Ask the Attorney: Bob Taylor

Newport Beach attorney Bob Taylor joined the Board of Directors of Life Legal Defense Foundation earlier this year. Fellow board member Tony Wynne spoke with Mr. Taylor recently about his legal experience and the contribution he looks forward to making to LLDF.

Bob, please tell me about your educational and employment background… Sorry, that sounds like a deposition question…If it is, it calls for a narrative answer.
Yes, it does. I was born May 25, 1934. I went to Catholic grammar school and high school. I went to Penn State University and graduated in 1956 with a bachelors degree in electrical engineering. I then went to Georgetown Law Center and graduated in 1960 with an LLB. I worked in the patent office when I was going to law school, and in a couple of small law firms. Then in 1961 I moved to California and worked for Beckman Instruments in Fullerton for a year and a half and then went to Lyon & Lyon in Los Angeles. I worked there for the next 40 years doing intellectual property work, but mostly patent litigation.

As of September 1, 2002, I basically retired and set up my own very meager practice doing practically nothing, but doing it out of my home.

So you are only “sort of” retired?
That’s right. I’m mostly retired, but trying to do just a little work, and some pro bono work.

That leads nicely into my next question, which is, how did you come to get involved with Life Legal Defense Foundation?
I don’t recall when I first ran into Life Legal Defense Foundation. I’m sure it was through some fund-raising letter some years ago. I have sent in donations over the years, and I remember going to a party that LLDF had thrown for it at Dan Cathcart’s home. Later I received a brochure with a plea for funds to finance the hiring of a litigation director. I think they wanted to pay the director $40,000 a year. I was getting close to the end of my career as a patent lawyer, and cutting down a little more every year. I contacted [LLDF Executive Director] Dana Cody and said,“Maybe I could do this, and you could save the $40,000.” This is what had led up to that: I had a feeling all along that I should be doing more pro bono work in general, and I had always been strongly pro-life. I talked to my pastor once and told him I thought I should be doing something, but nothing had come along which seemed to fill the bill. Actually, at the time I was president and chairman of the board of a charity down here. A fellow had started this organization called “Serving People in Need” which basically served street people. We started out with meals— sandwiches and such—and grew into other programs: a substance abuse program and an apartment assistance program. I was involved with that for about 10 years. I just resigned as president the year before last.

Anyway, my pastor said, “Something will come along”, and LLDF came along with the litigation director plea. One thing led to another. I went to a few of the board of director meetings and ultimately I was asked to be on the board. I have been trying to help out ever since with whatever comes along.

How do you see yourself using your experience as a patent attorney to benefit LLDF?
Well, litigation is litigation. Years ago I used to do some state court litigation, but I haven’t done any in quite a while. I did a lot of federal litigation and a lot of LLDF cases are federal cases. I am not as conversant with the relevant law as I would like to be, but I’m picking it up bit by bit. Again, litigation is litigation. So far, I have been able to help some of the other attorneys with advice, strategizing, legal research and brief writing.

What are your early impressions of LLDF, as a board member?
LLDF has done a lot of good work. The difficulty that the LLDF lawyers face is that it’s pretty clear that there is one law for abortion and one law for everything else. It makes it extremely difficult for the pro-life lawyers. You take one set of facts in the context of a civil rights dispute and the same basic set of facts in an abortion dispute and you get two entirely different answers. Justice Scalia said that in the Madsen case [Madsen v.Women’s Health Center, 512 U.S. 753], quoting something Justice O’Connor had said in an earlier case, that we have a whole different law for abortion. That clearly seems to be the case. It would be nice if we could figure out a way to change that.

Moving from your patent litigation practice into the area of pro-life law, did this double standard come as a surprise to you?
It came as something of a surprise, but not a complete surprise, because I have been reading some of the cases all along. I could see that this seemed to be a rather different field of law as far as outcome was concerned.

But what did surprise me, after I got into it a little bit and read—not so much the abortion-related cases as the other First Amendment cases—was what the courts have held was OK in labor disputes but not OK in the right-to-life context, particularly in the abortion context. I’m not sure how things are going to come out in the end-of-life area. The “end-the-lifers” haven’t come up with a slogan that is as catchy and clever as “pro-choice”.

“Death with dignity?”
Maybe that captures some people’s sympathy, but I don’t think so. It’s hard for the normal person to think of having food and water cut off and starving to death as “death with dignity”. Some of the assisted suicide cases may come closer, but I don’t know what you can do about that. If someone wants to do away with himself he is going to do it.

I get a little encouragement from reading the poll results. I don’t think polls are always accurate, but they do seem to show a rising discontent with abortion on demand. I don’t know if that will affect the judges very much. I think they are poll-driven to an extent, but not really on a caseto- case basis. But the courts do read election returns, as well as polls, so there seems to be some small reason for optimism.

Would you care to comment on what other interests or hobbies you are enjoying during your so-called “retirement?”
I decided that my frustration level was far too low for far too long. I took up golf. My frustration level is now very high and very healthy.

Thanks for taking the time to speak with me, and welcome to the board.