2019 Annual Report
Activities and accomplishments: Broad Representation. The OSB Diversity Section Executive Committee (DSEC) continues to reflect a broad representation of the OSB membership with executive committee members from a range of geographic locations and from specialty bars, the judiciary, government practice, Oregon law schools, and small, medium, and large-sized law firms. This year, we implemented a video-conferencing platform to ensure a more streamlined and inclusive experience for DSEC members participating in monthly meetings from around the state.
Recognition and Continuing Legal Education Programs. The section hosted its annual Judicial Recognition Ceremony and offered three continuing legal education programs this year.
First, on February 8, we hosted a two-hour Diversity and the Bench CLE at the Hatfield courthouse in Portland. State and federal judges from across Oregon joined professors from the University of Oregon and Lewis & Clark law schools to discuss judges’ road-to-the-bench stories and the “Gavel Gap,” a study undertaken by the American Constitution Society that measured how well each state’s bench reflects the diversity of its population. That CLE was followed by our annual section event recognizing new judges who identify as being part of the non-dominant culture. Law students from Oregon’s law schools participated by presenting recognition certificates to the seven state and federal judges honored at the program.
Second, on February 13, we reprised a CLE the section hosted in 2018 in Portland titled Free Speech/Hate Speech: Is There a First Amendment Problem? The original CLE was well-received and DSEC responded to requests from the community to make it available outside of the Portland area. This second CLE was held in Eugene and featured attorneys, judges, and academics who addressed the debate on campuses and elsewhere about the limits of free speech.
Finally, on December 11, we will hold a three-hour access-to-justice CLE on lawyering across cultural differences. This workshop-style CLE will be moderated by Julieanna Elegant of Lewis & Clark Law School’s small business clinic; after a historical overview of race, racism, and the law, participants will learn concrete tools to use to improve attorney-client relationships. The CLE will be followed by a hosted networking reception.
Communication. In 2018, DSEC approved a revised version of the section’s mission statement: The mission of the Oregon State Bar Diversity Section is to promote and support diversity and inclusion within the Oregon Bar and the judiciary, to organize educational programs that facilitate constructive discussion and enhanced understanding of diversity issues, and to assist Oregon legal professionals in advancing equity in the practice of law.
In 2019, DSEC worked to update our section’s website to reflect that revised mission statement and to include more up-to-date information regarding announcements, events, and contact information for DSEC members. We also sought to improve communication with members by promoting events of interest through the section listserv. We look forward to exploring more robust ways to use the listserv for the benefit of our section members.Lastly, to facilitate better communication among section leaders year-to-year, we created a Google account and began moving key historical documents into a Google drive. We anticipate the document repository will assist with the coordination of future programs.
Budget. The Diversity Section welcomed over forty-five new members this year and continued to build revenue in support of the section’s mission. The committee made expenditures to support diversity-related CLEs in Portland and Eugene and hosted a well-attended judicial recognition ceremony. The committee also made expenditures to upgrade the section’s website and meeting technology platform. We received sponsorship from several Oregon-based firms in support of our programs and our mission. Lane Powell continued to host lunch and provide space for our Portland-based DSEC members during monthly meetings.
In wrapping up the fiscal year, the committee engaged in a careful review of its fund balance and made plans for utilizing funds, including allocating funds for the 2021 Convocation on Equality. The Section also continued to provide monetary support for OLIO, Oregon Minority Lawyers Association (OMLA), and the Lawyer’s Campaign for Equal Justice (CEJ).
Matters considered/Matters pending:
DSEC Leadership. We are in the process of identifying a top candidate for the Chair-Elect position for 2020. DSEC will vote to put forth a candidate for the broader section’s approval during its December 2019 meeting. We encourage any section members who are interested in section leadership positions to contact current DSEC members.
Policy Action. Members of DSEC sent a letter to the Board of Governors (BOG) urging it to eliminate the use of judicial preference polling for circuit court elections and appointments—an action ultimately taken by the BOG. DSEC leaders also wrote to the BOG to express concerns related to proposed amendments to the standard section bylaws relating to fund balances and membership thresholds. The BOG adopted one of DSEC’s recommendations to implement a waiver process to allow sections to set aside funds for large-scale events. This action ensured the Diversity Section is positioned to carry out its mission, particularly with respect to organizing educational programs that facilitate constructive discussion and enhanced understanding of diversity issues.
Spring 2020 Diversity Reception at the Oregon Governor’s Official Residence. Governor Brown recently approved a proposal submitted by the Diversity Section to jointly host a reception at Mahonia Hall. The reception is slated for spring of 2020, and is designed to honor and promote diversity, inclusion, and equity within the Oregon bar and bench. The reception will emphasize participation by new, non-dominant culture lawyers (including judicial law clerks) and diverse third-year law students attending Oregon law schools, for the purpose of embracing the invitees as integral colleagues and working to retain them in the State of Oregon in service to the Oregon bench and bar. The objective of this event is to recognize progress achieved to date in implementing diversity and inclusion goals within Oregon’s legal system, as well as to complement efforts to recruit and retain diverse lawyers and judges in Oregon. This event forms part of OSB’s and the Diversity Section’s ongoing cumulative work to retain and support non-dominant culture lawyers in Oregon.
Toolkit. The Diversity Section continued its close collaboration with the OSB Diversity & Inclusion Department on the Convocation on Equality Toolkit. This year, the OSB D&I Department retained an outside consultant to conduct a climate survey to assess workplace issues impacting the experience of diverse attorneys in Oregon. Results of that survey will be released in an official report shortly and will inform our approach to finalizing the toolkit project.
Recommendations for 2020: DSEC will prioritize the work of organizing the 2021 Convocation on Equality. We will continue to collaborate with and support minority and specialty bar associations on programs that support the Diversity Section’s mission. We seek to expand the reach of the Diversity Section’s work by including law students from the three law schools as advisory members to DSEC. Lastly, we hope to develop new ways to engage our section members in furtherance of our mission.