James F. O'Rourke
Mr. O’Rourke has been practicing law since 1978 after he received a Juris Doctorate Degree from Gonzaga University School of Law.
He has extensive experience practicing law as a Criminal Defense and DUII Defense Lawyer throughout the State of Oregon and Clark County, Washington.
He has extensive experience practicing law as an automobile accident injury and wrongful death lawyer.
He represents health care and other professionals in licensing board proceedings which are often connected to criminal proceedings or alcoholism or other addictions.
Since 1985, a major focus of his criminal defense practice is representing people who suffer from addiction and alcoholism.
MR. O’ROURKE’S DEVELOPMENT AS A CRIMINAL DEFENSE LAWYER
For the first six years of practicing law, I was rising into prominence as a criminal defense and appellate lawyer. I enjoyed a lot of success and was honored to be invited to work with and be taught by Nick Chaivoe who was one of the best criminal defense, personal injury and civil rights lawyers in Portland at that time. By the time I was entering my seventh year of practice, I was falling into alcoholism and addiction.
A group of lawyers who were practicing Twelve-Step recovery took an interest in me and helped me get into recovery. Certainly, my career was saved and probably my life as well.
It became apparent to me that many of my clients were also suffering from alcoholism and addiction. My recovering lawyer mentors, who called themselves “The Other Bar,” encouraged me to share my experience with my clients and to help those who were interested to get into recovery.
We took our clients’ recovery stories to Court and showed the Judges and Prosecutors that alcoholism and addiction were the underlying causes of our clients’ criminal behavior. We told them that while there was no cure for alcoholism or addiction, their diseases could be managed with treatment followed by Twelve-Step Recovery. We argued that the solution to the criminal conduct was in Twelve-Step Recovery and that it was more likely than jail to keep my clients from re-offending.
We were making these arguments in the 1980s and we had to argue long and hard just to get Judges to believe that addiction was a disease rather than a failure of willpower.
Although there was tremendous stigma in being identified as an alcoholic or an addict in the 1980s, we disclosed our own addictions and told them about our own successful recovery stories in open court. Even though Judges and Prosecutors were shocked by our revelations, it was persuasive.
Judges took chances that we were right and sentenced clients to treatment instead of jail. Many of these clients had long criminal records.
Ultimately, the proof of our arguments was the success of most of our clients in remaining alcohol and drug free and out of trouble with the law after treatment and getting into Twelve-Step recovery.
As I went on, I started representing people with both addiction and mental health issues. I helped them get appropriate treatment for both conditions at the same time and they were able to stay sober and crime free.
I have represented first responders, veterans and other trauma and abuse survivors with PTSD and addiction diagnoses who have committed crimes. Many trauma survivors self-medicate with alcohol and/or drugs.
Even though the Criminal Justice System’s response to addiction and mental-health-driven criminal conduct has been tremendous, there are still cutting edge cases and new Judges and district attorneys to educate and persuade. We are still changing minds and using successful treatment and recovery solutions to get excellent results for our clients in and out of Court.
The “war on drugs” is a one person at a time, one day at a time, and one case at a time process. The war is against a disease, not people! The war is won each day by people getting into and remaining in recovery.
MY GREATEST LIABILITY HAS BECOME ONE OF MY GREATEST ASSETS FOR HELPING MY CLIENTS
My alcoholism and addiction almost took my profession and my life.
My recovery from alcoholism and addiction allows me to understand and to be understood by alcoholics and addicts. I am able to help them get through the challenges in their cases in a way that allows them to experience their cases in a positive way. I am able to help them get what I have received in life through recovery and to get excellent results in court.
I am much better equipped to help clients through the challenges of their cases and treatment and to get better results in Court.
I am able to be of service to my family, friends, clients and the community as a whole.
I am grateful for my recovery.
SERVICE TO THE COMMUNITY
Lecturer for Hazelden/Betty Ford Treatment Centers (Inpatient and Outpatient) and Serenity Lane Treatment Centers (Outpatient) and many other treatment centers (Inpatient and Outpatient). (12 years)
Consultant to numerous treatment centers on how to effectively support their patients through criminal court cases. (20 years)
Legal Advocate for Clients needing to get into recovery and in recovery in the Criminal Justice System. (35 years)
Sponsor of the Friends of the Columbia Gorge Hiking Program. (6 years) Website: Friends of the Columbia Gorge Hiking Program (6 years).
SERVICE TO LAWYERS IN RECOVERY
Volunteer for The Oregon Attorney Assistance Program. (21 years)
President of The Other Bar Oregon. (15 years) Website: The Other Bar Oregon (15 years) The Other Bar Oregon is a non-profit group dedicated to providing outreach and fellowship for lawyers, law students and judges in recovery. The Other Bar hosts two spiritual retreats per year, one exclusively for attorneys, law students and judges, and the other for attorneys, health care and treatment professionals.
Oregon State Bar State Lawyer’s Assistance Committee (SLAC). (3 years)
Presenter for the International Lawyers in Alcoholics Anonymous (ILAA) and the American Bar Association Committee on Lawyer Assistance Programs. (CoLAP)
THE NEED FOR A POSITIVE PEER RECOVERY COMMUNITY OF YOUNG PEOPLE
These days, most of our young people have been affected by alcoholism and addiction and its resulting dysfunction before they reach high school. They are exposed to alcohol and all manner of drugs in high school where there are deeply entrenched drug and alcohol peer cultures.
Thousands of Oregon young people attempt to get into recovery each year.
Historically, Oregon has had few resources for effectively treating moderate to severely addicted adolescent and young alcoholics and addicts.
Most Oregon young people (13-25) who need treatment have to go out of state to get positive peer recovery culture oriented treatment.
Over the years I have represented many young people who have gone out of state to treatment where they and their peers have gotten into recovery and became part of a positive peer recovery culture where they were valued, fit in and in which they achieved and maintained sobriety. Upon completion of treatment, they returned to Oregon where most of them were not able to find sober peers with whom to share recovery. It is difficult for many 18-year-olds to assimilate into a recovery group where most of the people are over 35.
Eventually, they reconnected with their former peers with whom they had drank and used before recovery and which, in most cases, led to a return to addiction and criminal conduct.
THE SOLUTION – OUR CAUSES
We, at James F. O’Rourke, Jr. and Associates, support the following programs:
I am a founding sponsor and advisory board member to this organization. 4D started in a warehouse in East Portland where a group of young people had established a sober club with activities for young people in recovery. Since its inception in 2013, 4D has grown into a leading recovery organization for young adults in Oregon. 4D provides free addiction recovery support to thousands of young adults every month through peer-recovery mentoring, drop-in recovery centers, pro-social and positive recovery support, recovery housing, and leadership development. We currently have programs in Portland and Hillsboro, OR, and we are currently working on opening programs in Gresham and Clackamas County. Please read more about their history and services by visiting their website: 4D Recovery (18-35)
In the fall of 2019 the first recovery high school opened in Lake Oswego. The new school, Harmony Academy, provides access to education for teens in recovery and provides an environment in which recovered young people can associate with their peers who have similar experiences. This environment gives teens access to an alternative peer group supportive of recovering teens. This resource is vitally important to support young people recovering from addiction. Website: The Harmony Academy
The Family Inspired Recovery
Family Inspired Recovery, an Alternative Peer Group (APG) model, is designed to address the emotional, psychological, spiritual, and social needs of teens struggling with substance use disorders. FIR provides a proactive environment where adolescents are experiencing substance use/misuse and other high-risk behaviors can receive recovery support through a family-centered, professionally staffed, positive peer-supported program. The APG model offers prosocial activities and case-management for adolescents with a proven holistic model of recovery support.
By integrating peer support and fellowship with clinical oversight, the APG model has proven to be an effective intervention to address substance use/misuse by youth. APGs are a much better fit for adolescents who struggle with substance use and co-occurring disorders because the main focus is to offer and shape a new peer group that utilizes positive peer pressure to stay in recovery. APG’s focus is on making sobriety more fun than using by organizing and staffing after-school sober social functions throughout the week, weekends and summers.