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What in the World is Going on at the Washington Bar?

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By William Vogeler, Esq. on April 16, 2019 11:00 AM

The Washington State Bar Association looks a bit like a falling tree these days.

It started when its former president was charged with stealing from the association. Then there was the sexual harassment claim against a state bar executive. But things really started coming down when lawmakers proposed eliminating the organization. In Washington right now, somebody is yelling "Timber!"

Supreme Take Over

Rumors about the demise of the Washington Bar are not exaggerated. In the midst of internal turmoil, reports say it could soon be dissolved. Legislators want the Supreme Court to take over. State Bar President Bill Pickett supports the idea, and many lawyers are fed up with organization. "The buzz around the legislature is that this place is out of control," attorney Brian Considine told radio's KUOW.

It's not just the sex and the stealing; it's also the secret board meetings. And there's always the ever-present issue of bar dues. Last October, the state Supreme Court ordered the state bar to rethink the dues in light of evolving legal issues.

In Janus v. American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, the U.S. Supreme Court said forcing workers to finance union activities violated their First Amendment rights. That could affect bar associations everywhere lawyers choose not to support bar association activities, not just in the forested lands of Washington.

Sex and Stealing

Of course, scandals steal headlines. Robin Haynes, the youngest lawyer ever to head the bar association, resigned when she was charged with five counts of theft and identity theft. She allegedly took reimbursements from the association for non-existent expenses. According to reports at the time, she stole nearly $1,500.

Then an events coordinator for the bar alleged a board member sexually harassed her. She filed a $150,000 tort claim against the association. The incidents did not directly precipitate the legislative proposal to dissolve the bar association.

But as they say, where there's smoke there's fire.

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