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Jesuit Alumna Kate O'Scannlain Confirmed as Top Federal Labor Attorney


Days before Christmas, Oregon native and Jesuit alumna Kate O'Scannlain '95 was confirmed by the Senate as the new U.S. Labor Solicitor. Ms. O'Scannlain now assumes the third-ranking position at the Department of Labor, where she will lead as chief legal officer overseeing one of the government's largest legal shops with hundreds of attorneys.

As Labor Solicitor, Ms. O'Scannlain is tasked with enforcing federal workplace statutes. She will also play an instrumental role in shaping national policy and reviewing labor regulations.

On Tuesday, Ed Langlois of the Catholic Sentinel reported on Ms. O'Scannlain's confirmation and Jesuit roots:

"You might say that my journey to this appointment began my junior year at Jesuit High School in Portland, Oregon, in Father Larry Robinson's U.S. history class," O'Scannlain told the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions [during her November confirmation hearing]. She had been part of a small group of women who had transferred to the former all-boys school.

"I remember vividly the day Father Robinson wrote the name 'Frances Perkins' on the chalk board and called on me to answer what was unique about the spelling of Frances— an "e" instead of an "i" — a woman's spelling," O'Scannlain told the senators.

She learned in class that Perkins was the first female cabinet member, the longest serving secretary of labor, and the first woman in presidential line of succession. Now confirmed, she will work each day in a building named for Perkins.

O'Scannlain, a 2005 graduate of Notre Dame Law School, is charged with ensuring that the nation's labor laws are applied to protect workers.

"We are at a critical time in history for the American worker as our employers and labor force face increasingly complex issues," O'Scannlain said. "I pledge to tackle these challenges with the thoughtfulness and care that they merit."

O'Scannlain's parents, Ninth Circuit Court Senior Judge Diarmuid O'Scannlain and his wife Maura, are members of St. Elizabeth of Hungary Parish in Portland.

She lives in Chevy Chase Maryland with husband Matt Johnson and their four children. Her parents and many of her seven siblings attended the Senate hearing after President Trump nominated O'Scannlain to become Solicitor of the Department of Labor. The solicitor has independent authority to file suits aimed at enforcing scores of federal statutes covering the workplace.

"I commit to listen carefully to all stakeholders," O'Scannlain said during the hearing. She vowed to help with an agenda that includes job creation, advancing apprenticeships and work training, improving workplace safety, helping veterans enter the workforce and making sure benefits and rights are protected.

O'Scannlain has spent a decade with the prominent law firm Kirkland & Ellis, focusing on mergers and acquisitions. She often defended Nationwide Insurance when it was sued over Hurricane Sandy claims.

Bloomberg Law reported that even O'Scannlain's court opponents seem to like and respect her. "She has no enemies or detractors. The kind of work that she does is problem solving," Kirkland colleague John Irving told the news outlet.

Father Robinson, a longtime history teacher at Jesuit, lives at his order's retirement center in Los Gatos, California. He has been in touch with his former student.

"It was nice of her to remember me like that," said the famously concise priest, who wrote a letter of recommendation for O'Scannlain when she applied to the University of Notre Dame as an undergraduate. He also concelebrated at her wedding. "Kate is a very talented hard worker." See the full article at the CatholicSentinel.org.

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