Private influence and regulatory theater at the Oregon State Bar
Every attorney in the state should be alarmed by what their licensor did to their colleague Andrew Long, a respected legal scholar and former law professor with no history of misconduct: The Oregon State Bar converted Long’s minor personal problems into major professional ones in order to fabricate an outrageous disciplinary proceeding against him — all at the apparent bidding of one of Portland’s wealthiest and most powerful residents, Vanessa Sturgeon.
After they set Long’s reputation and life ablaze, the Bar then exploited him for their own political purposes, using their newly minted boogeyman to divert attention away from two attorneys who posed actual dangers to the public: Erik Graeff and Lori Deveny… You know, the guy who drove across town black-out drunk in order to fire six rounds into an associate’s office; and the former president of the influential Oregon Women Lawyers association, who stole millions from her brain-injured clients through forgery and identity theft.
Which is to say that the Bar is for purchase and will noisily engage in regulatory theater to distract from that fact. The record shows that the Bar will even bribe their own witnesses in order to achieve their twisted goals.
In a state already facing a constitutional crisis in its courts, the Bar’s disregard for due process and equal protection is an emergency for its licensees who depend on the unbiased regulation of the legal profession.
The Bar has run this play before and they will certainly run it again. Who will the Bar be persuaded to come after next?
Personal problems, powerful interests
On their own website it clearly states that the Bar “generally does not investigate matters that arise in a lawyer’s personal life, such as disputes with neighbors, creditors or spouses.”
Yet in fall 2017, the Bar took up Long’s landlord’s beef with him: an eviction that stemmed from an alleged physical assault that the supposed victim — his former roommate, Laura Roach — reported not to police, but instead to building staff.
The landlord was TMT Development, the closely held company of Vanessa Sturgeon, granddaughter of developer Tom Moyer and arguably Portland’s most influential and prominent property owner. TMT threatened that if Long didn’t immediately vacate his apartment in one of her buildings, it would “result in an eviction filing with an additional notification to the Oregon Bar.”
Long scoffed at the bizarre threat. He had a good reputation serving low-income Oregonians and he knew what his rights were. More importantly, he knew he had not assaulted Roach. Long has consistently stated that Roach had made her way into his apartment when he was out, and when he returned home, she appeared to be robbing him. Moreover, Long is a victim of domestic violence by his estranged wife, Amy Long. He does not use his fists to solve his problems.
Despite those facts, on the first day of his eviction trial less than a month later, Bar disciplinary attorney Susan Cournoyer showed up to court, wielding a notice of her subpoena to his bank for his lawyer trust account records.
Long had never been subject to any professional complaint that would have justified the Bar subpoenaing his financial records. He was flabbergasted.
Therefore, it strongly appeared that the Oregon State Bar had materialized solely at Vanessa Sturgeon’s beckoning.
Even more disturbing, on the last day of the eviction trial, the Bar informed Long that they would seek his immediate suspension.
Since that moment, Long has been thwarted from deposing Sturgeon by both the Bar and the courts, where she clearly wields considerable influence. But he has learned that Sturgeon was personally in contact with his wife’s custody lawyer at that time, feeding her false information and shrieking, once again, about an imaginary threat of danger.
What a very strange thing for an Oregon landlord to do, since Long’s custody proceeding occurred in a small town in central Florida.
From bad to worse
At the time of his eviction, Long had just learned that Roach and his then-office assistant Morgana Alderman had been communicating with his wife to arm her with information to use against Long in their custody fight. In texts Long later obtained, Roach referred to the women’s conspiratorial scheming as a “secret alliance” and said that it might be “entertaining” to watch Long “waste all the rest of his money” fighting the eviction case. Roach further posited that his wife “might be home free” in the custody case because of it.
Long’s custody matter was of tremendous concern to him. He was trying to rescue his children from an abuser against whom he previously had a restraining order — one that he had obtained by showing the court a video of his wife carrying out abusive violence in front of their kids. For her part, his wife had filed three false petitions for restraining orders, all of which had been dismissed at the first opportunity.
Long was shocked and angered by Roach and Alderman’s duplicity, and the dangerous situation that it had created for him and his kids. Long repeatedly let his ersatz friends know that their betrayal had hurt him deeply. Some of Long’s messages to the women were vulgar and regrettable, but none would have caused a reasonable person to fear for their safety. They were the growls of a bear protecting his cubs. Men do that, too.
Roach then suggested that Alderman try to get a restraining order against Long because it would “discredit the fuck out of him.” Despite the protected nature of Long’s speech (and Alderman’s text admission that she was not actually fearful for her safety), TMT’s attorney Bonnie Richardson stepped in and recruited attorney Beth Creighton for Alderman, who got a temporary stalking order against Long.
Simultaneously, Pamplin Media published a flurry of negative articles about Long, fed by information and documents supplied by the Bar in real time as they received it — often before it was screened or substantiated. In fact, for most of the next year, the Bar’s media relations specialist maintained regular communications with reporter Nick Budnick, keeping him updated on Long’s every misfortune, from which Budnick produced a dozen apparent hit pieces to damage Long’s reputation. The first such piece purported to cover the strange eviction trial and quotes Richardson inexplicably predicting that the Bar would move “swiftly and forcefully” against Long.
As Long struggled to gain control over his rapidly deteriorating personal situation, the Bar petitioned the Oregon Supreme Court for his suspension. In the Bar’s petition, Alderman and Richardson were the only fact sources listed.
The Bar then issued a rare press release, which labeled Long a harasser, and warned that he posed “a substantial threat of public harm.” It further alleged, without foundation or evidence, that Long had made “threats of violence against several individuals,” used his status as an attorney to “seek intimate relations with clients and employees,” had been “grossly intoxicated in court,” and was “engaging in frequent binge drinking and/or smoking methamphetamine” in his office. None of these damaging statements about Long would prove substantiated.
The Bar’s press release was wildly out of line with their conservative approach toward broadcasting concerns about their licensee’s professional problems, let alone their personal problems.
Meanwhile, Sturgeon had won an eviction judgement against Long, but was unable to remove him from his apartment during his appeal. Sturgeon was impatient. Soon, plumbers — who were in his apartment to unclog a drain — removed Long’s toilet without warning. Weeks later, the same plumbers removed his bath tub and shoved it into his bedroom.
With no bathroom and the local courts unwilling to assist him — one judge expressly prevented Long from presenting any evidence on this issue against TMT — Long began renting nightly rooms until he could figure out where to move. Long’s assistant Heidi Glick unknowingly booked him to stay in another of Sturgeon’s buildings. That building turned out to be where Sturgeon had apparently chosen to put up Alderman — an odd choice because it was literally a stone’s throw from Long’s apartment, and Alderman still had a restraining order against him.
Long’s room had been reserved under his own name, and the booking allowed him access to only a single floor, which was not the floor where Alderman resided. Despite this, on day two of his stay, when Long returned to his room for a quick lunch, one of Sturgeon’s employees made a call to police, claiming that Long was drunk and wandering around the building looking for Alderman.
Long says that when police arrived, they did not want to arrest him. They understood that his presence was a simple mistake.
Sturgeon stood in the lobby with her staff and, with the help of Alderman’s lawyer, Creighton, convinced the police to arrest Long. He would later learn that a local influential lobbying group of which Sturgeon was a key member — the controversial Portland Business Alliance — had privately financed the salaries of four Portland Police Bureau officers. It is yet unknown if the arresting officer was among those salaried by the business alliance.
Long was originally charged with a single misdemeanor count of violating the restraining order. Then Sturgeon herself appeared, along with Creighton, to oppose Long’s release from jail the next morning. Despite his clean record, status as an attorney, and understandable reason for renting the room, the court did not release him. Instead, it raised his bail to $100,000 on a Friday afternoon. This required $10,000 cash for Long to be released, which could not be paid over the weekend.
But it wasn’t just any weekend, as Sturgeon made clear that she knew in an interview with Pamplin’s reporter.
On Monday morning, Long was supposed to be in Florida to oppose his wife’s motion to suspend his visitation with his kids, which was based mainly on — and yet filed on the exact same day as — the Bar’s petition for his suspension.
Now broke, Long was assigned a public defender. But shortly thereafter, a new public defender substituted into his case: the son of a former mayoral candidate whose campaign had allegedly received illegal donations for which Sturgeon had been charged with a felony. That case had quietly disappeared without trial even after an Oregon Supreme Court opinion reinstated it.
Long was told by his lawyer’s office that his one-count misdemeanor trial would be televised; and without explanation, now-former Multnomah District Attorney Rod Underhill assigned his top felony prosecutor to the case.
Able to read the writing on the wall, Long borrowed the money to hire a private attorney. At his first court appearance with private counsel, the prosecution then filed an additional seventeen counts against Long based on the same conduct as the original charge.
Long refused to plead guilty to the unjustifiable charges, and pushed his new attorney to get basic discovery, such as the security video from Sturgeon’s building, or anything that may have shown Sturgeon’s influence. It went like that for three years before the new DA, Mike Schmidt, quietly dismissed sixteen of the charges in April 2021, and Long pleaded no contest to the other two so he could finally move on with his life.
It’s important to remember the timing of this mess: The Bar thrust Long into the spotlight in fall 2017, at the very height of the #MeToo movement, which, coincidentally, was the nadir of due process.
Then-Chief Justice Thomas Balmer of the Oregon Supreme Court was solely responsible for deciding the Bar’s petition to suspend Long. Despite the thin gruel that the Bar fed him, Justice Balmer allowed himself to get caught up in the Bar’s frenzied mood, and suspended Long on December 20, 2017. As paraphrased by Long, he was suspended “supposedly for sending angry texts to his former legal assistant who lied to him to interfere with his ability to litigate custody of his children.”
In plain English: Now-former Chief Justice Thomas Balmer suspended Long for truthfully telling a disgusting human being that she was disgusting.
The very next day, December 21, 2017, Portland attorney Erik Graeff drove black out drunk across town and fired six shots into a colleague’s office, narrowly missing the head of a worker inside.
The Bar learned of Graeff’s violence when the Beaverton Police issued their own press release about him in February 2018. Amber Hollister, the Bar’s then-General Counsel, forwarded the press release to the Client Assistance Office — not the Disciplinary Office — recommending that they “open a matter.”
However, Graeff had already been on the Bar’s radar for several months before the shooting, and Hollister should have known that: The Bar had received separate complaints that Graeff had recently physically assaulted one client, verbally threatened another with a gun, and left an unhinged and abusive message for a third.
But just weeks before learning of the shooting, the Bar had dismissed that third complaint, stating that the Bar does “not condone rudeness,” and that “Graeff’s angry words” to a client “do not violate” the Bar’s rules or statutes.
Despite the danger that he clearly posed to colleagues and clients — not to mention drivers and pedestrians — the Bar did not immediately seek Graeff’s suspension, nor did they issue their own warning to the public… not even when it was discovered that Graeff was cooking meth in his basement.
The Bar instead allowed Graeff his due process through the criminal courts and waited nearly a full year to act against his law license, suspending him by agreement just before he went to prison. Otherwise, it probably would have been awkward for the Bar to have a literal jailhouse lawyer on their hands.
And when the time came for the Oregon State Bar to discipline Graeff, he was merely suspended for five years. Yet Graeff is disbarred in Washington and California, where his criminal acts did not take place.
Custodianship over a law practice
Just two days after Long was interim suspended, and with little warning, the Bar petitioned the court for custodianship over his law practice under a seldom-used statute generally reserved for dead, jailed, or formally disciplined attorneys.
Armed with their court order, the Bar immediately stormed his office along with several Multnomah Sheriff deputies who had been primed by the Bar for a dangerous confrontation with Long, their fictional monster.
Long and his girlfriend were distressed by the exaggerated threat of force. But their fear turned to bewilderment when the Bar left with only Long’s current clients’ paper files, failing to collect any electronic data or financial records. Briefly, Long was left to wonder why Cournoyer had subpoenaed records from his bank only to completely ignore his own financial records that provided context and explanations for the transactions listed in the bank documents.
Their plan was quickly understood, though, when Cournoyer wrote to Long’s clients, inviting them to assert that Long owed then money. Sure enough, those clients started filing financial claims, with Cournoyer’s help, through the Bar’s Client Security Fund (CSF) — a general fund which reimburses victims for a financial loss due to attorney misconduct. In other words, the Bar was seeking to arrange payments to any of Long’s clients who were willing to say that he owed them money, often without anyone ever actually asking Long whether he believed the money was due or planned to pay, let alone any determination of financial misconduct.
Those claims normally would have been denied, according to the Bar’s own strict CSF requirements, yet the Bar approved nearly all of the claims, at least for those clients who showed willingness to testify against Long. Only one client who sought payment and testified for the Bar was denied — and he was in federal prison for fraud.
One client’s claim was initially denied only to be mysteriously reopened after the client testified. That client was refunded approximately $20,000 — an amount representing all fees the client had paid to Long for a year of representation. That means that the Bar determined that the total value of Long’s work for that client was $0.00.¹
Another CSF claim was that of felon Shannon Williams, who alleged a theft of $31,689 by Long. This claim would soon become the centerpiece of the Bar’s case against him. Williams alleged that Long had begun stealing her money the very same day that Cournoyer arrived at Sturgeon’s eviction trial with notice of the Bar’s subpoena for his trust account — an odd time for an attorney to start stealing from his trust account.
The Bar failed to investigate the claim properly or interview witnesses. Williams had never reported the supposed theft to police or anyone else when, in 2018, she finally answered Cournoyer’s third letter soliciting claims against Long. After further communications with Cournoyer, it appears they fabricated the story of theft over a breakfast at Shari’s on the outskirts of town.
Williams signed a claim for $31,689 in June 2018. Long, however, didn’t receive notice of the claim until after the Bar had already approved it for payment in February 2019. By then, as General Counsel Hollister curtly told Long, it was too late for him to challenge it.
Williams gave tortured and contradictory testimony regarding the supposed theft at Long’s disciplinary trial. Her uncorroborated testimony was the Bar’s only evidence that theft had even occurred, let alone that Long committed it.
Essentially, Williams, a felon, said that a friend told her that Long stole her money.
The Bar didn’t cut Williams a check until just after she testified in June 2019, despite having approved her claim for payment months earlier. Apparently, the Bar wanted to be sure they got their money’s worth before Hollister signed the check.
Even if the Bar didn’t tell Williams exactly what to say to get paid, she must have understood that she needed to convincingly repeat the details of the claim that Cournoyer helped her write in order to be paid $31,689 as the supposed victim of a crime she still had not reported to police. Williams was likely also concerned that contradicting her original story might make her vulnerable to prosecution for fraudulently requesting the money.
Williams’ testimony became the main justification for disbarring Long. That the Bar’s lawyers had blatantly bribed their witness, or intimidated her — both felonies — did not seem to matter. One imagines Hollister and Cournoyer congratulating each other for their work, while sending a check to Williams, paid for by CSF fees that come out of the pockets of every Bar licensee.
At the same time that the Bar was busy strip-mining Long’s client files, rubber-stamping CSF claims against him, and converting them into new disciplinary charges, the Bar was equally busy trying to help their friend Lori Deveny buy her way out of her mounting legal troubles.
Deveny was the former president of both Oregon Women Lawyers and Oregon Women Lawyers Foundation — two influential specialty bar associations that are effectively branches (for better or for worse) of the Oregon State Bar and the Oregon Judicial Department.
The Bar first officially learned that there was a problem with Deveny in fall 2017, when a client whom she had been stringing along for years filed a professional complaint. That client, Carol Brown, discovered that Deveny had secretly settled Brown’s auto accident claim, and had stolen Brown’s share through forgery and identity theft.
Credible allegations of forgery by an attorney are supposed to be grounds for immediate suspension, according to the Oregon Supreme Court. Yet the Bar did almost nothing for over four months, while Deveny blew off their inquiry letters and the Bar blew off their duty to protect the public.
The Bar even failed to alert the other licensee in Lori’s household, Robert Deveny, that his wife was probably a forger, a thief, and a fraud, and was avoiding their very important calls.
Robert committed suicide — according to Lori, the sole witness — on March 12, 2018.
The Bar wrote a petition to suspend Deveny two weeks later. She finally responded and attempted to gain sympathy by invoking Robert’s death. The Bar then allowed Deveny to stipulate to the suspension and dictate her own favorable terms.
As additional credible complaints against her began to roll into the Bar, Deveny voluntarily resigned her law license. While her resignation was pending approval, the Bar finally issued their first public warning about Deveny, stating that she posed a threat of “public harm.” That warning came in late June 2018, nearly eight months after they had first learned about her forgery and fraud.
Despite her resignation, Deveny continued to practice law that summer and into the fall, settling insurance claims and misleading clients, some of whom were impaired or otherwise vulnerable.
The Bar was repeatedly informed about Deveny’s ongoing legal work and her failure to comply with the terms of her resignation, specifically her refusal to surrender her files to her successor.
Yet the Bar dragged their feet for several more months before acting, finally petitioning the court for custodianship over her practice under the same statute as in Long’s case.
Unfortunately for her clients, the Bar gave Deveny a two week heads up about the petition.
And rather than kick her door down with sheriff deputies in tow as they had done with Long, the Bar instead allowed Deveny to casually bring over cherrypicked files now and then, and only when it suited her interests.
Deveny tactically withheld certain files for years, and may even now still be withholding some.
The Bar’s dishonest filings in their custodianship case reveal that their actions were not intended to protect the public, as the custodianship statute was designed for, but to protect Deveny from legal consequences by laundering her files through their own office and sheltering evidence there.
Most of Deveny’s clients — especially CSF claimants — first learned of her resignation from the police, or google, or a friend. Almost none of them learned about the situation from the Bar. The letter the Bar sent out to Deveny’s clients after it took custody of her files looked considerably different from the letter that they had sent out to Andrew Long’s clients. The Bar was not interested in additional bar complaints against Deveny, or any more expensive CSF claims — even though the Bar was making findings that Deveny had “earned” her cut of the stolen money, even in cases involving forgery and identity theft.
Perhaps most telling was that in January 2019, General Counsel Amber Hollister wrote an article for the Bar’s monthly magazine which misleadingly implied that Long and seven other men were solely responsible for the enormous increase in CSF claim payouts that Oregon licensees would have to fund.
Lori Deveny’s name was nowhere to be found in Amber Hollister’s dishonest article, despite Hollister’s personal knowledge that 26 CSF claims were presently pending against Deveny, amounting to nearly $2 million in stolen client funds.
The same year that she calculatingly used Long to distract from Deveny, Hollister was the current President of Oregon Women Lawyers. It was under her watch that Deveny’s name was discretely removed from the list of past presidents on the Oregon Women Lawyer’s website.
And when Deveny was finally charged in Multnomah court, on 92 charges of identity theft and forgery comprising millions of dollars in stolen settlements, Deveny’s bail was set at zero dollars.
A Supreme failure
All of the false charges that the Bar used to suspend Long in late 2017 simply evaporated, like the thin gruel they were.² According to plan, they were replaced with a new set of false charges that the Bar mined from his files after they seized his practice.
Put simply, the Bar dishonestly suspended Long so they could turn his satisfied clients into actual victims, then exploit them in order to disbar Long. That’s a treadmill that would be impossible for anyone to get off of.
The Bar’s wildly uneven application of resources and attention regarding Long, Graeff, and Deveny shows that Long did not receive “equal protection of the laws” guaranteed by the United States Constitution, but that is merely one of the many ways that the Fourteenth Amendment is being trampled in Oregon to disbar Long. It isn’t only the Bar’s attorneys, either.
It seems fairly obvious that due process problems are likely when a judge sits in judgment of his own decision, but the Oregon Supreme Court apparently disagrees.
Then-Chief Justice Balmer was the only signatory on the order suspending Long without a hearing in 2017 and the subsequent orders confirming the suspension in 2018. When it came time to finally determine whether he would be allowed to practice again, Long requested that Justice Balmer recuse himself or be disqualified because he had an obvious stake in confirming his prior orders.
At that point, a ruling in Long’s favor would have meant that Justice Balmer was responsible for unjustly suspending an innocent attorney for four years, destroying his practice and otherwise excellent reputation. It might have even triggered questions about the Bar’s conduct in other questionable cases. It is no surprise that Balmer remained on the case and joined (maybe even authored) the opinion to disbar Long.
Disqualification is relevant to due process here in another way too. The Bar’s adjudicator, Mark Turner, presides over all Oregon attorney disciplinary trials and writes all trial panel opinions. In the first two years that Long was suspended, Turner demonstrated bias against Long so blatant that even the Bar didn’t challenge Long’s motion to disqualify him. When the motion was granted, Turner made his bias even more obvious by immediately demanding reconsideration. The disqualification was upheld and Long became the first attorney ever to successfully disqualify the Bar’s adjudicator.
Not that it mattered. The Oregon Supreme Court relied heavily on Turner’s opinion, written just before he was disqualified, in its opinion disbarring Long for supposedly stealing from Williams. Just like it failed to mention the Bar’s blatant bribery of Williams, the disbarment opinion tracks Turner’s reasoning without any mention of major problems in Turner’s handling of the case. For example, Turner conveniently failed to include several of Long’s key exhibits in the official record that he sent to the court, including a defamatory email from Sturgeon to his wife’s Florida custody attorney, sent just before the Bar’s assault began in 2017.
Further, neither the Bar nor the Oregon Supreme Court ever told Long which rule he was at risk of being suspended under — the 2017 and 2018 Bar rules regarding interim disciplinary suspension are substantively different, and the Bar made conflicting arguments about which rule applied at various times. How can a person even play a game, let alone defend himself, if he isn’t even permitted to know the basic rules of the game?
If there was any question about the Bar’s approach to Long, one need only look at their statements on the record at the very first hearing it held against him in February 2018 — well before the Bar could state any complaint that could realistically justify disbarment, and just as it was soliciting his clients with the promise of payments for complaints against Long.
Cournoyer stated, “The bar intends to… see what we can do about getting [Long] disbarred.”
And that’s precisely what they did. The Bar decided to disbar Long, then set about finding ways to do it.
Long, his girlfriend, and a client who testified on his behalf all recall how strange it seemed to them, at that February 2018 hearing, when they saw Sturgeon, an allegedly busy and important businesswoman, sitting in the front row and staring vigilantly at the Bar’s supposedly neutral judge for nearly two full business days, more than any other person not required to be there. Why would a person’s landlord spend such a large chunk of time at a hearing in which she was not a witness?
It is impossible that the Oregon Supreme Court is ignorant of the Fourteenth Amendment, which prohibits people like Bar staffers from depriving someone like Andrew Long of property like his law license without a fair procedure.
But it is equally impossible that the Oregon Supreme Court believes that Andrew Long received the due process and equal protection guaranteed by that amendment.³
The few remaining plausible theories that explain this excruciating catastrophe are themselves unsettling: the Oregon Supreme Court negligently abandoned its duty to oversee the Bar, and, having realized its error, became invested in perpetuating the Bar’s farce; the court is protecting Justice Balmer, whose legacy stands to become tarnished; or the court flat out didn’t read Long’s briefs. That last theory is compelling since Long appeared on his own behalf and the Bar repeatedly misrepresented his legal arguments in their own briefs.
Long states, “What really troubles me about the Oregon Supreme Court’s opinion is that nothing in it suggests that the author had ever read my briefs. I pointed this out in a motion to reconsider, which I also have no reason to believe was actually read.”
That’s not acceptable in any case, but particularly when someone’s very life and liberty are at stake. And while the Oregon State Bar may be precisely the regulatory agency that its apathetic or oblivious licensees deserve, the public requires better.
Long’s disbarment is currently with the Supreme Court of the United States.
¹ That client was refunded around $20,000 — an amount representing all fees paid to Long over a year of representation in which Long had initiated litigation that was ultimately successful for the client, handled an appeal of a different matter for the client, and assisted the client in filing administrative complaints against an entity that was ultimately sanctioned.
² Officially, the charges against Long were dismissed after the Oregon Supreme Court rejected a trial panel decision that sought to disbar Long on a default order entered with no notice, when Long was an hour late to the second day of trial because of a sudden stomach virus. As Long pointed out in his brief to the Court, disbarring him on that basis would conflict with all relevant English and American precedent going back at least 300 years.