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Champion of abuse victims, attorney Kelly Clark dies

by: TRIBUNE FILE PHOTO: JIM CLARK - Portland attorney Kelly Clark was a champion for people who suffered abuse as children. He died Tuesday, Dec. 17, in Minnesota.Portland attorney Kelly Clark, who represented several people who had been abused by members of the Catholic church and the Boy Scouts of America, died Tuesday at Rochester, Minn.'s Mayo Clinic, where he was being treated for cancer.

Clark, 56, was a champion for abuse victims and he won cases against the national organizations in both federal and state courts. Partners in his Portland law firm, O’Donnell Clark & Crew, said on the firm’s website that Clark’s family was with him in Minnesota.

Services are being scheduled.

Clark has been a member of the Oregon State Bar Association for 30 years. He was a two-term legislator from Lake Oswego (1989-1993) who earned a bachelor’s degree in 1980 from Lewis & Clark College, earned a law degree in 1983 from the Lewis & Clark Law School and did graduate theological studies at the Fuller Theological Seminary’s Portland extension program in 1984 and 1985.

He also was president of Pioneer Pacific College in Wilsonville from 1989 to 1992.

Clark lived in Lake Oswego and eventually moved to Northwest Portland.

Clark wrote on his firm’s website that he was thrilled to see people who had been abused as children “go from victims to survivors to thrivers.”

“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,” Clark wrote on the website.

Clark’s 1999 verdict against the Archdiocese of Portland in the Oregon Supreme Court changed state law and gained him a national attention for its theory of liability for “institutions of trust” whose employees abuse children. In 2008, Clark won a state Supreme Court case against a local police agency operating an Explorer Boy Scout post.

In 2010, he was lead counsel in a Portland trial against the Boy Scouts of America that featured, for the first time, the organization’s “Perversion Files” kept by scouting officials on suspected pedophiles. In that case, Clark won a nearly $20 million verdict against the Scouts, including $18.5 million in punitive damages.

Two years later, the Oregon Supreme Court ruled that the Perversion Files had to be publicly released as evidence of the history of abuse in Scouting. In September 2012, Clark also argued to the state Supreme Court that Oregon laws giving special protection to public school teachers in cases of child abuse should be struck down as unconstitutional. That decision is still pending.