A lawsuit filed on May 22 revealed that a lawyer who formerly worked for the Oregon Justice Resource Center (OJRC), a Portland-based, far-left legal group with ties to Antifa, has alleged he was fired for expressing concerns that under executive director Bobbin Singh's leadership, the non-profit routinely engaged in "rogue advocacy" and "glaring ethical violations."
According to the Willamette Week, attorney Gabriel Newland said Singh, who co-founded the OJRC in 2011 and is not a lawyer, would advise on legal strategies and said to Newland via text, "I took the bar exam twice in 2013, taking only a couple of weeks to study...nearly passed, but I didn’t." Newland said that this kind of behavior "clearly—and concededly—violated ethical rules for years."
According to the lawsuit, Newland "learned that, although co-founder and executive director Bobbin Singh was not a lawyer, he had been supervising the legal work of other non-lawyer staff members. Newland also learned that non-attorney staff was disclosing confidential information without the permission of the client, having damaging conversations with incarcerated clients on recorded phone lines without consulting with their attorneys, and even writing and filing ill-advised legal documents on clients’ behalf."
The suit, filed in Multnomah County Circuit Court, says Newland was hired in 2021 to operate the OJRC's program that was designed to aid criminals serving life sentences but who were convicted as minors. Newland is suing for damages in the amount of $600,000 and has requested a jury trial.
"Newland also reported that the entire structure of the organization may not be compliant with Rule 5.4 given Singh’s role, which frequently involved giving directions to lawyers that conflicted with lawyers’ professional judgment and the Rules of Professional Conduct," according to the lawsuit.
The Oregon Justice Resource Center advocated for defunding the police and sued the Portland Police Bureau in June 2020 to stop law enforcement from deploying tear gas during violent riots. According to the ORJC Twitter profile, the org claims it is "Working to dismantle systemic discrimination in the legal system, defend civil rights, and end mass incarceration in Oregon."
OJRC often represents family members of individuals killed by law enforcement and, according to Newland, those cases were "routinely coordinated in a way that violated the Oregon State Bar’s rules of professional conduct—particularly the rule that protects the independence of a lawyer representing a client," reports the Willamette Week.
Newland has alleged that another staff member at OJRC who was not an attorney filed clemency for a client while not checking to see if they had a lawyer, something that "could harm a client by interfering with ongoing post-conviction investigation and litigation, by undermining the likelihood of success at a potential retrial or resentencing, and by revealing potentially incriminating information."
Also according to the filing, Newland alleged staff at OJRC shared clients' confidential information without permission and "on at least one occasion one of these phone calls with an OJRC client had become relevant to the case, was potentially damaging to the client, and led to the non-OJRC co-counsel removing the staff member from the relevant legal team."
Newland was fired by Singh in November 2022 according to the lawsuit and in his termination letter Singh, who earned $95,000 as executive director in 2021, wrote he was let go for "fundamentally question[ing] the structure of OJRC, [Singh’s] role, and the work of other employees."
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