Dateline Salishan Oregon -- There is an uproar in Oregon's minority legal community.  Meanwhile, with war in Iraq, civil rights being flouted in Jena, Louisiana, our economy on the brink, our supreme courts ignoring The Rule of Law, over one hundred (100) Oregon State Bar leadership lawyers decide at their annual business meeting what is important to them  -- whether mandatory lawyer membership dues should be spent on liquor at such gatherings. 

     Oregon lawyers have abandoned real leadership to their nonlawyer executive director, Karen Garst.  She has made a mess of it.  Karen Garst is laughing all the way to the bank and she is laughing at Oregon lawyers.  She is laughing because she has correctly ascertained that the leaders of the Oregon State Bar are eunuchs.  Ms. Garst has further satisfaction through a large salary with liberal travel allowances. 

     Karen Garst may have made her last grab for power and her last attempt at manipulation of the Oregon State Bar system.  A former Bar President previously observed her propensity for power grabs when she attempted to take control of the Oregon lawyer's malpractice insurance company, the Professional Liability Fund.  A whistle blower stopped her attempt to have the Oregon State Bar purchase a 'white elephant' building belonging to her insolvent church, the Living Enrichment Center, which would have benefited her directly since they owed her $22,000.  Never mind that a principal of this church, Edward Morrissey, was convicted on money laundering ten million dollars in Oregon federal court.  See Case No. O5 CR 132

     Last week over fifty lawyers representing Oregon's legal affirmative action and minority community filed into the Oregon State Bar Board of Governors meeting at Salishan to protest the virtual elimination of the Oregon State Bar Affirmative Action Committee.  Ms. Garst made one serious mistake in her endeavor.  She forgot to ask the minority group 'stakeholders' before making these changes.  This is merely the latest of Ms. Garst's Machiavellian moves at the expense of Oregon's legal community.  Ms. Garst's modus vivendi is obvious.  She wants everything at the Oregon State Bar under her direct control.  This desire for control is insidious and destructive to the overall purpose of the Oregon State Bar and has eliminated the Board of Governors from meaningful leadership. 

     Her latest attempt at gaining control puts her against Oregon's minority community and would remove a successful minority program from the administration of Stella K Manabe.  Most of the speakers at Friday's meeting extolled the virtues of Ms. Manabe and the overall positive direction of minority programs thoughout the Oregon State Bar under Ms. Manabe's adminstration.  Ms. Garst's changes removed Ms. Manabe and placed the reporting of these programs to a meaningless committee, the Member Services Committee which has no stake in affirmative action nor minority issues.  One minority student expressed his displeasure in emotional terms stating that the Bar has burned its bridges to Oregon's minority legal community by making these changes without consulting anybody in that legal community.  Other speakers expressed similar dismay at Ms. Garst's unilateral actions. 

     Bar President Albert Menasche weakly defended Ms. Garst and said nothing to the gathering attorney House of Delegates the next day about this huge minority protest.  Ms. Garst has engineered further curious rites of passage at the Oregon State Bar.  For example, the sixteen members of the policy making body, the Board of Governors, are not allowed to have a meeting without her staff present.  Moreover, regional Board of Governors and House of Delegates members are not allowed to have regional bar leadership meetings without her staff present.  This gives Ms. Garst centralized control over everything anybody does at the Oregon State Bar and prevents any policy making that may be critical of her administration. 

     Bill Y. Chin from the Lewis and Clark Law School organized the minority protest.  Kellie Johnson, a local prosecutor, advised the group that Stella Manabe, the departed head of the Affirmative Action Committee, was responsible for integrating Oregon law schools into a cohesive whole on minority issues.  She felt disconnected from diversity issues while at University of Oregon's law school until Ms. Manabe's employment.  She recommended that the Oregon State Bar Board of Governors promise to protect and preserve the viability of affirmative action programs at the Oregon State Bar.  Most other speakers blamed Karen Garst for changes they see as taking the Bar's affirmative action programs backwards without any consultation with minority students or minority lawyers.  Meanwhile, the Oregon State Bar's legislative branch, the House of Delegates adjourned early on Saturday after disposing of their agenda-lite, so members could get to their local football games. 


Posted on Wednesday, October 3, 2007 at 09:11AM by Registered CommenterLAUREN PAULSON in | Comments2 Comments

Reader Comments (2)

Open Letter from the Board of Governors to Oregon Minority Lawyers and Law Students and Other Interested Persons

Over the last few weeks, many people have expressed concern that recent OSB organizational changes signal a retreat by the Board of Governors and the bar from its long-standing commitment to the Affirmative Action Program and a diverse Oregon State Bar. We assure you that is not the case. On the contrary, the decision to move the Affirmative Action Program into the Member Services Department was carefully and thoughtfully considered with a view toward providing more—not less—organizational support to a program we and the members of the Bar value highly. The deep commitment for and pride in the Affirmative Action Program was demonstrated by the House of Delegates in renewing the program last year. We want to emphasize that these management changes are not a change in bar policy, only in the mechanics of bar operations. There is no change in budget and no less support for the goals of the program.

For many years, AAP was part of the Member and Public Services Department, and the administrator reported to the manager of that department. From April 1998 to March 2006, the AAP was part of the Executive Services Department, with the administrator reporting to General Counsel. In March 2006, due principally to a vacancy in the General Counsel position, the Affirmative Action Program administrator began to report directly to the Executive Director. Recently, it became apparent that the program needs a level of support that the Executive Director is not able to provide. There was also a concern that the program may be hindered by its isolation from other bar functions, support services and personnel.

Member Services has been a priority for the Board of Governor for several years. Member Services works with a variety of bar groups including the New Lawyers Division and the Leadership College. Incorporating AAP into Member Services is a natural fit and will provide new opportunities for contact and interaction between minority law students, new lawyers, and future bar leaders, open new lines of communication, and create positive synergy. We are confident it will give the AAP needed operational support and will free the program staff to devote more of their time and energy to the continued success of the program. All of this will contribute to the increased success of the program.

Because this change was a shift in reporting relationships and departmental structure, it was a decision that was entirely appropriate for the Executive Director to make. That said, she made the realignment with input from a variety of people, including several current and past Affirmative Action Committee members and members of the Board of Governors. The board fully supports the decision. We believe this realignment is a good one both for the Oregon State Bar and its AAP.

We acknowledge and appreciate the passion and creativity that Stella Manabe brought to the program in her ten years with the OSB. Many people have expressed that they are reacting more to her resignation than to a change in internal OSB structure and we know she will be missed. STELLA RESIGNED!! Under Stella’s leadership the Affirmative Action Program had many successes, including the creation of OLIO, a nationally recognized program. We hope and expect to continue building on the foundation she laid.

Again, we want to be clear that the OSB Board of Governors remains fully committed to the AAP and its goals, and we are not abandoning or diminishing our commitment to diversity in the legal profession and to equal access to the justice system. We will continue to do everything possible to ensure that the Affirmative Action Program is adequately funded and supported in every way. With this letter, we have tried to respond to the issues and concerns expressed by many of you and invite you to contact any of us individually if you have additional questions. We hope all of you will appreciate that this organizational realignment was done to strengthen the program and that you will continue working with us in a positive spirit to meet that objective.

Albert A. Menashe

Open Letter from to Oregon Minority Lawyers and Law Students and Other Interested Persons

I appreciate the time many of you took to attend the meeting last Friday, September 14.
I am fully supportive of the Affirmative Action Program. I have worked closely with the Affirmative Action Program Administrator and the Affirmative Action Committee in the past in crafting the program’s goals and outcomes as well as other issues.

I would like to answer in writing some of the questions that were posed at the meeting.

1. In response to comments made on September 14, the title of Affirmative Action Program Administrator will be retained.

2. The AAP Administrator will continue to have responsibility for developing the program’s direction and outcomes with input from the Affirmative Action Committee. The AAP Administrator will continue to be responsible for the day-to-day implementation of program activities.

3. The AAP Administrator will be responsible for drafting the program budget with input from the Affirmative Action Committee.

4. The AAP staff will continue to report to the AAP Administrator, who will draft their performance evaluations. These evaluations will be reviewed as they are with every other program through the reporting structure which ends with a complete review by the HR Manager.

5. I have asked the Affirmative Action Committee to designate two people to participate in final interviews for the top candidates for the AAP Administrator position. The salary for the new AAP Administrator will take into account the person’s qualifications and experience.

6. On October 12, I will meet with the AAC to present the draft budget for 2008 based on the dedicated $30 per active bar member. The draft budget will include several options for 2008 program activities and staffing for the committee to consider.

7. I will also offer my services to the FrOLIO board if it chooses to move forward. I have already drafted a fundraising plan for its review.

If you have additional questions or comments, please let me know.

Karen L. Garst
Executive Director

October 4, 2007 | Unregistered Commenter:^)

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