Lawyers Divided Over Proposed Ethics Rule Change

The Oregon State Bar's house of delegates holds its annual meeting Nov. 3, and there will be fireworks. A bar panel is proposing to scrap a long-standing ethics rule that prohibits lawyers from splitting the proceeds of their cases with non-lawyers. The proposed change would allow for-profit companies such as Avvo and Legal Zoom to match potential litigants with lawyers and take a cut of any financial settlements. Proponents say the goal is to promote access to justice. But critics, led by the Oregon Trial Lawyers Association, say there's good reason no state currently allows fee-splitting: It creates a conflict of interest between the referral agent's need for profit and a client's interests. "All of a sudden you have a for-profit company who is going to have a stake in the case," says Beth Bernard, OTLA's executive director. "That's just a bad idea."

Jefferson Smith to Lead Think Tank

Jefferson Smith has been named the new head of the Oregon Center for Public Policy, a left-leaning think tank. Smith, a former Democratic state representative from East Portland, nosed out former Portland City Commissioner Steve Novick to replace OCCP founder Chuck Sheketoff. Smith lost a bid for mayor in 2012 after his behavior, including WW's report that he'd punched a woman in college, became a campaign issue. "I'm eager to engage more people to work for economic justice and data-focused policy," Smith said in a statement. "With wealth disparities at historic levels, the need for fact-driven policy has never been more urgent. I'm grateful and humbled to be invited to help."

Loretta Smith Walks a Narrow Fundraising Line

Multnomah County Commissioner Loretta Smith has in recent weeks disclosed at least five campaign donations larger than $500—the legal limit set by voters last November for county races. Under the campaign-funding initiative, which went into effect Sept. 1, she could face a civil penalty of as much as $250,000 for accepting those donations. Her political action committee is still registered for her county post. Smith announced last month she intends to run for the City Council seat currently held by Commissioner Dan Saltzman, who is retiring. But under the county charter, she has to wait until January to officially file to run in the city race or she must resign. Smith's campaign says she's in the clear. "She is dutifully publicly reporting all of her campaign finance activities," says campaign spokesman Jake Weigler, "and is not subject to the county's campaign finance limits as they are defined as applying to elections for offices for Multnomah County."

Ballots Due Nov. 7

A week after ballots appeared in mailboxes, fewer than 14 percent of Multnomah County voters have bothered to participate in the Nov. 7 election. That may be because voters are distracted by the unusually good weather or are simply not engaged in the single issue on most county voters' ballots—Measure 26-196, a $185 million bond for Portland Community College. WW's editorial board recommends a "yes" vote on the measure. Ballots are due at official drop sites, including the Multnomah County elections building, by 8 pm on Tuesday, Nov. 7.