WSBA Today: Big Changes are Coming


Posted On Sep 14 2016 by

I watched a WSBA Webinar today.  It was about changes in WSBA governance.  The changes have been discussed and commented upon for over two years.  In September at the WSBA BOG (Board of Governors) meeting certain items will be discussed.

The person to whom questions concerning the changes and the reason for the changes were addressed to Robin Hayes, the Spokane lawyer who will succeed Bill Hyslop (a former partner of mine).  Ms. Hayes was quite energetic in her answers but each time she avoided the answers which truly explained what the “New WSBA” was about.  She was politically adept, surprisingly so.  Nevertheless, a truth was unwittingly (perhaps) being told.  The truth was overall the Washington Supreme Court was in the process of gaining control over the WSBA and its members — lawyers compelled to be members of the bar in order to practice law.

  1. The current WSBA leadership seeks to adopt significant changes to the WSBA.
  2. The bar is to recognize the ultimate authority of the WSBA is the Supreme Court.
  3. The bar will undertake at its cost various “programs” and “not quite lawyer groups.”
  4. The WSBA cannot object.  And, why is that?
  5. Reaching back to 1987 and a man who has great respect in the Washington – Seattle legal community, the proponents of the “new” WSBA refer to a memo by Mr. Gates to the Supreme Court commenting in favor of then GR (General Rule) 12.1 through 12.4.  He said the court in light of the Graham Case.  Mr. Gates asserted the WSBA was “clearly an instrumentality of the Supreme Court and it is wholly appropriate for the parent to, by rule, set the purposes of its instrumentality.”  WSBA Memorandum from Paula Littlewood, Jean Mc Elroy and Douglas Ende to the WSBA President, President-elect and Chief Disciplinary Counsel  August 10, 2016.

One of the participants of the Webinar asked in essence “why is all this taking place now” what is the cause of the rush to change things, to increase the power of the Supreme Court over the WSBA.  Ms. Robin Hayes said what was being presented was based on comments in the record of proceedings of the bar and the Task Force.  Hardly a reason in that few comments are ever made, despite the fact the WSBA now has about 38,000 members.

So why is this happening?  Was is the Supreme Court trying to secure unto itself broader power over the WSBA?  I do not know, but I suspect it has to do with a common desire of the present membership of the Supreme Court to enlarge the scope of its power.  I think of the McCleary School Funding case.

One of the participants of the Webinar asked in essence “why is all this taking place now” what is the cause of the rush to change things, to increase the power of the Supreme Court over the WSBA.  Ms. Robin Hayes said what was presented was based on comments in the record of proceedings of the bar and the Task Force.  Hardly a reason in that few comments are ever made, despite the fact the WSBA now has about 38,000 members.

So why is this happening?  Was is the Supreme Court trying to secure unto itself broader power over the WSBA?  I do not know, but I suspect it has to do with a common desire of the present membership of the Supreme Court to enlarge the scope of its power.  I think of the McCleary School Funding case.

Last Updated on: September 14th, 2016 at 10:06 pm, by Stephen Eugster


Written by Stephen Eugster