Academics join our fight against the corrupt Washington State Bar
Robert C. Fellmeth
Executive Director, Center for Public Interest Law
Price Professor of Public Interest Law
University of San Diego School of Law
President and CEO
Citizen Advocacy Center
Director, Safe Patient Project
and to all others who may receive this email
We have read your letter to the California AG and agree with it completely regarding Sherman anti-trust and immunities granted to private organizations via state action immunity.
You may be interested in following and possibly contributing with friend of the court briefs, the following cases currently pending before the ninth circuit court of appeals.
Scannell v. WSBA case #14-35582
Scheidler v. Avery et al case # 15-35945
Block v. Snohomish county case #15-35569
In all three cases, the plaintiffs have raised Sherman anti-trust and RICO charges against the Washington State Bar Association and the issue of immunity plays a crucial role.
Scannell was disbarred for obstruction because he refused to turn over attorney client privileged information to a disciplinary counsel who was attempting to prosecute his client for the unauthorized practice of law in Virginia. Although a federal judge ruled that the bar’s action of recommending disbarment violated the 6th amendment right to counsel, the disbarment could not be undone, and the bar could not be sued because of quasijudicial immunity. While the ninth circuit has not recognized the discipline with a reciprocal disbarment (believed to be only the only attorney who was able to keep his 9th Circuit attorney license).
In Scheidler, the plaintiff was prevented from obtaining counsel for his suit because the prosecutor has used his influence with the WSBA to threaten disciplinary action against any attorney who represents Scheidler. In one case, he lost a case because he counsel was threatened on the eve of trial.
In Block, the plaintiff was an award winning journalist who exposed corruption in Snohomish county when she printed a story about the Chief executive using county funds to conduct a sexual affair with two employees in Europe. The county executive was forced to resign over the revelations, but used county resources and employees to retaliate against Block by soliciting bar complaints over the internet. Block was recommended for disbarment for writing a series of exposes about the director of the Department of Emergency Services. That director, recommended approval of the building of homes on the Oso mudslide site, which later resulted in the deaths of 43 residents. The Seattle Times later won the Pulitzer prize for exposing how the director and others knew in advance that the site was dangerous.
In all three cases, the plaintiffs have alleged that the bar has steered the market away from sole practitioners, minorities, and political enemies of the leadership. They allege that over 40% of all discipline occurs in Snohomish county, which is where influential members of the Board of Governors and Disciplinary board reside and use the bar process to target their opponents.
They allege that the board targets minority attorneys for discipline in numbers far exceeding their proportions of the membership in the bar.
They also alleged that virtually all discipline is directed at sole practitioners, even though sole practitioners are only 30% of attorneys.
Their complaints also allege that defense attorneys are not investigated under policies that are not approved reviewed or approved by Washington State Supreme Court.
Finally, their complaints allege that this steering of the market toward favored attorneys is done during the investigative stage, which is never reviewed by the Washington State Supreme Court in the 96% of the cases that are never charged. Their complaints allege that the low number of attorneys charged is reflective of the fact that the bar is the proverbial fox in charge of the henhouse.
In spite of these serious allegations, all which are presumed to be true under an FRCP 12 motion, their cases have been dismissed. In Scannell’s case, although a California judge ruled that Washington court rules violated the sixth amendment right to counsel, and Scannell’s RICO, Sherman Antitrust allegations, and Civil Rights charges were not covered under the Rooker Feldman doctrine, (the usual defense for cases like this), he ruled that quasi-judicial immunity prevented prosecution for damages under all three causes of action, while ruling that injunctive relief was available for civil rights causes of action. The North Carolina Dental Examiners case had not yet been decided at the time the final orders were issues, but had been issued before briefing in the ninth circuit.
In Block and Scheidler, their cases were dismissed by federal judges who Block and Scheidler contend violated the code of judicial conduct when they refused to recuse themselves when they were members of the Washington State Bar Association. The ninth circuit had earlier ruled in Scannell case and two others, that the membership required disqualification of Washington judges. Under common law, individual members of an association are liable for the debts of the association.
In the Block case, the judge refused to allow Block to amend her complaint to include the bar, even though such amendments are freely granted. In Scheidler, the judge granted quasijudicial immunity, without offering any reasoning as to why the North Carolina case did not apply.