Disturbed Thinking at the Oregon State Bar
Recently, the Oregon State Bar Bulletin — the monthly legal publication of the OSB — ran a “Statement on White Nationalism and Normalization of Violence.” This statement, signed by several Bar and Board of Governors officials, expressed concern about the “resurgence of white nationalism” and affirmed the bar’s commitment to a justice system free of discrimination.
Sounds okay to your average non-racist, non-lawyer, but it ran spectacularly afoul of many of the bar’s members — even those who personally agreed with the sentiment. The problem was the juxtaposition of the OSB statement with a second similar, but more politically biased one, penned and signed by specialty bar groups. They shared a two-page spread, in the same font and type size, and with an encompassing border: visually, they were equal.
Many dues-paying bar members argued that the OSB had violated the 1990 U.S. Supreme Court ruling in Keller v. State Bar of California, which held that “the State Bar’s use of petitioners’ compulsory dues to finance political and ideological activities with which petitioners disagree violates their First Amendment right of free speech.”¹
The Bulletin received an avalanche of letters regarding this misstep and the falling-domino failures of leadership, editorial standards, and even graphic design it took to get there. The response was so overwhelming, that in the following issue, the mailbag overflowed the usual print space and readers were directed by link to the additional outrage online.
Because of the blinding apoplexy generated by this controversy, many readers missed the Bulletin’s own #MeToo article, tucked away on the cover of the same issue.
That article narrowly escaped the urgency and relevancy of the actual #MeToo movement by virtue of having been written and published several months after peak hashtag-iness; arriving, instead, just in time to bask in the public’s collective shrug, missing even the backlash to the backlash. Number of letters received and published regarding this article: zero.
More interesting than the desultory article itself, was the appearance that the Oregon State Bar had missed the point of #MeToo entirely: improperly viewing it as a device for their own use instead of understanding the movement as the organic, groundswell sharing of information that it was… a movement in which victims helped to protect the public.
The OSB’s disturbed thinking exposes itself in the recent disciplinary cases of three Oregon attorneys.
The author of the Bulletin article summarized October and November 2017 as “The Whisper Network Starts Shouting,” efficiently describing how quickly and forcefully things escalated.
Victims of “everyone knows” predators found the confidence to move beyond alerting friends in their immediate vicinity, to sharing their horrific stories online. And in doing so, by turning their whispers into shouts, they were no longer protecting only those in their own circle, or even those in some unofficial network.
The conversion of secret shame into forceful and vocal action represented the absolute core of the movement: that the free and unrestrained exchange of true information, out in the open, protected everyone from monsters.
Thus we arrive at the case of recently disbarred Oregon attorney Megan M. Perry. By resigning under fire in March of this year, Perry ended the sixteen separate disciplinary investigations into her allegedly abhorrent conduct. That resignation, referred to as a “Form B Resignation,” is considered a “no contest” plea and means that she accepted the consequences for her alleged misconduct without an admission — or denial — of her guilt.
Disturbingly, there appears to be a concerted effort, by people who happen to work at the Oregon State Bar², to discourage communication among the many victims of Perry’s; to limit the discovery of information related to her case; to quash news of her disbarment in the local press and even in its own Bulletin; to discredit me, personally; and possibly worse.
In other words, the absolute opposite of the spirit of #MeToo.
More misrepresentation and deceit
As I wrote in my last article, the OSB’s Public Records Coordinator had demonstrably misrepresented Perry’s — and her husband/partner Erik Moeller’s — participation in the bar’s “Modest Means Program.” This article was circulated to all of Oregon’s state Representatives and Senators, as well as another hundred or so officials within institutions touched in some way by Perry’s misconduct. Then I made it rain public records requests at various state agencies.
A few days later, I was contacted by Kateri Walsh, the spokesperson for the OSB, who appears to have been dispatched to manage me and who now, oddly, appears to be handling my public records requests.
In her first contact, Ms. Walsh stated that the Modest Means snafu was due to “user error in the database search” and she kindly attached four pages of redacted records meant to represent Perry & Moeller’s entire sum of clients — or at least initial referrals — under the program.
The records cut off abruptly on New Year’s Eve 2015, which caused suspicion that they were not complete. I quickly realized that 2016 ushered in Moeller’s new gig as a state-paid public defender, which would have provided their office with a more consistent and stable stream of revenue… and official referrals directing vulnerable people with legal emergencies to Perry & Moeller, PC.
Ms. Walsh, in forwarding me these records, noted that they were “redacted due to the following exemptions,” and cited outdated statutes (psst: the revised statute is ORS 192.355). The statutes she cited regarding appeals of the redactions were similarly incorrect.³
Regardless, these clients’ names, in which I previously wasn’t interested… I now absolutely want. Funny how withholding stuff and then lying about it does that to a person: it makes you realize that there’s a there there. And I’m coming for it.
There’s nothing to see here
To respond to the issue of Perry’s disbarment announcement having failed to appear in the last four issues of the Bulletin, Ms. Walsh forwarded a copy of the notice that was “submitted to the editor on July 20, and is expected to appear in the August/September edition of the Bulletin.”
So this announcement supposedly got written up a few days before I dragged the OSB for failing to publish it? Roll the metadata tape!
Now, to be sure, Ms. Walsh may have cut and pasted this announcement into a new word document, and that explains the “created on” date: the document was created on July 31, only hours before I received it.
But to illustrate how ridiculously long it took the OSB to publish this, I researched and tallied up all the Form B and disbarment announcements since January 2016, and created a spreadsheet to show just how much of an outlier Perry’s matter was.
The average time from disbarment to announcement in the Bulletin is 75 days, and from Form B Resignation to announcement is 62 days, which makes Perry’s 149 days very conspicuous.
The second longest was the announcement of Dale Roller’s disbarment, which appeared nearly a month faster than Perry’s, despite the fact that disbarments usually take longer to publish. The announcement of Matthew Wilson, disbarred nearly simultaneously with Perry, appeared in the issue three months before the one in which Perry will supposedly appear.
Ms. Walsh said that these announcements are written up by the OSB staff member that worked on the case, and are done when time and workload allows. She then alluded to another case that was occupying everyone’s time. #Foreshadowing.
The myth of the extensive media coverage
To further discredit my claims that the bar was trying to keep the Perry situation under wraps, Ms. Walsh praised her own numerous conversations with the Oregonian and the Corvallis Gazette-Times, which she claimed has had “regular and extensive coverage of the case over the past year.” Ms. Walsh further mentioned that “the Eugene Daily News also covered the case.”
Unfortunately for Ms. Walsh, the Eugene Daily News is a “content aggregator” that literally rips the headlines and the first few words of stories from actual news sites and surrounds them with ads for crappy t-shirts and breasts. The Eugene Daily News doesn’t even do it particularly well, it’s just a screaming headline and dead-linked clickdump.
This should have been painfully obvious — especially for someone in Media Relations — because the first lines on all these “news” sites are exactly the same as in the one article that was published in the Gazette-Times.
Ms. Walsh made these claims not knowing that I was the one who first tipped off Gazette-Times reporter Lillian Schrock to the story. Another of the reporters even attended a Linn County court hearing on my tip. Further, Ms. Walsh seems to have discouraged the paper from writing much about our complaint by telling Ms. Schrock that it wasn’t one of the five complaints against Perry that the OSB had actually finished processing, i.e. approved for formal charges. The OSB’s failure to process most of Perry’s complaints would beome a bigger issue later.
Regarding the Oregonian– Oregon’s largest paper, as Ms. Walsh noted — I first contacted them in October 2017. Things were chugging along until suddenly they weren’t. The story clearly got quashed. Same problem with the Polk Itemizer-Observer.
So no, there is no record of any extensive coverage, throughout the year, by multiple sources, or I would have found it. There was one article, written after Perry was disbarred, period. And no amount of frantic googling and spin on the part of the bar’s spokesperson is going to change that.
I suggested to Ms. Walsh that we speak on the phone.
She should not have picked up the phone
I recorded our call, as I often do, to protect myself against any more falsehoods designed to deter me or that might even be made about me personally, but also to preserve the record of my upstanding conduct.
During our 42-minute conversation, Ms. Walsh repeatedly rejected my line of questioning about the bar’s openness: denying that she or anyone at the bar was quashing stories; denying that there was a nefarious reason that Perry’s announcement had not yet appeared in the Bulletin; and denying that there was any deal made to keep Perry’s name or details of her case from reaching the public.
As our conversation progressed, it became obvious that, for someone who had been sent out to manage the situation, Ms. Walsh had not read Perry’s complaints cover to cover as I had. She was unware of such details as how often Moeller’s name appeared in them, that there had been an Unlawful Practice of Law complaint made against Perry while she was inactive, or even that there were criminal allegations made against Perry.
Ms. Walsh then repeatedly defended the OSB’s actions, affirmed its adherence to its mission statement, and praised its actions and transparency. She seemed uncomfortable and impatient with these questions, and even prickly at times. When asked if she thought that the bar had upheld and fulfilled the functions and values listed on its mission statement, notably their duty to protect the public, Ms. Walsh snapped “I do. She’s disbarred.”
True. But only because she quit.
We don’t usually disparage people, but when we do…
My last planned-in-advance question for Ms. Walsh was if she was aware of anyone at the bar that was personally disparaging me or discouraging other Perry victims from speaking with me.
Ms. Walsh seemed truly aghast by this question, and she carefully answered, “I don’t expect you to take my word for it, but generally speaking, we just don’t tend to go around disparaging people or complainants… or certainly not engaging in any kind of effort to shut down any lines of inquiries.”
Her answer was sincere and I believe her point: it’s not the OSB’s official policy to do such a thing. Unfortunately, somebody who works at the Oregon State Bar already had done such a thing: attorney Susan Cournoyer of the OSB’s Regulatory Services & Discipline office.
I learned of this distressing news through two other Perry complainants who had — unsolicited and separated by time and distance — blurted it out to me: that Cournoyer had ridiculed me and insinuated that I shouldn’t be spoken to. Even more disturbing, Cournoyer had personal knowledge about my family that could have only come from the gossipy, juvenile, and improperly channeled communications of someone working outside the scope of their position, yet comfortable in the security of it.
I’m very familiar with this type of person and this type of behavior, and have even written specifically about it. This conduct is designed solely to discredit a target and undermine their words and actions.
And as I’ve written, these people, working well outside the scope of their duties, while still giving the appearance of performing their jobs by the rules, often continue to double down on their behavior, hoping eventually to destroy their target and preserve their own status quo.
The OSB took steps to protect lawyers
“This was one of the cases where we had enough concern about the conduct in question that we were taking steps to be sure the community… was informed of the public records on the matter,” Ms. Walsh wrote in her initial email.
So let me put this in layman’s terms for you: area lawyers were warned. Or putting it even more bluntly, the OSB knew about a dangerous predator and texted its friends.
Because, as exhaustively demonstrated, the OSB most certainly did not warn the public. And most importantly, they most certainly did not warn the public in advance. Had they, I would have found evidence of those warnings on the IN-tər-net — which I absolutely know how to use, despite the OSB’s clear assumption that I do not.
Because of this most blatant lie, one gets the mental image of giant cartoon sacks of dollar signs being maneuvered into safe houses etc. etc. before the public finally heard about the mess, well after Perry’s disbarment order had been signed. And at that point, there was very little left for anyone to be warned about.
In short, the Oregon State Bar absolutely failed in their duty to protect the public.
Here’s what “protecting the community” looks like
This brings me to the second attorney, Andrew Long of Portland.
Starting in October 2017, a flurry of articles about Long appeared, mostly in the Portland Tribune. I read those stories as they were published due to my constant googling of the keywords “bad + Oregon + attorney.” In reading them, I had the same reaction that everyone in the public likely had: creep. I sent links to my partner saying “Look at this creep!”
This was arguably due almost exclusively to the fact that Long’s salacious fireworks show happened to be going off to the finale of the 1812 Overture that was the #MeToo movement.
In the very first article, Portland attorney Bonnie Richardson stated that while she was “not an expert on mental illness or substance abuse,” her belief was that Long had a “problem with substance abuse and with mental illness.”
In early November, the OSB issued a warning that Long presented “a substantial harm to his clients and to the public at large.” The allegations included that he had threatened a former employee with violence, that he had forced himself upon clients and employees sexually, and that he had showed up to court intoxicated. The warning, delivered in the form of a petition for Long’s interim suspension, described his conduct as “abhorrent” and “bizarre.”
Now, to our family, who was trying to get Perry’s practice suspended in the same manner, this was the way that the OSB should handle dangerous attorneys. From our perspective, Perry’s own misconduct and personal problems were different, but on par with Long’s: Perry had allegedly forged numerous court documents, continued to interfere with cases despite being inactive, and had personal and financial problems that most would reasonably presume affected her billing practices. It was dispiriting that Perry was not being dealt with in the same way that Long was.
Finally, Long’s license was suspended in December 2017, by order of the Oregon Supreme Court, pending a full disciplinary investigation.
In late March 2018, an article appeared in the Portland Tribune, written by the same author who had written the very first — and every subsequent story — about Long: Nick Budnick. This article was sub-headlined “State Justice: attorney Andrew Long is unstable.”
In his article, Budnick characterized Long’s behavior as “increasingly erratic.” Curiously, the March article would be the last Tribune article that was written about Long, up to and including today.
It took me a while to get there, but the word “erratic” crystalized it: Long was probably being mobbed. To my own embarrassment, my partner had already figured as much, but was waiting for me to catch up.
Now, my family knows what mobbing looks like: we’re victims of it; we testified at length about how it happened and what it currently looked like; and I even wrote an article specifically about mobbing.
The word “erratic,” and to a lesser extent “bizarre,” are often used by manipulative people as a sort of shorthand to stimulate the imagination of those who are in a position to take action against an “offender.” It becomes a sort of Rorschach word, spurring a mental image of whatever the listener equates with erratic behavior… anything from frantic zig-zagging on a sidewalk to spontaneous opera-singing in a bus station. Once the word “erratic” is said, a manipulator no longer has to provide any concrete details.
Armed with the mobbing suspicion, I dug around online to see if there was anything below the surface to learn. There was.
Online — yes, again with teh Google! — is where I found a previously overlooked ten-page letter authored by Long, addressed to Assistant Disciplinary Counsel of the Oregon State Bar, Susan Cournoyer, and dated October 12, 2017.
Curiously, the Tribune had received it — presumably from the OSB — and published it as a PDF the very same day. That’s certainly a level of expedited service that my public records requests are not enjoying. The PDF was then modified at least once, most recently on October 17, 2017 at 12:44.
Long’s letter is not the erratic rambling of an erratic bizarre erraticman. In fact, right on the first page, he talks credibly about issues with which my family is painfully familiar: his endurance of “traumatic violence,” his struggle to prevent the “alienation and/or other abuse” of his children, and his belief that the allegations against him in a letter from the OSB’s State Professional Responsibility Board (SPRB) “do not appear intended to protect the public so much as to damage me personally.”
I agree with Andrew Long. I then ordered his OSB file in early June and received it in July — the delay was my own in having paid for it slowly.
Of most interest to me was the “Special Master’s Report,” written by Justice Richard Baldwin, who had been directed to write the nineteen-page report by order of the Oregon Supreme Court. The report was “to determine whether continued suspension of the accused (Long) pending completion of disciplinary proceedings is warranted.”
The report was difficult to read due to my increasing belief that Long was being mobbed. Some of the same people quoted in the earliest Tribune articles appear in this report, apparently having testified for the OSB. One, Portland attorney Beth Creighton, was even in the comments section of the second article, handing out her phone number to potential complainants.
Justice Baldwin’s synopsis of Long’s own testimony appears near the end, is relegated to one page, and is then dismissed as tinfoil with the wave of a hand:
“Due to the accused’s serious emotional instability — as evidenced by his demeanor at hearing and his irrational statements — I do not find the accused’s testimony credible. I turn then to a brief summary of the testimony of accused’s other witnesses.”
This literally made me sick to my stomach. Granted, I was not there to see Long’s testimony, but I knew all too well how a true victim of abuse and trauma presents in court, having watched my own partner, who suffers from PTSD, perform a three-day trial, his voice frequently shaking, suffering from panic attacks, needing time-outs and not getting them, etc. The judge in our case had also discredited an abuse victim, seemingly because he was the incorrect gender.⁴
Of further note in Long’s file was an order signed at 8:48:12 PM, December 20, 2017 by Judge Steven Todd, quite suddenly demanding that $21,986.74 worth of parking tickets that Long allegedly owed to the county of Multnomah be paid.
This was the exact same day, coincidentally, that Long’s license to practice law was suspended by order of the Oregon Supreme Court.
In other words, the mobbing went into overdrive. I mean, how is a parking ticket bill even allowed to accrue to $22K — or $2K, for that matter — without quick intervention by the court?
A few weeks later, Nik Chourey of the OSB wrote Long, gleefully demanding that Long “agree that these unpaid parking tickets demonstrate that you lack ‘good moral character and fitness’ necessary to practice law because you do not respect the laws of Oregon.”
Yes, the same people telling Megan Perry’s victims that there was nothing to see here — not even the forged orders that Perry had herself handed them — were the same people dragging Andrew Long for unpaid parking tickets.
There is so much else in Long’s file and online that is prima facie improper... What was up with that first article? Who provided the lead? If Long was harassing or assaulting his assistants, how did that threaten “the public?” What on earth was driving this desperation to try him in the court of public opinion?
This matter demands its own article, and it shall be written. And by “shall” I mean I have a duty to.
More failure to protect the public
Further evidence of the OSB’s capricious, inequitable, and seemingly punitive handling of disciplinary matters lies in the case of the third attorney, Erik Graeff, also of Portland.
In August 2017, the OSB’s Client Assistance Office (CAO) received a complaint from an attorney who alleged that Graeff had physically assaulted a client by laying hands on her and shoving her against a wall. At the time of the assault, the police were called, her allegedly visible injuries were photographed, and she went to urgent care. The police report was not attached at that time because the attorney, Brooks Cooper, took the incident so seriously that he filed his complaint that very day.
Two weeks later, the CAO staff member handling the complaint sent a letter to Graeff asking for his account of the matter, and noted that Graeff’s alleged behavior may have violated a bar rule related to “criminal conduct.”
Then, on November 13, 2017, another complaint against Graeff came in, and was amended approximately two weeks later. In the amendment, the complainant attached an email allegedly from Graeff, in which Graeff had threatened to “simply break [complainants] goddamn face” and further stated, “I also keep licensed firearms in my office so you have been warned.” The complainant forwarded the police report number and officer’s name to the CAO.
The CAO staff member handling this complaint, different than the one in the first matter, sent a letter to Graeff curiously absent of any mention of the violent threat.
On December 26, Graeff responded to the November matter by attempting to discredit the complainant: calling the underlying matter “frivolous;” accusing the complainant “and his girlfriend” of being conspiracy theorists; characterizing their communications as “paranoid and delusional;” and warning the CAO staff member not to “be surprised when [they] turn and blame you for not handling this inquiry properly.”
It is noteworthy that Graeff was representing the complainant in an action in which attorney Dale Roller had previously represented them… the same Dale Roller who had been disbarred a few months prior and whose disciplinary announcement was second only to Megan Perry’s in terms of length of time that it took to appear in the OSB Bulletin.
On February 1, 2018, yet another complaint against Graeff rolled in, again with a disturbing email exhibit in which Graeff allegedly stated:
“YOU LISTEN TO ME YOU SON OF BITCH. I HAVE HAD IT WITH BAD REVIEWS FROM PEOPLE WHOSE CASE I DON’T TAKE. I WAS ATTENTIVE AND GENEROUS WITH YOU. TAKE YOUR FUCKING FRAUDULENT REVIEW DOWN, OR I WILL SHOW YOU A REAL LEGAL BATTEL.” [sic]
The complainant also forwarded a similarly “insulting and threatening” voicemail allegedly left by Graeff.
Less than a week later, without even having contacted Graeff about the February complaint, the CAO dismissed it, stating that the OSB does “not condone rudeness” but that the bar’s authority was limited to investigating violations of “rules or statutes governing lawyer conduct.”
Three weeks later, the Beaverton Police Department issued a news release announcing that Erik Graeff, “Portland Attorney,” had been arrested for allegedly firing five shots into the occupied office of a fellow attorney, narrowly missing a worker inside. Oh, and he may have a home meth lab in his basement.
The kicker? The shooting occurred on December 21st, 2017… just five days before Graeff had penned his blame-shifting response to the client whose face he had threatened to goddamn break.
The double kicker? He’s still licensed to practice law in Oregon.
The B apparently stands for “bullies”
A certain, acceptable amount of cronyism and favoritism in disciplinary matters — or in anything, really — is expected by most, however distasteful they may find it.
However, if you accept that cronyism and favoritism happen… then you must also accept that targeting and bullying happen.
And if you accept that an institution such as the OSB would go to such extreme lengths to discourage open communication in one matter, by willfully preventing victims from networking, deliberately lying to them, and even disparaging one to another… then you must also accept that the same institution would excessively broadcast and promote another matter by equally virulent and hysterical means, such as converting unpaid parking tickets into moral turpitude.
None of this behavior is in line with the OSB’s alleged mission, functions, and values. And none of this behavior protected the public from being victimized by predators, real or imaginary. Some might even call the OSB’s behavior erratic.
¹ I don’t disagree with them, and neither did the bar, issuing nominal refunds to those complainants.
² These people are working outside their well-defined duties, their bylaws, and even the OSB’s Rules of Professional Conduct, i.e. they are not acting in any professional capacity.
³ The new statutes are ORS 129.041, 411, 415, 422, 427 and 431. You’re welcome!
⁴ #MeToo for Men not available in Oregon.