Please pass on my thanks to the person or persons who thought of gathering the "Pearls of Wisdom" from the Class of ’52. And thank you for including them as "Parting Thoughts" in the October issue of the OSB Bulletin. [It is] sage advice from distinguished and experienced lawyers. I’ve clipped out the page and posted it on my office wall.
On Nov. 3, I anticipated the election results for the Nov. 5 election and also anticipate the election being over and not having to listen to the multitude of intellectually insulting campaign ads. Imagine my surprise when opening the November Bulletin issue over lunch on Nov. 3 and reading a letter to the editor from Steve Doell. Not wanting to risk the appearance of making an ad hominem comment regarding the father of a murdered child, let me just say that Mr. Doell is a "crime victim advocate." He is not a member of the OSB, nor could he reasonably be termed a member of the legal community. Why then was his letter printed in our professional bulletin? I always enjoy the considered comments of my colleagues. Mr. Doell is not my colleague, and his comments did not add anything to what I already heard him say in the campaign ads for the "none of the above" initiatives that he endorses or sponsors. In the future please be more circumspect in your selection of letters to print.
Richard A. Weill
Editor’s note: Letters are not limited to OSB members. However, they must concern articles published in the Bulletin or other law-related topics.
I recently received my third OSB 2002 mail ballot (regional House of Delegates selection), requiring me to place my signature on the outside mailer envelope for "verification." I again disenfranchised myself and round-filed the packet.
I had earlier this year raised my objections to this signature requirement with OSB and our local bar. The OSB advised me to provide a third return envelope to protect my signature. Both the incredible original signature requirement and the annoying third envelope solution are for me, and possibly others, a turn-off from participating in OSB ballot processes.
I hopefully no longer expose my original signature to the general public, to inmates (remember that the 9th Circuit not too long ago ruled that inmates are entitled to commercial mail containing unlimited applications for credit, goods and services), to U.S. mailways or to any other risks of linkage to potential identity theft. If this sounds paranoid, then I recommend you become a victim and see where the unhappy trail winds. In 1996 some southern prison inmate got into my credit. My first indicator was cancellation of my Meier & Frank account — held since college — the rest went like dominoes. Countless letters and long distance phone calls to creditors/credit reporters got me nowhere, until one insignificant phone clerk for a big three credit reporter listened. She found one piece of information the "credit jumper" didn’t know about me. This taught me how cursory credit application reviews are. She then wrote every credit reporting agency; however, after 1½ years, only the majority of deficiencies were corrected. In 2001 my former legal assistant became a victim of multi-identity thefts plus check forgeries — arrests, no prosecutions.
Is the threat to the OSB that some non-attorney or associate attorney will "signature jump" to "stuff a ballot box"? The OSB compares my envelope signature with some signature on file from whenever? The OSB has sufficient staff to compare thousands of signatures for all statewide and regional ballots? I still recommend OSB members be given the choice to vote by e-ballot.
The Campaign for Equal Justice supports several worthy programs. When asked for our contributions, let us ask in turn how these organizations are using this funding. Wise donors expect accountability when they make contributions to charitable organizations. Donors seek to ensure that the money is actually going to provide for people in need or to advance the cause they support. My experience leads me to withhold any contribution that would support Legal Aid Services of Oregon (LASO) or the Oregon Law Center (OLC).
In a strongly worded opinion, Judge Coffin labeled a suit filed by LASO and OLC attorneys as "litigious excess." Adam v. Linn-Benton Housing Authority, 147 F.Supp.2d at 1047 (D. Or 2001). Compounding the waste of legal services program resources in pursuing such frivolous litigation is the corresponding use of precious judicial resources. Add to this the needless expense of taxpayer dollars to defend non-meritorious claims against public agencies. Donors pay thrice.
OLC’s interim director informed me that there is no formal oversight of branch office attorneys. No one reviews or approves the litigation they file. This in not the kind of accountability one expects when making a contribution to a charitable organization. Low-income clients have reported being turned away by Legal Aid unless they are a member of a class of some "big" lawsuit Legal Aid is working on. Instead of running towards litigious excess in pursuit of a watershed case, LASO and OLC should focus their resources toward serving the every day legal needs of low and moderate income Oregonians. This is the area of unmet need that the private bar often cannot reach and the area which cash and pro bono contributions should address.
I suggest donating directly to organizations such as the St. Andrews Legal Clinic that handle the day-to-day legal matters of low-income clients instead of contributing to a fund that supports overly litigious non-profit groups chasing newspaper headlines.
Because I aspire for the bar to be an inclusive and non-partisan organization, I was surprised and disturbed by the cover photograph and article found in the November 2002 Bulletin. The Bulletin reached my desk during the week that Oregonians were voting in a contested race for the U.S. Senate. The glowing portrayal of Senator Smith as a cooperative moderate fed perfectly into the "run to the center" campaign he sold Oregon to voters through an expensive multimedia campaign. The photograph and article served as a lengthy campaign ad for Senator Smith. Certainly, there are examples of real differences between Senators Smith and Wyden and between the Republican and Democratic parties that were not mentioned in the article.
Although I appreciate the senators’ joint commitment to legal services, and it was appropriate to publish an article about their efforts in that arena, it was not appropriate to run the article during the week before the election. The timing was unseemly and made the bar appear either to endorse Senator Smith or to have fallen prey to his well-funded campaign machinery.
Editor’s note: The article was published, in November, at the request of the Campaign for Equal Justice, a leading partner in the OSB’s No. 1 priority, access to justice. No endorsement, support or encouragment was implied or should be inferred.