delegate.  I was asked to opine of a Data Privacy Resolution that was being proposed by the ABA’s Section on International Law.  The Administrative and Regulatory Law Section had been asked to lend its support to the Resolution.  I interacted with both Richard and Ron Levin on the issue, but Richard took the laboring oar.   I favored the Section supporting the data privacy effort, but ultimately the Section chose not to formally lend its support.  I fully understood the Section Council’s hesitancy in doing so, in large part because of my correspondence with both Richard and Ron Levin.  I found Richard (and Ron as well) to be quick studies who easily grasped the basic issues.  And their emails in our email exchanges were extremely thoughtful, wise, kind, and supportive.  That sums up some of the Richard’s qualities that I found so appealing over the years.

The second memory I share took place during my time on the Section Council.  I remember vividly a comment Richard made during one of the Council’s discussion.  I forget the precise issue on the table; it may well have been related to Office of Management and Budget regulatory review.  But Richard chimed in that our discussion might be analogized to that of a first-year law student whose observations regarding a fact pattern were correct, but who had missed the main point.  Some might have viewed the comment as an affront, but the line and the following explanation were delivered in such a calm, albeit incisive, manner that it seemed to go over reasonably well.  Richard was able to make his point directly and with power while not offending those who saw things differently.

I often find that members of the Section have a whole professional life and set of interests of which I am unaware.  This is true in Richard’s case.  I was unaware of his work in connection with negotiated rulemaking proceedings. Many of you might react as I did upon discovering that fact — you mean negotiated rulemaking is still really “a thing”?  Nor was I aware of the extent of Richard’s trans-Atlantic and international work.  His experience in those areas may well have been the reason Richard took the lead on the Data Privacy Resolution I mentioned above. The European Union’s initiatives in the area were an impetus for the urging of U.S. authorities to take a more robust approach to privacy protection.  

Richard has left us much scholarship. Particularly important these days may be his work on cost-benefit analysis and his criticisms of some of the ways it has been misapplied.  Among the articles in which he discussed such issues are Grading the Government, 70 U. Chi. L. Rev. 1345 (2003), The Empirical Roots of the Regulatory Reform Movement: A Critical Appraisal, 58 Admin. L. Rev. 37 (2006), and The Faux Scholarship Foundations of the Regulatory Rollback Movement, 45 Ecol. L. Quarterly 845 (2019).  Given the Biden Administration’s reexamination of the regulatory review process, this is a very appropriate time to reconsider those articles.

These few reminiscences, I fear, fail to do Richard justice.  But I am thankful for Richard’s work in a field to which I have devoted much attention, and for the opportunities I had to work with and learn from him.