Joseph Rudd

(1933 - 1978)

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Portrait of Joseph Rudd

Joseph Rudd, undated
Photo: Joseph Rudd Family Collection

Joe Rudd's 20-year legal career coincided with Alaska's first twenty years as a state. During the first decade of statehood, Alaska witnessed the early implementation of the Statehood Act, the Great Alaska Earthquake of March 27, 1964 (magnitude 9.2 on the Richter Scale), the political awakening of Alaska's Native people, the discovery of the largest oilfield in North America, and a federal land freeze which halted the conveyance of federal lands to the state and threatened the promises of Alaska Statehood. The second decade saw the passage of the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act (ANCSA), the construction of the 800-mile long Trans Alaska Pipeline System (TAPS), and the political battle over what lands in Alaska should be designated as federal parks, refuges, or other conservation areas. (This political battle became known as D2 - named after the temporary withdrawals made in the early 1970s pursuant to section 17(d)(2) of ANCSA.) During his career, Joe Rudd was involved in significant ways in virtually every one of these events.

Joseph Rudd was born August 30, 1933, in Utica, New York. He received his B.A. degree in geology from Williams College in 1955, then moved west to study law at the University of Denver College of Law. During his law school years, Joe also worked as a well-site geologist for an independent oil and gas company in Colorado. After graduating from the University of Denver College of Law in 1959, Joe and his wife Lisa moved to Alaska, where Joe had worked part-time during college for United States Smelting, Refining & Mining Company, and where Joe and Lisa had traveled on their honeymoon in 1955.

Early Work in the AG's Office (1959-1961)

Joe began his legal career in 1959, in the State of Alaska Attorney General's Office in Anchorage, first as an Assistant Attorney General, and then as an Assistant District Attorney. During his two years in the AG's Office, Joe worked extensively with the State of Alaska Department of Natural Resources (DNR) on both mining issues and oil and gas issues. One of Joe's enduring accomplishments in the mining area while in the AG's Office was to write the 1961 legislation that became the State of Alaska's new mining law for state lands (AS 38.05.185-38.05.275).

The enactment of the state's new mining law was the culmination of an 18-month effort. At the beginning of this effort in 1960, Joe worked closely with James A. (Jim) Williams, Director of the Division of Mines and Minerals within DNR, and others to develop a proposed set of mining regulations that would apply to the more than 100 million acres of land to be acquired by the state pursuant to the Statehood Act. In undertaking to develop these regulations, DNR and Joe initially took their direction solely from the limited but very important language of Article VIII of the Alaska Constitution regarding mining. As DNR's and Joe's efforts progressed, however, it became apparent to them that the enactment of a new statutory framework for "locatable" minerals on state lands would provide much needed guidance. At DNR's request Joe Rudd wrote the proposed legislation, and its enactment in 1961 gave Alaska its own mining law, modeled after the federal mining law to the extent possible but modernized in several significant respects. See 1961 SLA ch. 123 1 (codified at AS 38.05.185-38.05.275).

Early Years in Private Practice (1961-69)

In July 1961 Joe Rudd left his state position and entered private practice as one of the founding members of the law firm of Ely, Guess & Rudd (now Guess & Rudd P.C. and referred to herein simply as "the firm"). He remained associated with the firm until he died.

After making the move into private practice, Joe quietly began, through both his work product and his ongoing involvement in the legal profession on natural resource issues, to build his reputation as a knowledgeable, thorough, and thoughtful natural resources lawyer. During these early years in private practice, the performance of quality work earned for Joe both repeat business plus a word-of-mouth reputation that reached beyond Alaska. Some of Joe's clients during the 1960s were junior exploration company ALVENCO, mining giant ASARCO, the Evan Jones Coal Co., Kaiser Cement-Gypsum (see United States v. City of Anchorage, 437 F.2d 1081 (9th Cir. 1971)), Seward Peninsula placer miner Dick Lee (see Alaska Placer Co. v. Lee, 455 P.2d 218 (Alaska 1969)), and, on the oil and gas side of his practice, BP Exploration and Shell Oil (see Pan Am. Petroleum Corp. v. Shell Oil Co., 455 P.2d 12 (Alaska 1969)).

During the early years of his career, Joe also continued to work both informally and formally with DNR on issues relating to the new state, its lands and resources, and access thereto. Indeed, one of Joe's former partners, John Havelock,

"Sometimes, to the annoyance of his successors [in the AG's Office], Joe Rudd remained for years the oracle for the professional level employees of the State Division of Lands."
Among those with whom Joe corresponded or worked during these years were Jim Williams, Roscoe Bell (Director of the Division of Lands), and Alaska Mining Hall of Fame inductee Charles F. (Chuck) Herbert (then Deputy Commissioner of DNR). This work allowed Joe to continue to build upon his knowledge of Alaska's lands, and to keep abreast of the legal issues relating to them while simultaneously building a base for occasional referrals. Joe also worked with the Alaska Miners Association and others to provide comments to the Department of the Interior and Congress, either directly, or through the American Mining Congress, on mining issues affecting Alaska.

Early in his career Joe also developed and taught an evening course in mining law through the University of Alaska. First taught by Joe during the spring semester of 1962 and last taught by Joe in 1967, this course was attended by military and civilian personnel in search of interesting college credits, by employees of various federal and state agencies, and by the occasional miner. For example, in 1966 the class roster for Joe's course included several DNR employees. Among those taking the class that year were Erle Mathis (Minerals Officer within DNR) and Ethel H. "Pete" Nelson (then a Land Law Examiner). Mining engineer Dan Renshaw also took the class and certainly used some of the information in the practical mining class that he taught in the evenings.

In 1964 Joe served as chairman of the Alaska Bar Association's annual convention, held that year in Anchorage only six weeks after the Great Alaska Earthquake. One of the convention's social functions that year was a tour of areas affected by the earthquake. Joe, who in the days immediately following the quake had volunteered, with other geologists, to help map devastated areas in Anchorage as part of the effort to obtain federal disaster monies, surely participated. Also in early 1964, Joe wrote a paper entitled Land Status Problems in Locating Mining Claims, and gave a talk on the subject, probably for a meeting of the Alaska Geological Society.

Learning how to work with and advise natural resource clients on land status problems in Alaska became a key component of Joe's expertise as a lawyer. So when the Public Land Law Review Commission (PLLRC) came to Alaska in 1966 to hold hearings, Joe testified before the PLLRC in Anchorage (July 6, 1966) on land status and other problems confronting resource development in Alaska. Later, when the Federal Field Committee for Development Planning in Alaska was preparing its report on Native land claims, and the University of Wisconsin was simultaneously preparing its study for the PLLRC regarding Alaska, Joe and others within the firm were retained to contribute to the studies.

In 1967, Joe prepared and presented another paper. This paper, entitled The Objectives of Government Mineral Surveys, was delivered at the 1967 Alaska Purchase Centennial Minerals Conference held in College, Alaska, on May 23-26, 1967. The mineral surveys addressed by the paper were not the mineral surveys undertaken in connection with mineral patent applications, but instead were the geological and mineral investigations typically undertaken by government agencies such as the U.S. Geological Survey and the Alaska Division of Mines and Minerals. In addressing this rather arcane topic, Joe drew upon all of his past experience and knowledge as a geologist, lawyer, Alaskan, and student of both government and the free enterprise system. His ability to do this would hold him in good stead when the world around him changed forever less than one year later.

Later Years in Private Practice (1969-1978)

The discovery of the Prudhoe Bay oil field on the North Slope of Alaska was announced to the public on March 13, 1968, and, just as Alaska was forever changed, so was Joe Rudd's practice.

BP Exploration became Joe's most significant client, and Joe became involved in virtually everything affecting the development of the Prudhoe Bay petroleum field and the construction of the Trans Alaska Pipeline System (TAPS) from Prudhoe Bay to Prince William Sound. Joe prepared title opinions on BP's Prudhoe Bay leases, he represented BP in connection with the formation of the Prudhoe Bay Unit, he represented BP and other oil companies in their challenge to the formation of the North Slope Borough (see Mobil Oil Corp. v. Local Boundary Comm'n, 518 P.2d 92 (1974)), and he represented BP and others in the North Slope "trespass case" (United States v. Atlantic Richfield Co., 435 F. Supp. 1009 (D. Alaska 1977), affirmed, 612 F.2d 1132 (9th Cir. 1980), cert. denied, 449 U.S. 888 (1980)). Joe and the firm also became heavily involved on behalf of Alyeska Pipeline Service Company and its owners in legal matters arising in connection with the construction of the TAPS and, later, in connection with the tariffs to be charged on the shipment of oil through the pipeline.

But this substantial increase in oil and gas work did not cause Joe's mining practice to founder, in fact, the truth is quite to the contrary. Following the enactment of ANCSA in 1971, many major mining companies began taking serious looks at Alaska. What they saw respecting land status was a rapidly changing puzzle. Much of Joe's and the firm's mining practice in the 1970s involved either (1) writing agreements to provide adequate flexibility and certainty for mining clients or (2) performing "due diligence" investigations of the status of particular lands or claims to provide mining clients with adequate comfort and assurances.

Joe's work on the Lost River fluorite-tin-tungsten project on the Seward Peninsula northwest of Nome may be the earliest example of this type of work. Many land issues were involved: The project included patented claims, unpatented claims, and selections by three Native village corporations. In addition, both a city and a port would need to be built. A final feasibility report was delivered on the project in 1973, and financing discussions had begun when, due to plunging prices for its key mineral products, the project was shelved in 1974.

Though the Lost River Project was not built, it served as the beginning of the friendship and attorney-client relationship between Joe Rudd and Jack McOuat. In July 1972 Jack's company, Watts, Griffis and McOuat Limited, through its subsidiary WGM Inc., opened an Anchorage office and began mineral exploration in Alaska for many mining company clients, often pursuant to exploration agreements written by Joe Rudd or others in the firm under his tutelage during the uncertain land status situation of the 1970s. Lands in Southeast Alaska, lands in the Ahtna Region, lands in the Doyon Region, and lands in Western Alaska all were explored pursuant to one or more such agreements, and many mineral prospects and deposits were identified as a direct result.

WGM Inc. was not Joe's only mining client in the 1970s. Other mining clients of Joe and the firm during the 1970s included AMAX, BP Minerals, Cities Service Minerals, GCO Minerals, Gulf Minerals, Placer Amex, and Union Carbide. Last but certainly not least during the 1970s, Joe Rudd represented the Northwest Alaska Native Association (later known as NANA Regional Corporation, Inc.), one of Alaska's 12, resident, Native regional corporations. The existence of the rich Red Dog zinc-lead-silver deposit was known and believed to be significant, so NANA selected it under ANCSA upon advice from the firm to do so, even though this initial selection was of doubtful validity. Today, the Red Dog Mine (owned by NANA and leased to Teck Cominco) is the largest zinc-lead-silver mine in the world.

The firm is mentioned above for two important reasons: First, after the discovery of the Prudhoe Bay oilfield there simply was more natural resources legal work coming Joe's way than one or two resource lawyers could handle, so the firm necessarily grew. Second, during this period Joe's kidneys were failing. Ultimately, in 1973, Joe became the first Alaskan to receive a successful kidney transplant. The kidney was donated by his brother.

After Joe's successful kidney transplant, his life improved, and his scholarly efforts resumed. In 1974, Joe delivered a paper at the 20th Annual Institute of the Rocky Mountain Mineral Law Foundation (RMMLF) entitled Who Owns Alaska? Mineral Rights Acquisition Amid Rapidly Changing Land Ownership, (20 RMMLF #109 [1974]). Then, in October of that year, Joe served on the faculty of a two-day course in Anchorage sponsored by Alaska Methodist University and the University of Denver, College of Law on The Law of Public Lands in Alaska, with Special Emphasis on Energy, Native Rights, and the Environment. On the faculty with Joe were Professors John Carver and Alan Merson of the University of Denver College of Law, and Alaska lawyers Bob Goldberg, Joe Josephson, John Katz, and Esther Wunnicke. Later, in 1977, Joe served with many of the same lawyers on the faculty of a Seminar on Alaska's Lands Laws, sponsored by the University of Alaska-Anchorage. Finally, in what would be his last volunteer effort on behalf of the RMMLF, Joe developed and served as Program Chairman for a successful two-day RMMLF Special Institute on Alaska Mineral Development in Anchorage in September, 1978.

Rudd in later years

Joseph Rudd, undated
Photo: Joseph Rudd Family Collection

Joe's involvement on policy matters likewise continued during the 1970s. The D2 battle, which Alaska was engaged in during the 1970s, became a battle of epic proportions in late 1978, when, in one of the 20th Century's most dramatic uses of federal power against the desires of a state and many of its people, officials within the Carter Administration, and then President Carter himself, on December 1, 1978, acted to withdraw millions of acres of federal land in Alaska prior to the automatic expiration of the withdrawals made in the early 1970s under section 17(d)(2) of ANCSA. While history may prove that these 1978 withdrawals had more political than legal significance, such actions nevertheless required an immediate legal response. Citizens for Management of Alaska Lands (CMAL) had lobbied in Congress against the Carter Administration's proposals regarding Alaska, and it thus was CMAL who retained Joe Rudd in December 1978 to challenge these withdrawals in court. On December 4, 1978, Joe conferred with officials in the Attorney General's Office in Juneau about this matter. While in Juneau, Joe met Senator Ted Stevens, Tony Motley, and Clarence Kramer, who had traveled to Juneau to meet with Governor Hammond about the recent withdrawals. When they learned that Joe was headed home to Anchorage, they offered him a ride in the private jet in which they were going to fly to Anchorage. When that plane crashed on landing at Anchorage International Airport, only Ted Stevens and Tony Motley survived: Ann Stevens, Clarence Kramer, Joe Rudd, and both pilots died. That day, Alaska lost a preeminent natural resources lawyer, and a great friend to many.

Joe Rudd and the RMMLF

Joe became aware of the Rocky Mountain Mineral Law Foundation, its publications, and educational activities at least as early as 1960. We know from his correspondence that, while working in the Attorney General's Office crafting a new mining law and regulations for Alaska in 1960-1961, Joe relied heavily upon the RMMLF's just-published American Law of Mining (1st ed. 1960) for its thorough and scholarly analysis of the federal mining laws and the decades of judicial decisions construing them. Later, while in private practice, Joe became a member of the RMMLF and began attending its annual institutes. Eventually, through the efforts of Joe Rudd, the Alaska Bar Association became a governing organization of the RMMLF in 1972, and from 1972 until his death in 1978, Joe served as a Trustee of the RMMLF representing the Alaska Bar Association. As noted above, Joe also delivered a paper on Alaska lands and minerals at the 20th Annual Institute of the RMMLF in 1974, and in 1978 Joe served as Program Chairman for the RMMLF Special Institute on Alaska Mineral Development.

Given Joe's longstanding commitment to the practice of natural resources law, to legal scholarship in that area, and to the RMMLF, it was perhaps the most fitting tribute possible for Joe Rudd, upon his untimely death in December 1978, that his colleagues, friends, and family would undertake to establish and contribute to a scholarship fund in his name under the auspices of the RMMLF. Joe would be pleased to know that, through 2004, the RMMLF has awarded 93 Joe Rudd Scholarships totaling $350,000 to natural resources law students attending governing law schools of the RMMLF.

Joe's Legacy at the Firm

Finally, Joe Rudd's legal legacy lives on within the firm he co-founded in 1961. Guess & Rudd P.C. now employs 18 lawyers in Anchorage (10 of whom are shareholders in the firm) and 2 lawyers in Fairbanks (both of whom are shareholders of the firm), and the practice of natural resources law for mining clients, oil and gas clients, and Native corporations remains a significant part of the firm's practice. More important than any firm, however, are the more subtle places where Joe's legacy remains with us todayƑsuch places as in the language of the state mining law, in the projects that came to pass as a result in part of his good counsel, and in the wise, judicious, and craftsman-like manner in which he practiced law and mentored others in the practice of law. That legacy endures today.

By Joseph J. Perkins, Jr., 2004


Papers of Joseph Rudd (part of the Joseph and Lisa Rudd Collection), Archives and Manuscripts Department, University of Alaska-Anchorage.

Records and library of Guess & Rudd P.C., Anchorage, Alaska.

Publications and records of the Rocky Mountain Mineral Law Foundation, Westminster, Colorado.

Correspondence of Lisa Rudd (courtesy of Alison Rudd Lausten).

Anchorage Daily News and Anchorage Times, December 5-10, 1978.

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