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Comparative & International Law Center

TU Law grads honored with OBA’s Lambird Spotlight Award

L to R: Mary Quinn Cooper and Kathy R. Neal

TU College of Law alumnae and Hall of Fame inductees Mary Quinn Cooper and Kathy R. Neal have been selected as winners of the Oklahoma Bar Association’s 2017 Mona Salyer Lambird Spotlight Award for distinguishing themselves in the legal profession and paving the way for other women. Both are attorneys with McAfee & Taft in Tulsa.

Cooper is an accomplished litigator who serves as national trial counsel for major corporations and regularly defends product liability claims and class actions across the country. In addition to serving as co-leader of McAfee & Taft’s litigation group, she is an appointed member of the OBA’s Professional Responsibility Tribunal. Cooper is a 1986 graduate of The University of Tulsa College of Law and was inducted into the TU College of Law Hall of Fame in 2014.

Neal represents employers exclusively in all aspects of labor and employment law and litigation and devotes a portion of her practice to commercial litigation. She currently serves as an adjunct settlement judge for the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Oklahoma and previously served as an administrative law judge for the Oklahoma Department of Labor. Neal is a 1982 graduate of The University of Tulsa College of Law and was inducted into the TU College of Law Hall of Fame in 2015.

Both Cooper and Neal have been recognized for their professional achievements by the publishers of the Chambers USA Guide to America’s Leading for Business, The Best Lawyers in America, Benchmark Litigation and Oklahoma Super Lawyers.

Rex J. Zedalis: A pragmatic caution to disciples of principle

This editorial was first seen in the Oct. 13, 2017 issue of the Tulsa World written by TU Law Professor Rex J. Zedalis, Director of the Comparative and International Law Center and fellow in the Sustainable Energy & Resources Law program. 

The debates surrounding NFL players and the national anthem, the Las Vegas shootings and guns, and, among some, the recent Ken Burns Vietnam War documentary, have Americans retreating to ideological silos. This raises the hold core principles have on life.

Contrast, for a moment, Jefferson’s statement that “In matters of style, swim with the current; in matters of principle, stand like a rock,” with that of the master of political parody, Groucho Marx, who reportedly quipped, “Those are my principles, and if you don’t like them well, I have others.”

Are we to remain unmovable on principles, as Jefferson suggests? If so, what room exists when dealing with others who, because of culture, religion, or race see the world differently? Or are we, as some might argue Marx observes, always to put our principles, our ideology, up for negotiation? In that case, aren’t we left rudderless in a world of ideas that prey on the uncertain and uncommitted?

I’m ill-suited to answer such complicated philosophical questions. Nonetheless, it strikes me that whether we react by heading for an ideological silo when the NFL, Las Vegas or Vietnam is raised probably reveals whether our personality inclines more toward Jefferson’s or Marx’s view of principles.

Given the tribal character of today’s politics, untold numbers of liberals and conservatives alike surely subscribe to basic principles as commanding of unswerving commitment. Disciples of that stripe need be repeatedly cautioned of two things.

First, virtually all of what the original architects of any ideological belief warned were dangers embedded in those very beliefs has been forgotten. Virtues are emphasized; risks ignored. In light of the human habit of “cherry-picking” what we like; we turn a blind eye to what’s inconvenient.

Second, and more important, it is stunning how any absolutist commitment to principle can lead us astray from socially positive outcomes. Too firm a devotion to principle results in obliviousness to how it works out in the real world. Political psychologists might style this the “blind-spot of ideological anchoring.”

With respect to warned about dangers embedded in ideological beliefs, examples abound. Poking at devotees of small government, market-based solutions, for the moment, when did you last hear them, after waxing eloquent on the marketplace, remind us that the father of capitalism, Adam Smith, warned repeatedly of the need to guard against the market? Illustrative is his statement that laws proposed by business ought to be examined with great suspicion, for “such comes from an order of men whose interest is never exactly the same with that of the public, who have generally an interest to deceive and even oppress the public.”

And lest such reminders lead economic interventionists to believe gleefully John Maynard Keynes was no friend of free markets, it must equally be noted he professed no objection to “private self-interest … determin[ing] what … is produced … and how the value of the final product will be distributed.”

With respect to the obliviousness brought on by unalterable devotion to principle, one need only look around the globe at tragedies proceeding from the view that there’s but one “true way” in matters of religion, ethnicity, or politics. Refusal to see the world through any lens other than our own risks the worst of outcomes.

And never should we be so arrogant as to believe American democracy inoculates us from such risks. While on an entirely lower order of magnitude than what exists in some overseas locations, just look around at budget situations of state governments whose guiding tax cut ideology promised to bring unparalleled prosperity, or at the unintended consequences of certain activist social programs thought guaranteed to offer a hand up.

Governance, as life, requires juggling inconsistencies and contradictions. Whether principles are divine word or starting point, we must heed the warnings their architects called to attention, and remain open to deviations that help us steer clear of the disasters that inflexible adherence present.

Rex J. Zedalis is in his 37th year as a law professor at the University of Tulsa, having served, during that time, as director of the Comparative & International Law Center, fellow in the Sustainable Energy & Resources Law program and Phyllis Hurley Frey Professor of Law.