Mourning the passing of Jim Wrigley, disability rights champion

A legacy of positive change in Oregon

Disability Rights Oregon mourns the loss of attorney Jim Wrigley this week. Jim was a longtime champion of the rights of children and adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities and people with mental illness in Oregon. During his nearly two decades with Disability Rights Oregon, Jim’s combined characteristics of compassion, persistence, and reasonableness broke down barriers to service that threatened the lives and well-being of people with disabilities in Oregon.

Jim was driven by a deep compassion for his clients and by a fierce commitment to justice. He brought both to bear in securing relief for individual clients and in advancing numerous policy agendas. Jim knew his clients well. He knew the ins and outs of every circumstance that led Disability Rights Oregon to launch an investigation and knew every person involved. All involved in the case quickly learned that Jim knew the law, the service system, and the values implicated better than anyone else. He fostered productive, collaborative relationships with public servants and disability rights allies on a regional and national level. He brought his skills, his humanity, and his many years of experience to every case he worked on to get justice, but always in a way that made meaningful change for his clients.

Jim’s steadfast approach was exemplified in litigation against the State of Oregon to promote the rights of children and adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Jim led Disability Rights Oregon’s work on Staley v. Kitzhaber, a class action lawsuit establishing the right of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities to receive community-based services in lieu of institutionalization. The settlement in this case created Oregon’s Brokerage System that continues to serve people with intellectual and developmental disabilities today. Jim then turned his attention to people with intellectual and developmental disabilities who were trapped in sheltered workshops. Jim was instrumental to the success of Lane v. Brown, a class action lawsuit challenging Oregon’s failure to offer integrated employment opportunities.

Jim also left his mark on numerous state service systems for people with disabilities. He was a key player in the creation of the Statewide Children’s Wraparound Initiative. Jim’s work also led to the closure of several residential programs whose practices violated the rights of people with disabilities.

Jim retired in 2015 after 19 years with Disability Rights Oregon. As a lawyer, he took the road less traveled, and that has made all the difference for us. Oregon will not be the same without Jim’s knowledge, experience, and wisdom.

Three people stand in front of a building with flowers in the top right of the photo. The people have their arms wrapped around each others shoulders and smile at the camera. Jim Wrigley is pictured on the right, with his family.

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