It is September. Do you know who is representing your interests before the Oregon Bar? Have you spoken to them lately, so they know how you feel about things? Is it time for a soft revolution at the Oregon State Bar?
Last year I wrote a tome on how the Oregon State Bar government is organized and how it works. Here I will fine tune that information as it relates to the annual business meeting. The topic is timely since the crucial business meeting for all lawyers in Oregon is the House of Delegates meeting each September. Unfortunately, the 2007 Oregon State Bar Directory states the meeting is on September 16, 2007. That is incorrect. The annual House of Delegates meeting is on Saturday, September 29, 2007 at Salishan Resort on the Oregon Coast.
The structure of Oregon State Bar meetings is intentionally designed to discourage grass-roots involvement. Why should anyone care? Why should anyone be involved----
Picture for a moment the hapless lawyer on a vacation cruise. Escaping the lonely lawyer toilings in the far reaches of the state, Ms. Attorney has decided to take a cruise ship upstream of the most spectacular falls in North America. Along with a few of her fellow passengers, she faintly hears the hiss of the falls before her and spots the haze of the mist in the air as the current takes her closer to the abyss. But she trusts the competence of those in charge of the ship of state and her fate. But, no one yet realizes that it may already be too late to head for the safety of the shore. Even if there was time, who does she talk to about the fear she has and how does she even find the person to warn of the impending danger? Would anyone listen to her? Does she simply ignore the danger and leave the handling and direction of the ship to others? There are fourteen thousand (14,000) Oregon lawyers doing just that. The captain of this ship is not a lawyer and could care less about the coming abyss, spectacular though it looks. The ship's crew have day jobs and aren't paying attention either.
Attorney-old-timers are fond of talking about the discarded town-hall form of Oregon State Bar government and the "open mike" approach to input to the leadership. Now it is the House of Delegates that is supposed to serve as citizen legislators. There is one flaw. The Oregon State Bar House of Delegates has no leadership. They defer to the Board of Governors who are the executive branch of Oregon State Bar government. The House of Delegates is silenced because they have passed the microphone to the President of the Bar. But what if that hapless passenger would like to warn of impending danger or even passive concern? How is that done? Would you be surprised if it was already too late for this year since the deadline for submitting resolutions was August 2, 2007 according to the Oregon State Bar directory which has the date of the annual meeting wrong.
Here is how the system is supposed to work:
1. Your Board of Governors (BOG) should network with their Region's House of Delegates (HOD) members on how best to reach out to their Region's general membership. Our state is divided into five regions with each having a BOG member and HOD members. The Oregon State Bar Bylaws require that each BOG member and each HOD member solicit your input to determine how they do their job. That is a fiction. Few BOG members and few HOD members actively solicit membership input. Indeed, there is no practical vehicle to do so. Problem--If your leadership does not solicit your views, how do they know what you want or need your professional organization to do for you and the public?
2. Each year your input for change is to be submitted to your BOG and HOD member well in advance of the September HOD business meeting. Each BOG member should organize a regional meeting in order to formulate the agenda for each region and begin working on these resolutions. Problem--These regional meetings do not happen because Bar leadership does not want your views on how the ship is to be steered nor do they want ideas for changing course.
3. The annual Oregon State Bar House of Delegates business meeting is September 29, 2007 at Salishan, Oregon. The attendance of these meetings has steadily dropped over the last twenty years and this year's meeting may be the most irrelevant ever. The legal system is broken and judges do what they want. There is no accountability by lawyers to the public. There is no accountability by judges to the public. The annual meeting is run by the Board of Governors, yet it is supposed to be a House of Delegates meeting. The Board of Governors is not accountable to anybody even though in theory the Oregon Supreme Court is to be involved. They aren't. The ship of state for the Oregon State Bar has a crew that are not accountable to their passengers.
The scenery is indeed beautiful, yet there is this mist springing up from somewhere, lurking there in the near-distance, the haze of which may be seen by all as we drift gently downstream.