Leave it to the Oregon State Bar to trick the state legislature into enacting a law which enriches the Bar while inflicting harm upon others.
This latest assault grants the Bar an exclusive extrajudicial legal apparatus through which it can mint money judgments that can be put into collection through Oregon’s Department of Revenue. This essentially gives the Bar its own court whose judgments are not subject to appeal, and creates debts that are unconstitutional for lack of due process.
Everyone should be disturbed at the thought of the Oregon State Bar operating its own court, especially given their feverishly political conduct of late. But their licensees in particular should be alarmed.
And last week, the new law got taken for a test drive by Bar General Counsel Amber Hollister, whose job, perhaps not coincidentally, was listed on the Bar’s website that same week.
A little backstory: The new law (actually an amended old law) affects the Bar’s ability to recoup money that it pays out to victims of attorney misconduct through the Bar’s Client Security Fund (CSF). Before, the Bar would make a CSF award to a victim and then the Bar could try to recover the money directly from the offending attorney. The updated law now gives the Bar considerable collection muscle from the Department of Revenue.
The Bar deceptively marketed this as a way to reduce attorneys’ out-of-pocket costs while “protecting the public,” because when the Bar cannot collect from the dishonest attorneys, it collects from the honest ones instead. Every year. And while those fees may seem low to a non-lawyer (anywhere from $10–45 per lawyer, per year), the fee is on top of already high Bar dues and steep mandatory malpractice insurance run by the Bar.
The Bar’s new law was amended in 2019 after an astonishingly bad year for CSF claims, almost entirely due to the misadventures of disgraced former attorney Lori Deveny. The law is one of two pieces of legislation enacted as a result of Deveny’s misconduct, which included forging the signatures of her head-injured clients and stealing their settlement money — Lori’s Laws, if you will.
But as is true with every new or preexisting law or rule the Bar must abide, Lori’s Law is being unleashed on attorney Andrew Long instead. (And if you are an attorney who is not familiar with Long’s case, you should read up on it, particularly the source material, not the Bar’s narrative, and ask yourself whether the Bar might decide to come after you some day.)
Long was suspended by the Bar in late 2017 under what he maintains are false pretenses that were, in any event, personal matters (i.e. not professional/Bar matters). Because Long is ethical, he was unable to continue working on his clients’ cases while suspended. He also had nobody to take his active client files, and told the Bar so. Just two days after his suspension, the Bar took custodianship of Long’s practice over his objection, and dramatically marched in with armed sheriff’s deputies to seize his files.
Once the Bar had Long’s files, they set about contacting all his clients and urging them to file CSF claims against him and allege theft and/or conversion. That is to say, the Bar manufactured claims against Long by: falsely suspending him, aggressively promoting media stories about the danger he supposedly posted to the public, using the suspension to seize his practice, and then mining the files for victims. Those manufactured “victims” were then effectively paid to testify in Bar proceedings initiated against Long.¹
It is important to note that no civil or criminal proceedings have arisen from the claims of theft and conversion by these purported victims, despite the Bar’s entreaties to the Multnomah County District Attorney.
In contrast, Lori Deveny was also facing CSF claims during this same time period, for far more serious and numerous and credible allegations of forgery, fraud, and theft. The damages she inflicted are now known to be in excess of $3.5 million. Despite the severity of her conduct, the Bar did not immediately suspend Deveny and instead allowed her to continue practicing law well after her voluntary resignation.
Once the Bar was finally pressed into action five months later, it took begrudging custodianship over her practice — after giving her a two-week warning. And rather than busting in with law enforcement, the Bar simply allowed Deveny to bring her files to the Bar when she felt like it, each time pinky-swearing that it was everything.
Most egregiously, after the Bar took over Deveny’s files, instead of immediately notifying her clients (or the public) of the threat she posed or urging the filing of CSF claims, the Bar did nothing except help Deveny hide evidence which could be used against her.
The Bar’s assertion that they immediately sent letters to her clients is false, as demonstrated by client after client asserting that they first heard of Deveny’s “problems” through the media, the police, a friend, or through Google. Not one CSF claimant says that they were first alerted to Deveny’s conduct by the Bar.
Despite these stunning disparities, last Friday, Andrew Long received a letter from Bar General Counsel Amber Hollister demanding repayment of nearly $60,000 in CSF awards the Bar had made to his “victims.” The most recently available records show that Deveny has received no such letter from the Bar.
The largest of the awards ($31,689.29) made against Long was to client S. Williams. Her claim is significant for many reasons: Long received no notice of it until after it was approved, at which time he was not allowed to challenge it and there was “no avenue to appeal” it; Williams was not paid the money until the day after “she had performed as the Bar’s star witness,” (the only witness to accuse Long of theft); and Williams declined to file a bar complaint against Long.² Long denies that he stole or converted any of William’s funds, and the Bar was even forced to print a retraction of sorts regarding the award. And as noted above, criminal prosecutors declined to take the matter up despite the Bar pressing for them to do so.
The second largest of the awards ($18,000) was to clients H. and H. Mitchell. Their combined awards were at first denied by the Bar, but then reopened and approved after they provided testimony during the Bar’s disciplinary case against Long. Disturbingly, the $18,000 represented all the money that the Mitchells had ever paid Long, for a year of work that Long established he did for them.³ That is to say, the Bar determined that Long’s year of work was worth $0, and refunded the Mitchells 100% of their $18,000.
Again, this all lies in stark contrast to Deveny: In claim after claim against her, the Bar ruled that she had “earned” her 33.3% fee — even in cases in which she forged the client’s signature to steal their settlement money… as if forgery, fraud, and theft constitute legitimate “work” under the Bar’s standards.
It does not take much brainpower to understand that Deveny — who clearly intended to steal as much money as quickly and easily as possible — was not negotiating with the clients’ best interests in mind. Without any apparent consideration of this probability, let alone investigation of it, the Bar concluded that Deveny “earned” her 33.3%.
It is therefore reprehensible that the Bar compensated Deveny’s victims only 66.6% of their stolen money, while returning 100% of Long’s earned funds. It reflects shamefully on the Bar’s ethics and feeds negative stereotypes about the legal profession.
The day after receiving the Bar’s letter, Long sent Hollister a strongly worded email cautioning the Bar not to pursue collection through the Department of Revenue, citing the lack of “full judicial process” in the matter and the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
As a very important aside, according to the Bar’s own rules, CSF awards are not supposed to be made until after an attorney is found guilty of a crime (in court) or after the victim has obtained a civil judgment (in court) against the attorney.⁴
The Bar bent that rule to greenlight almost all of Deveny’s claims quickly in order to get her name quietly out of the limelight, and also because the avalanche of state and federal charges against her were presumed to be true.
But for Long, the Bar broke the rule apparently as part of their overall effort to disbar him. The motivations for that effort are still not fully understood, but comparing the Bar’s treatment of Long with that of Deveny shows that the Bar’s stated reasons for prosecuting Long — and now, for threatening to enlist the Oregon Department of Revenue to collect $60,000 from an attorney who has not been allowed to work since 2017 — are merely a pretext for something else unstated. Long has argued, in the Oregon Supreme Court and elsewhere, that the case against him is driven by powerful, wealthy, and politically well-connected private interests and have no connection to the Bar’s stated purpose of protecting the public. The handling of the CSF claims against him tends to support that view or, at least, offers no tenable alternative explanation.
More immediately, the comparison of the Bar’s handling of the CSF claims against Long and Deveny paints a picture that should be especially disturbing to Oregon attorneys: Not only are they underwriting the Bar’s drive to manufacture “victims” to unjustly disbar Long, but they are also picking up the tab for Deveny’s sickening misconduct.⁵
There is no room for corruption and politics in the regulation of the legal profession in any state. If the legislature and licensees are either too intimidated or too naïve to stand up to the out-of-control Bar, then the task of correcting its conduct is left to the Oregon Supreme Court — which most certainly cares about the U.S. Constitution and the rights guaranteed therein.
¹ All of Long’s former clients who filed CSF claims and testified had their claims paid — except one whose claim was not paid and who testified from federal prison for defrauding old people out of their savings. But, the CSF committee denied, and did not re-open, the CSF claims of Long’s former clients who did not provide testimony. For instance, former client D. Grotz filed a CSF claim for $19.581.00. His claim was denied prior to trial. Grotz did not testify for the Bar and his claim was not reopened.
² Bar staff Susan Cournoyer took extraordinary care to walk Williams through the CSF process, even meeting up with her in a Gresham diner. Cournoyer is in the Office of Disciplinary Counsel, not the Office of General Counsel that normally handles CSF claims
³ Retired attorney Roger Hennagin testified at Long’s Bar proceeding that he resumed the litigation that Long had started for the Mitchells and recovered money for them. See Multnomah County Case No. 16CV26020. It appears Long filed the initial and first amended complaint, and that he successfully defended it against a motion to dismiss.
⁴ In CSF claims under $5,000, an award can be made after an attorney has been disciplined by the Bar for their misconduct, without the need for the victim to obtain a judgment in court.