Unsupervised Play

The Oregon State Bar’s accountability crisis

Childish. Vindictive. Bullying. One-dimensional. Secretive. Corrupt. Shameless. Delusional. Sexist.

Those are some of the words that come to mind when contemplating recent actions by top staff at the Oregon State Bar (OSB). Their conduct in several disciplinary cases and other matters have exposed that CEO Helen Hierschbiel and General Counsel Amber Hollister are not fit to serve in such key positions at the state agency.¹

The spectacle they’ve created has caused damage to both the OSB and the legal profession; and their attempts to cover up or explain away their actions have widened the debris field. Hierschbiel and Hollister must resign or they must be removed.

They must also face criminal investigations for abusing the processes they are supposed to protect.

For those unfamiliar with the position, General Counsel is the chief lawyer of a company or government agency. In that role, Hollister has a duty to identify legal issues which may affect the OSB and advise the CEO about them, protecting the agency from liability.

In fall 2017, Hollister got her first opportunity to fully reveal what her vision of protection looked like. That was when three attorney disciplinary cases emerged that are still having long-term consequences for the OSB.

Two of the three attorneys belonged to the influential specialty bar group, Oregon Women Lawyers (OWLS). At the time, Hollister was the vice-president of OWLS.

One attorney, Megan Moeller (aka Megan Perry), had been licensed for only four years but already had twelve bar complaints — another eleven came thundering in that fall. The second attorney, Lori Deveny, had been licensed for nearly 30 years without a single complaint. She was a former president of OWLS and deeply involved with Portland’s legal community.

Both women were credibly accused by former clients of theft, forgery, and fraud. Both quickly resigned their law licenses rather than face OSB investigations. Both are currently defending state criminal charges related to their “work” as attorneys. There is also a federal case against Deveny. If convicted, Deveny will certainly go down as the worst attorney crime spree in OSB history. Financial claims made against her to the OSB’s Client Security Fund (CSF)² total upwards of $2,500,000.

In February 2018, Hollister’s office received a tip from an Albany attorney alerting her that Moeller (and her husband and legal partner, Erik Moeller) had destroyed evidence of their misconduct — presumably material which ultimately belonged to their clients.

Hollister could have done many things with this tip: she could have petitioned the Supreme Court for Moeller’s immediate suspension or alerted the proper law enforcement agency of the criminal conduct. Instead, the tipster was ignored and told to relax because the OSB had more than enough to disbar Moeller — as if disbarment was a suitable punishment for crimes.

Moeller’s clients (and their opponents) suffered irreparable prejudice because of the OSB’s refusal to notify law enforcement. It also appears that the OSB interfered with civil cases and retaliated against Moeller’s complainants.

Similarly, even though Hollister knew that Deveny was still practicing law after her resignation and refusing to relinquish control of her client files, Hollister failed to act quickly. When she finally did act, Hollister tried to negotiate with Deveny rather than move for her contempt or notify law enforcement. Hollister eventually reluctantly petitioned for custody of Deveny’s practice, but only after working out the terms in advance with her. One can easily imagine how Deveny utilized the two weeks “heads up” that Hollister graciously gave her.

In January 2019, Hollister wrote her annual CSF recap for the OSB’s monthly magazine. In it, instead of acknowledging the smoking crater Deveny had made in the fund, Hollister wrote instead about eight other attorneys who were mostly disbarred or dead.

All eight attorneys also happened to be men.

Interestingly, the combined amount of their CSF claims was $152,109, i.e. just 6% of the $2,500,000 in claims filed against Deveny. More interestingly, Hollister made sure to memorialize in OSB documents that Deveny somehow earned a third of the money that she allegedly stole, even in instances in which she allegedly forged her clients’ signatures.

At the time she wrote her deceptive article, Hollister was also the president of OWLS. Under her ten-month leadership there, Deveny’s name was removed from the list of past presidents on OWLS’ website, as though that solved some problem.

A few months after Hollister’s premature departure from her presidency, OWLS made the mature and transparent decision to restore Deveny’s name to their website.

The third attorney — whose disciplinary case emerged at the same time that Hollister was occupied protecting her fellow OWLS — was that of Andrew Long.

Long was not accused of theft or forgery or fraud, credibly or otherwise. In fact, most of his clients rallied around him. Instead, his problems began when he dared to resist his powerful landlord’s efforts to evict him from his apartment. Almost immediately, the building manager threatened involvement by the OSB, Long’s licensor, as though the landlord wielded influence there.

The OSB did indeed become quickly involved, showing up at Long’s eviction trial and serving him with subpoenas — for no known reason — for financial records related to his business accounts.

Things devolved quickly from there. As the seemingly coordinated effort between the landlord, the OSB, and the District Attorney unfolded, Long kept calmly telling himself that the law and bar rules were on his side, cooler heads and due process would prevail, and that he would back to his normal life in no time.

Over two years later, that still hasn’t happened.

Hollister did a lot of the heavy lifting to ensure that Long’s troubles were compounded daily. As General Counsel, it was Hollister who allowed the documents about Long that flowed into the OSB to be released to the media in almost real time, without redaction or even screening. This was done under the pretense of public protection, but appears mostly to be an attempt to defame him.

Hollister’s office also neglected to ensure that Long was provided with a copy of a CSF claim against him, denying him the opportunity to contest the claim. The claim was approved in early 2019, but payment was withheld until the former client testified against Long four months later. On the last scheduled day of that trial, Hollister cut a $31,689 check.

For her part, OSB CEO Helen Hierschbiel directly responded to another of Long’s former clients who had filed a CSF claim, even asking that his emails be forwarded to her. Hierschbiel personally walked the client through the CSF process, sent him documents, gave him updates about his claim, and instructed staff to open a disciplinary case against Long. The amount in dispute was $2,500, or .1% of the total CSF claims filed against Deveny.

This lavish and individualized attention given by Hierschbiel — who pointedly ignored the direct pleas of Moeller’s victims — was extraordinary. It appears that Hierschbiel was heavily invested in widening the scope of the investigation against Long. The impression that Hierschbiel was concerned about any one client or victim was purely inadvertent.

At a hearing last fall, in the OSB’s case for custodianship of Deveny’s files, Hollister thanked the judge for agreeing to see her in his chambers on such short notice. Embarrassingly for Hollister, though, the hearing was being held in open court, not off the record, as she had hoped.

Hollister corrected herself and continued with her script, which guided her to express how “terrible” the OSB felt about the “mistake” which had necessitated the hearing: their failure to properly keep track of the hundreds of Deveny’s client files. Hollister admitted that the OSB had recently “discovered” seventeen boxes sitting in their offices, a full year after they took possession of them.

Unfortunately for Deveny’s clients and the public, the OSB’s “mistake” appears to have been a misguided attempt to account for client names missing from the official list that the OSB gave federal investigators — names that turned up elsewhere and whose absence was conspicuous.

As if that wasn’t bad enough, Hollister and Hierschbiel filed a jaw-dropping 700+ pages in response to an intervention by myself — one in which I pointed out a handful of irregularities in the OSB’s case. The OSB’s overkill response, half of which was from Hierschbiel alone, amounted to ‘Volin is wrong and not a real journalist.’

If that were actually true, that argument could be made in less than five pages. Their voluminous filing simply highlighted Hollister’s and Hierschbiel’s desperation to distract from their own shocking behavior.

In her declaration, Hierschbiel made the inexplicable claim that a public records request for information from the OSB is equivalent to making an allegation about the OSB, i.e. if I ask for the OSB’s records of flying monkeys, I am accusing the OSB of having flying monkeys.

Hierschbiel, as a presumably competent attorney and the head of a government agency, should at the very least understand Oregon’s public records statutes, why they were enacted, and how vital a role they serve for the public and the media.

Under Hierschbiel’s leadership, the OSB recently updated their mission statement. It previously included a brief passage on accountability: “The bar is accountable for its decisions and actions and will be transparent and open in communication with its various constituencies.”

The entire passage was removed last summer. It is clear that the OSB believes they are accountable to no one, and owes no one the duty of transparency.

Truthfully, on paper, it is hard to determine to whom the Oregon State Bar is accountable and who can jettison Helen Hierschbiel and Amber Hollister. The answer appears to be the Board of Governors. A whistleblower would also get the job done, if anyone at the OSB could be brave and report the criminal conduct they’ve seen.

But there is certainly enough dissension among the OSB’s 16,000 licensees that pressure can be exerted from below, to correct the unhinged conduct happening above — especially the despicable gender politicking.

It is doubtful than any of those 16,000 licensees believe that Deveny and Moeller’s conduct reflects poorly on women or OWLS, but Hierschbiel and Hollister have repeatedly demonstrated their belief that it does.

In actuality, it’s Hierschbiel and Hollister’s conduct that reflects poorly on women: Their foolish attempts to “protect” the OSB by covering for their worst regulatory failurettes reveals a one-dimensional world in which reputation and appearance are more important than reality and substance, and literally everything is about gender.

Their conduct is not only blatantly sexist, but also childish and simplistic. Women — and also men — should be mad at them for constructing their little dollhouse with real human consequences, and making all of their licensees live in it.

¹ Hierschbiel and Hollister moved perfunctorily up the leadership ladder at the OSB in 2016, after the former CEO retired. Hollister assumed Hierschbiel’s role as General Counsel, and presumably will fail upwards into the CEO position someday, unless a higher power intervenes.

² The Client Security Fund is a program that can compensate victims of attorney misconduct. It is not malpractice insurance.

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store