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PACKING THE COURT

WHERE OH WHERE ARE MY PEERS?  --  It is well known that FDR was unhappy with the United States Supreme Court, particularly Felix Frankfurter, because they were striking down many of his 'new rules' during the New Deal.  His expansion proposal to boost the number of the Justices on the Court above the traditional nine members of the U.S. Supreme Court was not a success.  The Oregon State Bar is 'packing the court' in another way.  It is very subtle.

The Bar is to be commended for including 'the public' in with its membership and organizational make-up.  For example, of the sixteen members of the Board of Governors, four are required to be  'public' members.  These public members are supposed to be regular citizens.  There is no requirement that our public members be 'public' employees. 

Shortly after I was elected to the Oregon State Bar Board of Governors, (BOG) it was proposed by Karen Garst, Executive Director of the Bar,  that  public Board of Governor's member, Bette Worcester, an employee of the Oregon Liquor Control Commission be re-elected for another four-year term by acclamation.  This means an oral vote without a formal ballot.  Well, Bette was right there in the room.  How could we refuse?   Personally, I felt that Bette served with distinction on the Disciplinary Task Force which I had attended and I had no reason to object to her.  One wonders why someone would want to go to monthly OSB Board of Governor's meetings for eight years, but if she wanted to serve, good for her, I thought.  Later, Johathan P. Hill, a school administrator, and another BOG public member also was voted informally for an additional four year term.  A new public member this year works at OHSU.  Are you starting to get the picture?   (Hint--Karen Garst is a public employee and a non lawyer)

During my first disciplinary prosecution, when the OSB complained that I had overcharged my client (who owed me $5,000) by $67.50, I ruefully noted that the Trial Panel (that I had not objected to)  were all public employees, one a County ADA and another a City Attorney.  I was convicted and sentenced to be Publically Astonished. 

Now my burnished eagle eye notes this.  An outgoing member of the OSB Board of Examiners is Jill A. Tanner who works for the Oregon Tax Court, a public employee.  The 2007 State Chair of the Disciplinary Board (the Trial Panels) is the same Jill A. Tanner, a public employee.  The 2007 State Chair-Elect of the Disciplinary Board is Susan G. Bischoff, the City Attorney for Gresham, a public employee. 

Have you noticed that attorneys who are disciplined are almost always small town lawyers and almost never public employees.  In a Bar Poll taken in 2002 47% of the OSB lawyers polled felt there was bias in OSB's disciplinary system.  In a 2004 memo to the OSB Board of Governors I formally reminded them that the 2001 vote by the House of Delegates required the Oregon State Bar Board of Governors explore whether there is such bias in the OSB disciplinary system.  So far there has been no answer.  Well, at least we know one thing.  Karen Garst's job is secure. 

Posted on Thursday, April 5, 2007 at 04:44PM by Registered CommenterLAUREN PAULSON in | CommentsPost a Comment

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