PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — Two signed statements in the latest Oregon State Bar bulletin - one by the bar condemning speech that incites violence and the other by non-bar specialty groups decrying the rise of the white nationalist movement during President Donald Trump's time in office - have been criticized by some lawyers who say the bar shouldn't allow political statements.
The Oregonian/OregonLive reports the bar has approved partial refunds of bar dues for six lawyers who requested their money back. Spokeswoman Kateri Walsh said the bar stands by its own statement, but the refund will respond to the second statement that wasn't approved by state bar leadership.
Leaders of the Oregon Asian Pacific American Bar Association, Oregon Filipino American Lawyers Association, Oregon chapter of the National Bar Association, Oregon Hispanic Bar Association, Oregon Women Lawyers, OGALLA-The LGBT Bar Association of Oregon and Oregon Minority Lawyers Association signed the supporting statement about white nationalists.
West Linn lawyer Diane Gruber slammed the statements as "blatantly partisan" and in clear violation of a 1990 U.S. Supreme Court ruling in Keller v. State Bar of California, which held that attorneys required to be members of a state bar association have a First Amendment right to refrain from subsidizing the organization's political or ideological activities.
The Oregon State Bar is a government agency that regulates the legal profession in the state. It publishes a bulletin, a magazine that is mailed to members 10 times a year.
Several lawyers demanded that the bar print a retraction.
The Multnomah County Republican Party also sent the bar a letter, demanding that it "cease its partisan attacks against Trump. "The bar has no business taking its members' dues money to publish false claims that fringe racist groups constitute the 'base' of the president's support," wrote lawyer James Buchal, a member of the bar and chairman of the county GOP.
Other bar members supported the statements.
Portland attorney Eric E. Meyer, for example, applauded the bulletin for publishing a "strong statement against white nationalism" and said it's crucial for all attorneys as "guardians of justice" never to be "silent in the face of racism and hatred."