About Kelly Clark
“The opportunity to advocate for abused children and for adults who were abused as children, and to walk alongside them as they heal from their abuse, is one of the great privileges of my life. To see these people go from victims to survivors to thrivers never ceases to amaze and inspire me,” said Kelly Clark, a partner at O’Donnell Clark & Crew LLP and one of the leading child-abuse lawyers in the nation. Sadly, Kelly passed away on December 17, 2013 while being treated for unknown health issues at the Mayo Clinic. He was 56 years old.
Kelly was a trial and appellate lawyer representing individuals, families and businesses against large or powerful institutions, public and private. He was recognized for his courtroom skills, for his knowledge of public, constitutional and child-abuse law, and for his tenacious and creative litigation strategies. A former two-term Oregon legislator, as of 2009 Kelly practiced before or against some 85 federal, state and local government agencies. He brought cases in state and federal court on civil rights, voting rights, education rights—including pioneering wins for charter schools—as well as cases on religious liberty, free speech and property rights. He had been the legal counsel to numerous political campaigns, including legislative, congressional and gubernatorial candidates.
Most centrally, for nearly twenty years Kelly Clark was a leading advocate for victims of child abuse: first while in the Legislature, co-authoring Oregon’s child-abuse statute of limitations and the ban on child pornography, and then representing hundreds of children and adults abused as children by trusted adults, including Catholic priests, ministers, coaches, Boy Scout leaders, teachers and police officers.
Kelly’s 1999 win against the Archdiocese of Portland in the Oregon Supreme Court changed the law in Oregon and gained national attention for its landmark theory of liability for “institutions of trust” whose employees abuse children, and his 2008 win in the Supreme Court against a local police agency operating an Explorer Boy Scout post was significant for its elimination of special immunities in the law for governmental child abusers and their employers. In 2010, he was lead counsel in a Portland trial against the Boy Scouts of America that featured, for the first time ever, the so-called “Perversion Files” kept by the BSA about known pedophiles within their ranks.
The result of that trial was a jury verdict of nearly $20 million against the Scouts, including $18.5 million in punitive damages—as well as an eventual Oregon Supreme Court ruling in 2012 requiring that the Perversion Files be publicly released as evidence of the history of abuse in Scouting. In September 2012, he argued to the Oregon Supreme Court that the Oregon laws giving special protection to public school teachers in cases of child abuse should be struck down as unconstitutional and is currently awaiting that decision. Recognized by his peers for his expertise in this area, he wrote and spoken widely on child abuse topics to professional audiences.
Mr. Clark was active in his community and charitable endeavors, a sometime-adjunct Professor at George Fox University, and in 2012 received a Master’s Degree in theology from Australia’s Melbourne College of Divinity. Often asked to lecture and teach effective public speaking, Mr. Clark was frequently in demand as a speaker and writer on the topics of child abuse, law, public policy, faith, and recovery from addiction.