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.