Is the Oregon State Bar using an ethics complaint as a pretext to protect itself?
Yesterday’s Oregonian article about the recent dismissal of a criminal charge against attorney Derek Ashton (related to the Terry Bean sex abuse case) contained this nugget: The Oregon State Bar intends to root around Ashton’s dismissed criminal case file on the pretext that the material therein would be relevant to the ethics inquiry they opened against him.
This may prove problematic for many reasons, including the fact that Ashton had already moved (on June 1) to have the entire criminal court record set aside and sealed: To do so is his absolute right under Oregon statute.
Despite this, the OSB apparently emailed its licensee, the Lane County District Attorney, “urging the preservation of ‘any and all records’” in Lane’s custody related to the dismissed charge against Ashton. The OSB also announced its “objection” to any sealing of the court record — although, to be fair, the OSB may not understand that telling the Oregonian is not the same as filing an actual objection into an actual court docket.
Regardless, the above caught my eye, because, as the OSB repeatedly tells victims of their licensees’ misconduct: The Oregon State Bar does not investigate crimes. Periodt.
Because they do! not! conduct! criminal! investigations! the OSB has no real business asking the Lane DA to share information from their dismissed criminal investigation file; and the OSB certainly has no business at all converting a dismissed criminal charge into a bar rule violation.¹
I’m sure Mr. Ashton is on top of all of this, but the fact that the OSB is trying to get into that file is telling. It raises the concern that the OSB is using the bar complaint against him as a pretext to see what else in the file…
… something like the edges of a criminal investigation that implicates themselves, their staff, or their politically-connected friends.
There is much contained in a Declaration filed in Mr. Ashton’s case (by his lawyer) that indicates that the important question of “what did the bar know and when did they know it” was not well-answered, and affected the statute of limitations in Ashton’s matter.
There is also much in the Declaration that suggests official misconduct on the OSB’s part. It is certain that the OSB would want to know what sort of material was out there that was not put in the Declaration.
“What did the bar know?” was a major problem because of the OSB’s friend Lori Deveny, whose misconduct is relevant to the dismissed charge against Ashton, and who involved the OSB in it directly when her law practice imploded in 2018, requiring their services. That’s the same Deveny whose name is curiously absent from the Oregonian article, despite the reams of material they have already published about her and could easily link to.
Filings in other related court cases demonstrate that the OSB took an unusual interest in protecting Deveny, and even went to the extreme lengths of gaining custodianship over her practice, usurping the Supreme Court’s right to sanction her, and generally making sure there are never ever any consequences for her or for them for helping her. Even politely suggesting to the media that Deveny’s name be kept out of the entire matter.
So no, please do not let the OSB access a dismissed criminal case so that they may conduct their own criminal trial of Mr. Ashton, or worse, use the matter as a pretext to see if they can find the outlines of any criminal investigations started against themselves and their friends.
¹ What the OSB is, however, welcome to do, is conduct an ethics investigation into the conduct that underlies the dismissed criminal charge, and charge Mr. Ashton with those ethics violations, whatever they may be. And the OSB is certainly welcome to do this at the same rate of speed at which they are investigating their friend Deanna Wray (0 m.p.h.) who was also allegedly involved in the matter.