Jim Mooney retires after more than 40 years at the School of Law

Jim Mooney
Jim Mooney

University of Oregon School of Law Professor Ralph James “Jim” Mooney bid farewell to teaching last month after more than 40 years of educating soon-to-be lawyers.

Mooney left his legal practice in San Francisco to begin teaching at the School of Law in 1972. As the contracts professor for numerous first-year law students, it didn't take long for him to earn the reputation as one of the school's most academically rigorous and beloved professors. As an example of his acclaim, the Oregon Law Review published the "Tribute to Jim Mooney" issue shortly after Mooney announced his retirement plans.

One of the law school's enduring traditions is the annual Mooney Roast, when students, after making their way through the grueling two-semester contracts course, have the opportunity to take their shots at the professor during a lighthearted exchange of gibes. 

Mooney is a true Eugenian. Born in Pendleton but raised in Eugene since age five, he attended Bailey Hill Grade School and Woodrow Wilson Junior High (both now shuttered or torn down). At South Eugene High School, he served as student body president and played football for the Axemen. As a senior in 1961, Mooney was the recipient of the Eugene Chamber of Commerce's Future First Citizen Award. He and his wife, Lesley, raised their two children, Richard and Katherine, in Eugene.

He earned his undergraduate degree from Harvard College and his law degree from the University of Michigan Law School, then practiced law for four years in San Francisco, primarily litigating in both federal and state courts and administrative agencies.

Since beginning work at Oregon Law, he developed a collection of accolades, including establishing a class on American legal history in 1975, the 1976 Law School Teacher of the Year Award, the 1990 Burlington Northern Foundation Award and the 1999 Orlando John Hollis Award for teaching, among many others.

In addition to outstanding classroom teaching, Mooney developed a reputation as a scholar in the fields of American legal history and contract law. He published two landmark articles on the life and career of Matthew P. Deady, Oregon's first federal judge, as well as three others on the Oregon constitution and the formative-era work of the Oregon Supreme Court.

His extensive work on contract law has also been cited by many leading scholars in the field, both nationally and abroad. Mooney taught a year in New Zealand and another in Australia, and has lectured in France, Italy, Ukraine and the Republic of Georgia.

- from the UO School of Law