The Confessions of a Political Turncoat
Jack Londen may be his family's (political) black sheep, but he's a liberal hero
Published in 2008 Northern California Super Lawyers magazine
on June 15, 2008
Updated on April 18, 2009
The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. For Jack Londen, a partner at Morrison & Foerster, there proved to be plenty of truth to the adage—and at least one significant inaccuracy.
Londen, 55, grew up in Phoenix in a politically active and staunchly Republican family. His father lost a bid to be the Republican nominee for governor in 1978, and his mother served as the Arizona state chair of the Republican Party for almost a decade.
It’s not surprising, then, that Londen embraced politics from an early age. But by the time he was in high school, he and his parents were on opposite sides of many issues.
“Since I was a little kid, my dad liked to sit on the patio with me and smoke a cigar and we’d have debates. When you talk about politics all the time, you also think about them a lot,” he says. “My own politics began to change. It was the late ’60s and there was a lot going on.”
The patio debates were always lively. Londen says these sessions with his dad helped him hone his reasoning and public-speaking skills.
“Neither side conceded anything. We’d cover the same ground, and if you did it enough, you explored a lot of things.”
Londen graduated from Harvard and went on to Yale Law School. When his father ran against Evan Mecham for the Republican gubernatorial nomination in 1978, the younger Londen moved back to help with his campaign.
He pushed his own political views to the background while he traveled the state and found that representing his father was challenging. “I found myself answering questions that did get a little dicey,” he admits. (Mecham, who died earlier this year, defeated the elder Londen, but lost in the general election to Bruce Babbitt. Mecham was elected governor in 1986, but was removed from office amid a swirl of criminal charges and statements and actions that were insensitive to minorities.)
Londen says he’s never been tempted to try for elected office himself. Instead, he brings his liberal politics to bear through the copious amount of pro bono work he does. He was instrumental in gaining a 2004 settlement with the state in Williams v. California, a landmark civil rights case that challenged the state to ensure quality learning conditions for millions of low-income minority students.
“It’s one of the great benefits of this work that I get to figure out how I can make the world a little better and go do it,” he says.