|Oregon State Bar Bulletin MAY 2009|
Too Much Information
I am disappointed in the Bulletin. In the Discipline section of the February/March 2009 issue, the editors chose to publicize the specifics of an attorney’s “misdemeanor involving moral turpitude.” Those specifics were unnecessary and inappropriate.
The question of whether the Bulletin should publish disciplinary summaries at all has been debated since I became a member. I have always argued that doing so served an important educational function. However, publication of the salacious details of our fellow attorney’s “moral turpitude” does nothing to help fellow bar members avoid similar mistakes. It merely visits further humiliation on him, when the formal public reprimand should have been enough.
This is a classic case of “too much information.” The Bulletin owes that attorney, and its readership, an apology.
Bulletin No Place for Peyton Place
I recently reviewed my Oregon State Bar Bulletin for February/March 2009. I routinely review the Discipline section of the Bulletin and was shocked to find a reprimand of one of our colleagues. Your public reprimand was, in my opinion, unnecessary and punitive. The fact that such a thorough job was done in elaborating the facts of the case caused me a great deal of concern as a fellow practitioner. Was it necessary to publicly humiliate the attorney in an effort to protect the public, or was it merely disciplinary counsel’s need for validation? It was interesting to note that, despite the fact that the attorney was convicted of a misdemeanor, many other attorneys who practice also have been convicted of misdemeanors and have not been subject to ridicule by disciplinary counsel. Should the bar start listing attorneys who have DUI convictions, misdemeanor drug possession convictions or domestic issues? It would seem that the public need for information pertaining to attorneys who are driving impaired and putting the public at risk outweighs the need for the public to be informed when an attorney does anything illegal.
Having been convicted of a misdemeanor, the attorney suffered humiliation at having to be present as a defendant in a criminal case while also suffering humiliation with his family and friends It is absolutely astonishing that the bar found it necessary to include all of the lurid facts of the attorney’s conviction in a publication that is being sent to his peers. Given his lack of any prior disciplinary history, the need for disciplinary counsel to include this public reprimand in the bar Bulletin was, in my opinion, unnecessary and offensive.
All attorneys should beware that what occurs behind closed doors or in the privacy of one’s property may be subject to the Peyton Place drama of the bar Bulletin.
Robert F. Demary,
Jeff Sapiro, OSB disciplinary counsel, responds: Published summaries of discipline cases are required by court rule. BR 2.5(j)(2). When preparing them, disciplinary counsel staff tries not to embellish on the facts or minimize them, but sticks to the core of the disciplinary opinion on which they are based. In this case, staff condensed a 16-page disciplinary opinion into three short paragraphs, and took the language that Mr. Whitman found objectionable right from the beginning of the opinion verbatim. Our purpose certainly was not to embarrass or humiliate any lawyer.
Height of Chutzpah
In the last two issues of the Bulletin, we have been treated to numerous offers of assistance from the Client Assistance Office and ethics staff. They all forgot to mention one very salient point: they will not stand behind the advice they give you if you receive a bar complaint after following their advice.
Knowing they are the most disliked portion of the bar staff has undoubtedly led to this P.R. campaign, and it would be lovely if their offers were true. However, the enticement of members to seek advice from them while knowing they will not stand behind it is the height of chutzpah. Perhaps when they get to the point of actually being responsible for their actions, they will have the right to sit in judgment of the rest of us, or offer advice.
A Better Way to Help
I was surprised that Margaret Paris and Philip H. Knight from the University of Oregon School of Law would suggest that contributions to loan repayment assistance programs (LRAPs) would help deliver legal services to the poor. (Letters, February/March 2009). Contributions to LRAPs help certain law school graduates who have passed the bar exam to pay their student loans while working at a legal services or similar office.
While this might be a worthwhile purpose, it does next to nothing to extend legal services to those in need. There are plenty of qualified applicants for legal services and other public agency jobs with or without the availability of LRAPs. If you really want to help deliver legal aid to those in need, give to the Campaign for Equal Justice, or low-income clinics such as St. Andrew and St. Matthew or other direct service providers so more lawyers and staff can be hired and more clients served. Contributions to LRAPs may help a lawyer, but they don’t help the poor.
Because of a production and proofreading error, a chart accompanying the article “Keeping an Eye Out for Elders” (April 2009) misstated the number of abuse cases in two categories. In the period from July 1, 2006 to June 30, 2007, the number of neglect cases was 651; the number of sexual abuse cases in the same period was 48. A corrected version of the chart has been published online at www.osbar.org/publications/bulletin/09apr/elders.html. We apologize for the confusion. —Editors