OPDS Commissioner’s Sanction
Attorney Jennifer Nash suspended in 2001 for misconduct
Oregon has over 15,000 licensed attorneys — most of whom have never been disciplined by the state bar, and many of whom regularly volunteer for important causes, such as serving on the embattled Office of Public Defense Services Commission.
That’s why it’s remarkable that outgoing Oregon Supreme Court Chief Justice Martha Walters appointed Corvallis attorney Jennifer Nash to the Commission,¹ given Nash’s four-month suspension for misconduct. The sanction, issued in 2001, stemmed from behavior which involved “dishonesty, fraud, deceit or misrepresentation,” and that was “prejudicial to the administration of justice.”
The sanction came near the beginning of Nash’s legal career, and was based on complaints made in four separate matters.
In one case, Nash appears to have intentionally positioned her client for contempt of court orders, and then told him not to appear at the contempt hearing — undoubtedly the most direct way to incur a judge’s wrath. For good measure, Nash then lied to the judge about why her client wasn’t present.
Nash also repeatedly failed to serve her opponents copies of her filings, which constituted ex parte communication with the court. In apparent exchange for Nash’s cooperation with the stipulated discipline, an additional charge of dishonest conduct was dismissed, regarding her failure to provide her firm with a portion of payments it was entitled to receive.
Twenty years is long enough for someone to reform, or at least fashion a new reputation for themselves, but an attorney who has been sanctioned for dishonesty and for prejudicing the administration of justice — especially so early in her career — should not be on the short list for such an important position as the one Nash now occupies.
That is because effective and ethical representation is a constitutional right for the vulnerable indigent population in every state, including Oregon.
Further, Nash is predominantly a family law attorney: Less than a third of her known cases are criminal matters, and only a third of those are felonies. Nash’s résumé also asserts that she served on the “Governor’s Task Force on Indigent Defense,”² but I can find no reference to this task force aside from Nash’s own website and apparent press release.
Walters abused her authority by firing the previous Commission members and rebuilding the panel with the clear goal of removing the now former director of OPDS, Stephen Singer. Walters appears to have done so because she was (rightly) catching too much heat for the mess at OPDS, which had been allowed to worsen under her oversight.
Just one week after Singer filed a whistleblower complaint against the state — which excoriated Walters — she resigned from the bench, effectively ratifying the complaint’s accuracy.
¹ It appears that former OPDS Director Nancy Cozine — who is currently the State Court Administrator — was the person who actually floated Nash’s name to Walters.
² I have searched for both the “Governor’s Task Force on Indigent Defense” and the “Governor’s Task Force for Indigent Defense,” which both only appear associated with Nash’s website and press release or comments made to the press.