Is this prosecutor trying to silence Ammon Bundy’s Attorney?
Mike Arnold, the outspoken attorney defending the key figure in the Oregon Malheur Refuge “occupation” story, Ammon Bundy, is facing an ongoing barrage of complaints from the prosecutor in the case about his outspokenness.
Following his arrest, Ammon Bundy retained Mike Arnold and Lissa Casey, of the Arnold Law Firm in Eugene, Oregon. Mike Arnold did not hesitate to take Ammon Bundy’s case to the people of America, and on January 29 held a press conference outside the Federal Courthouse in Eugene. In vociferously defending Ammon Bundy’s legal case, Mike Arnold made himself a target for the prosecutor in the case, Clatsop County District Attorney, Joshua Marquis.
On February 18, Marquis filed a complaint with the Oregon State Bar (OSB) questioning the ethics of Arnold’s aggressive defense of Ammon Bundy in interviews, press releases and on social media. Marquis cited several videos, saying:
Mr. Arnold and members of his firm have been an almost constant feature on local TV and internet venues since the arrest of his apparent clients on federal charges.
After detailing American Bar Association (ABA) Rule 3.6, Marquis closed his complaint:
…Mr. Arnold’s conduct and that of the members of his firm causes great concern for those of us who strongly believe in the appropriate discussion of cases pending in the tribunals of federal or state courts.
On February 24, Marquis filed an exhibit with Troy Wood, the General Counsel for the OSB Client Assistant Office (CAO), supporting his concerns about Mike Arnold’s interactions with media. In the email, Marquis complained about a “generally favorable article” in the Eugene Register Guard detailing Arnold’s successful efforts to shine a positive light on another of his clients.
When the government is complaining about you complaining about the government, you’re doing free speech right… As with the past frivolous complaints, this complaint will not deter our resolve to seek justice for Ammon. We will continue to fight for him.
On February 28, Joshua Marquis explained to the OSB that his complaints were not made in his official capacity as Clatsop County DA.
Mike Arnold, however, decided to match Marquis’ complaints to the OSB with some legal muscle of his own. On March 1, Arnold’s attorney, Peter Jarvis of Holland & Knight, emailed Troy Wood a lengthy rebuke to Josh Marquis’ “pretrial publicity” complaints. Peter Jarvis closed with the following:
Even with regard to intent, however, Mr. Marquis paints an extremely misleading picture. There is a court of public opinion in which most people who are in the media spotlight will spend their days once media attention has moved on… The existing, continuing and far from favorable publicity about Mr. Bundy is almost literally everywhere and will continue at least through any trial.
Apparently stung by Jarvis’ assertive defense of the Arnold Law Firm, Joshua Marquis again contacted Troy Wood of OSB emphasizing his complaints were done only as a member of the Bar, not as a representative of the government in the prosecution of Ammon Bundy. He wrote:
Although it may not make a huge difference I filed this complaint in my capacity as a member of the Bar, not as the Clatsop County District Attorney… Mr. Arnold has already issued several “news releases” accusing “the government” of trying to curtail his speech…
In my interview with Mike Arnold, he characterized Marquis’ efforts this way: “We anticipated that uninformed people who disagreed with Ammon and the protesters would file complaints but didn’t think one of those people would be an attention-seeking elected official; perhaps we were naïve. Even more extraordinary is he’s using a “personal email address” called “coastDA@gmail.com” but apparently filing these complaints and communicating on the clock with the Bar as DA. He either lacks understanding of the ethical rules allowing pretrial publicity or is deliberately misrepresenting the application of those rules for personal gain.”
Arnold went on to say “Americans around the country have been very vocal about the protesters and what happened at the refuge and what should or shouldn’t happen to them. Their civil disobedience was intended to educate and spark debate, and it certainly has.”
Of the impact on public discourse, Arnold said, “The First and Second Amendments are not mutually exclusive. The First Amendment allowed the protesters to speak, assemble, and seek redress of grievances while the press was allowed to report on it. The First Amendment also allowed them to “speak” about the Second Amendment by openly carrying firearms. It is terribly ironic that in this free speech case, a failed candidate for Oregon’s US Attorney is trying to stifle the free speech of the lawyers of the political protesters.”
Mike Arnold has refused to be moved by his opponent’s legal tactics, and has openly launched many barbs in response. As Ammon Bundy is of the mind that the occupation of the Malheur Refuge was to create a national discussion about federal overreach in the West, Arnold appears to be of the mind that his defense of Ammon Bundy is to create a national discussion about attempts by government to squelch the Constitutional right to protest against unjust governmental actions.
If pretrial publicity is a tactic to bring attention to these matters, so far, he has been successful.