Oregon Bar wants to hide information on complaints about lawyers

Award winning investigative reporter Lee Van der Voo has the report, here:

… The proposal now before the Oregon State Bar seeks to change that, however. The proposal comes from the bar’s Disciplinary System Review Committee, which looked at what works and what doesn’t and also considered the findings of a 2014 American Bar Association review of attorney discipline in Oregon, which supported the bar’s transparency but suggested a few procedural tweaks. The history of the committee’s work stretches back some years, versions of which can be had in the report itself,[2]and in a minority opinion by attorney Richard Weill.[3] It led to the recommendations now before the bar’s Board of Governors that, if approved, would seal complaints about attorneys, all related information and documents, and keep complaints confidential unless a formal complaint is filed by one of two mechanisms that involve a bar committee either formalizing the complaint or settling it.[4] The committee is also recommending complaints be expunged after three years.

In a dissenting opinion, Weill argued committee’s work was unduly influenced by a heavy-hitting attorney who was the subject of a disciplinary proceeding while serving on the committee. He contends the committee’s work so jumped the rails that many of its recommendations aren’t in the public interest at all, such as taking away a complainants’ right to appeal. The prevailing side, however, concluded the system wasn’t doing enough to protect attorneys facing discipline from reputational damage, in effect rendering them guilty until proven innocent while discipline was taking years to carry out.[5] (Supporters included the attorney who served on the committee while facing discipline and was later exonerated, Barnes Ellis.)

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