As with the diplomat, Joseph Wilson and his CIA wife, Valarie Plame, government leaders, including those at the Oregon State Bar will go to extraordinary lengths to quiet the voice of dissent.
My voice of dissent was a feeble one. Newly elected to the Board of Governors, the governing body of the Oregon State Bar, I commenced a quarterly newsletter to inform my lawyer constituents in four Oregon Counties of the goings on in that policy-making organization. This newsletter went to about 1,000 lawyers and requested feedback to improve the Oregon State Bar. Naively, I believed that the organization really wanted break-through changes as recommended by an expensive management consultant. Soon I realized my voice of candid reporting was not favored by the Portland lawyers who control the Oregon State Bar. Then I was warned outright that I would be drawn and quartered if I didn't "behave". My response was to lamely request a meeting to try to work things out. They laughed at me. The clear message was that if I didn't do things their way, I would be going down the highway.
Having been a volunteer mediator for Washington County courts for ten (10) years, I had learned the value of having a neutral party intervene to help warring parties resolve things. Indeed, it is the official policy of Oregon law to favor mediation in dispute resolution. Accordingly, I offered to mediate this dispute with the Oregon State Bar leadership, but they demurred. When they sent me down the highway, I sued partially based on freedom of speech and the press, because I remembered these were fairly important mandates in our country and in our constitution. You see, when they fired me, they also quieted my newsletter, their aim.
Our procedures allow a formal request to mediate disputes. I applied under these procedures and formally requested mediation in federal court. The judge and the Oregon State Bar attorneys turned down this request. So, I asked the Bar's attorney to do private mediation. They refused. They wanted to rake me over the coals and make an example out of me lest any other Oregon lawyer decide to speak out.
Down the litigation pipeline we went. One of the major costs of litigation is discovery. This is the feeding trough for defense lawyers. Discovery done, I again requested mediation. Again the Bar refused. Undaunted, I contacted several well known retired judges in the area and decided on Judge Edward Leavy because he had a reputation for mediating complex disputes near and far. The Bar reluctantly arrived for mediation day, but walked out without a word after the introductions. Bewildered, I contacted the Bar's lawyer to inquire what happened and renewed my willingness to talk to them at any time, anywhere to resolve this matter. Silence.
In the federal Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, where we now are, there is a sophisticated mediation program. I called the mediator and expressed my willingness to mediate this matter in our new forum. He advised he would contact the Oregon State Bar lawyer to see if they were willing. I am still waiting.
Recently, I was working on an article on the Oregon State Bar's new $19 million dollar office in Tigard and ran across Oregon State Bar's financials for 2005. Guess how much the Oregon State Bar has spent of their membership's money to shut me up---$243,000 and still counting. Why?
Epilogue -- The Bar's lawyer is a downtown one who operated out of modest surroundings in an aged building when this matter started. Now she is located in toney surroundings in a prestigious downtown Portland law firm. Me? I am out of business, but still talking.