Holding Businesses to a Higher Standard
Ray Boucher Builds a Career on His Sense of Social Justice
Boucher’s thirst for justice was probably apparent to his peers as he studied in the College of Business’s Master in Management program, which culminated in a thesis examining corporations’ responsibilities to small towns on Colorado’s Western Slope following oil shale booms.
Arguing that extraction companies had a moral responsibility to help alleviate boomtown stresses, Boucher (MS, ’81) foreshadowed the College of Business’s current mission of using business as a force for positive impact in the world.
He was more than just a little bit ahead of his time.
“When I did my master’s thesis, the concept of a corporation doing anything other than fast profits for shareholders was anathema,” he said. “My chair of my thesis committee refused initially to even think about allowing me to publish that thesis because it wasn’t about Darwinism.”
Over a career that spans three decades, Boucher has worked with Cesar Chavez to represent the family of a poisoned farmworker, filed antitrust actions against wholesale electricity traders in California, and helped tie Chevron to efforts to circumvent embargoes on Iraqi oil. He has successfully argued before the California Supreme Court on behalf of organic consumers and secured a landmark verdict and settlement for survivors of sexual abuse by Catholic priests.
California to Uganda to Fort Collins
Boucher may be best known for his high-profile cases in the California court system, but his drive to fight for justice has taken him around the world. In 2010, he traveled to Masindi in rural Uganda with a team of lawyers to provide pro-bono legal services to dozens of imprisoned minors. While there, he helped work to free youth who were imprisoned, sometimes for years, on minor offenses. He also focused on youth facing major charges, helping a group of boys who had been falsely accused of murder by interviewing witnesses and laying the groundwork for a defense.
His dedication to helping shape the world isn’t bounded by judicial limitations. Boucher has served as a strategic adviser for state and local political campaigns and is a noted speaker, focusing on attorneys’ power to use the judicial system as a tool for social justice in speeches to various groups around the country. It also brought him to Fort Collins, where he spoke as the first guest in the Dean’s Distinguished Leadership Series in February 2019.
The series was founded to engage students, alumni, and business leaders with College of Business alumni making a difference through business. Boucher’s passion for justice and his profound influence on communities around the world made him a perfect fit for the inaugural event.
“Through Ray’s dedication to championing causes and individuals who would not have had a voice, he has made an immeasurable impact on the world,” College of Business Dean Beth Walker said. “I had the pleasure of meeting him previously and was honored to have him as our first speaker. He has truly changed the lives of so many to create a better world.”
The Impact of Education
Boucher’s presentation held more than a bit of symmetry. While Boucher was a management student at the College of Business, one of his professors, John McKeever, included a truism in every lecture. It resonated so soundly with the young Boucher and his budding sense of justice that it became a foundational piece of his education.
“That is the one thing in all of my schooling, from high school to college to graduate school to law school, that I remember,” Boucher said. “He noted, ‘People will do things in the name of a corporation that they will never do in their real life. They’ll never do it in their own name.’”
Boucher made the same type of connection with today’s students that McKeever made with him. Amy Blake, who graduated in 2019 and plans to apply to law school, attended Boucher’s presentation and was struck by the foundation of ethics in his presentation. At the reception after the event, when she told him of her ambitions to become a trial lawyer driven by the same sense of social justice that guided him to become one of the outstanding attorneys of his era, he had a response: She would reach greater heights than he achieved.
“It was very inspiring for students like myself who want to create an environment where organizations operate ethically and in the interests of all stakeholders, including their employees,” she said.
That’s the kind of impact that can’t be measured in settlement figures or decision statistics.