Wilker & Gordon Discuss their U.S. Supreme Court Cases
At a recent legal affairs event in Portland, Tonkon Torp litigators Corbett Gordon and Steven Wilker shared their experiences of arguing before the U.S. Supreme Court. Hosted by the U.S. District Court of Oregon Historical Society, the event was titled “Behind the Curtain: Inside the U.S. Supreme Court” and featured presentations of famous cases by legal professionals in Oregon.
Corbett presented Albertsons, Inc. v. Hallie Kirkingburg, one of four cases the Court took up in 1999 to settle areas of dispute among the Circuit Courts of Appeal regarding interpretations of the Americans with Disabilities Act. She represented Albertsons, which won with a unanimous 9-0 vote by the Justices. “We had prevailed on summary judgment at the District Court,” Corbett explains. “The 9th Circuit reversed and remanded the case to the District Court with instructions that would surely have put a driver who could only see out of one eye behind the wheel, driving in interstate commerce for Albertsons. He was unwilling to settle and the company was unwilling to have him drive for it, so we petitioned the U.S. Supreme Court to hear the case.”
Steven argued Wood v. Moss, a First Amendment issue involving the balance of free speech and Presidential security. Steven (on behalf of the ACLU Foundation of Oregon) represents a group of individuals who were peacefully demonstrating on a public sidewalk in Jacksonville, Oregon during a 2004 campaign visit by President George W. Bush. Secret Service agents directed local law enforcement to move the anti-Bush demonstrators out of sight and sound of the President while permitting the President’s supporters to remain undisturbed. Arguing political viewpoint discrimination and excessive force, the case was filed in federal court in Southern Oregon in 2006. Twice, the federal agents appealed to the Ninth Circuit from rulings permitting the case to go forward. On the second appeal, Steven’s arguments prevailed at the Ninth Circuit, but the U.S. Department of Justice, representing the Secret Service agents, sought review by the U.S. Supreme Court. In May of this year, the Court ruled in favor of the agents, concluding that the existence of a plausible security rationale precluded plaintiffs from pursuing their claims that the actual reason for the agents' actions was to discriminate against plaintiffs because of the viewpoint of their speech.
Corbett has more than three decades of experience representing private and public sector employers in traditional labor matters. She has defended employment cases before juries in state and federal courts in Oregon and Washington and successfully prevailed in client appeals in state and federal courts as well as before the U.S. Supreme Court.
In addition to his experience in civil rights and Constitutional law, Steven’s practice emphasizes financial services, media and technology law, intellectual property, information privacy & security, and complex commercial litigation. He serves on the boards of the ACLU of Oregon and the ACLU Foundation of Oregon, and is a frequent speaker on First Amendment issues.