At least six lawyers demanded refunds of their dues after the Oregon State Bar issued statements condemning the rise of white nationalism under President Donald Trump.
In its latest bulletin, the state bar condemned speech that incites violence and non-bar specialty groups denounced the normalization of hate mongering since Trump’s election, reported the Oregonian.
The bar stands by its own statement but issued a partial refund in response to the statement that was not approved by state bar leadership, the newspaper reported.
The bar warned the “current climate of violence, extremism and exclusion” could threaten the rule of law and constitutional protections for all Americans, and that statement was signed by the president and president-elect of the bar’s board of governors, and other state bar leaders.
The second statement specifically references the May stabbing attacks by a white supremacist on a Portland MAX train and the August white nationalist march in Charlottesville, Virginia, and it repeatedly criticizes Trump.
“(The U.S. president) catered to this white nationalist movement, allowing it to make up the base of his support and providing it a false sense of legitimacy,” the statement reads.
Lawyer Diane Gruber complained the statements were “blatantly partisan” and a clear violation of a U.S. Supreme Court ruling that found attorneys had a First Amendment right to refrain from subsidizing political activities by state bar associations.
Gruber, who complained more than a decade ago when the bar imposed a requirement for attorneys to take classes on eliminating bias, is an outspoken Trump supporter.
“Every American currently rides in an airplane piloted by Donald J. Trump,” Gruber wrote last year, defending the president against the Russia probe. “Why would any of us want this plane to crash? We should all be rooting for the pilot.”
Another Republican attorney, Shawn Lindsay, said he was not a Trump backer but still felt the bar had “grossly violated” the Supreme Court ruling in Keller v. State Bar of California.
Lindsay told the bar that he supports the first statement about “equal justice for all,” but complained the second statement “went far beyond that by making it biased and political.”
Assistant U.S. Attorney Greg Nyhus told the bar he was disappointed that his dues were “used to promote a political and partisan letter,” and another Portland lawyer made a similar complaint.
“I am distressed to learn that my bar dues are being used to promote a left-wing agenda,” wrote attorney Darcia Krause.
The Multnomah County Republican Party, which threatened to hire right-wing fringe groups to provide security at its political events, also demanded the state bar “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 county GOP chairman James Buchal, who is a member of the bar.
The state bar’s board agreed to refund dues, which range from $465 to $552, to angry lawyers and run a clarification in its next bulletin explaining that the second statement was independent of board leadership.