Beyond the Bar Number – Kathryn L. Tucker

Kathryn L. Tucker

Kathryn L. Tucker

Bar Number: 15881

Kathryn L. Tucker is special counsel at Emerge Law Group, where she co-chairs the Psychedelic Practice Group. Tucker previously served as executive director of the End of Life Liberty Project, which she founded during her tenure as executive director of the Disability Rights Legal Center, the nation’s oldest disability rights advocacy organization. She is also a founding board member of the Psychedelic Bar Association. Previously, Tucker served two decades as director of Advocacy and Legal Affairs for Compassion & Choices, and prior to that she practiced law with Perkins Coie. She has held faculty appointments at Loyola Law School, University of Washington School of Law, Seattle University School of Law, and Lewis & Clark Law School.

What is the most interesting case you have handled in your career so far and why? Glucksberg v. State of Washington. Brought on behalf of terminally ill patients and physicians who provide their care, this case sought recognition that the choice by a mentally competent terminally ill patient for a more peaceful death via ingestion of medication to precipitate a peaceful death (“death with dignity” or “aid in dying”) was a protected privacy and/or liberty interest under the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. We won on summary judgment in the district court and before the Ninth Circuit sitting en banc. On cert. review, the U.S. Supreme Court refrained from recognizing a federal constitutional right but carefully reserved the possibility it would do so in the future. It did recognize the right of states to enact death with dignity laws and it did recognize a federal constitutional right for a dying patient to receive as much pain medication as necessary to obtain relief, even if that advanced the time of death. The case is widely recognized as having brought much needed and long overdue attention to the need to improve end-of-life care, and it galvanized efforts nationwide to enact statutes permitting aid in dying.

How do you define success as a lawyer? Creating a career where I feel able to be of service in a domain I consider critically important, enjoying the process, and interacting with clients and colleagues. Having the privilege of working with brilliant colleagues, who constantly inspire me to rise to their level.

What is your best piece of advice for someone who’s just entered law school? Take charge of your career; seek out work meaningful to you. Don’t wait for, or expect, someone else to create the position you want. Conceptualize what you want and work hard to manifest your vision. Never forget to always enjoy the journey: Get outside; spend time in nature; do things that scare you. If you have kids, never be too busy for them. Let them see your love of your work, and enjoy every precious moment you have with them.

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If you had to give a 10-minute presentation on one topic other than the law, what would it be and why? 

The beauty and power of dedicated practice of all eight limbs of yoga practice. 

What is one thing your colleagues may not know about you? 

I practice Ashtanga yoga daily.

What book have you read more than once? 

The Yearling.

What is the best fictional representation (TV, movie, book) of a lawyer?

Paul Newman as Frank Galvin in The Verdict.

What is your best random fact that you would share with others at a party?

I had lunch with Larry Flynt of Hustler magazine at his special reserved table at the Four Seasons in L.A.

What did you think was cool when you were younger that makes you cringe to think about now? 

Thinking I was cool.