An attorney for the militant who led the occupation at a federal wildlife refuge in Oregon called Clatsop County District Attorney Josh Marquis a “narcissist” and a “unique publicity hound” for inserting himself into the legal drama.
Marquis filed an ethics complaint with the Oregon State Bar against Mike Arnold, a Eugene attorney who represents Ammon Bundy, claiming Arnold and attorney Lissa Casey have been trying to influence potential jurors through news conferences and videos.
Attorneys in Oregon are barred from making public statements that threaten the imminent fact-finding process in a legal case, but only if attorneys know their comments will have a substantial likelihood of materially prejudicing the process, a high legal threshold.
Arnold and Casey believe they are exercising their free-speech rights under the First Amendment and worry that complaints from Marquis and others will have a chilling effect on attorneys who take on unpopular causes.
“Your particular DA is a unique publicity hound,” Arnold said. “It’s just ironic that he complains.”
Marquis, a former reporter who has served as district attorney since 1994, often writes and speaks publicly on legal issues and is the chief spokesman for his office. He has cautioned local reporters, however, about the extent to which he can comment about pending criminal cases.
Marquis said the idea he is seeking publicity through his complaint is absurd given his two decades in office, his visibility in the press, and the fact he did not identify himself as district attorney or otherwise publicize the complaint when he filed with the state bar earlier this month.
“The difference between your DA and us, is we comment to assist our clients, and he comments to hear himself speak,” Arnold said.
Arnold said Marquis, who once worked as a deputy district attorney and a defense attorney in Lane County, went on the Arnold Law firm’s Facebook page last year to chide an attorney critical of Patricia Perlow, who was being considered for appointment as Lane County district attorney. The law firm deleted Marquis’ comment.
“He commented under his own name, personally attacking one of our attorneys for speaking out against the local DA, who he’s friends with,” Arnold said.
Marquis said he made the Facebook comment to defend Perlow, who was appointed by Gov. Kate Brown last July to fill a vacancy, from “an unfair attack.”
The district attorney drew a sharp distinction between talking with the news media, which he has long encouraged attorneys to do, and what he called a “gross abuse of this by another attorney.
“I felt morally and ethically obligated to report it.”
Marquis said that “because I have been so outspoken about this, both locally, statewide and nationally, I feel a particular duty to speak up.”
The other complaints filed against Arnold and Casey with the state bar over the Bundy case came from Mitzi Linn, a Eugene artist, and an anonymous citizen in Portland who cited an Oregon Public Broadcasting report on the occupation.
Bundy, a small businessman whose cattle-ranching family was involved in an anti-government standoff in Nevada in 2014, is facing a federal conspiracy charge in the 41-day occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in Harney County.
Arnold called Marquis’ complaint with the state bar “frivolous.”
“Only a narcissist could possibly conceive that two lawyers from Eugene could influence the jury pool in a case this big with this much coverage and national interest,” he said in an email. “We just don’t exude that sort of influence. Our constitutionally protected words are a drop in the bucket compared to the negative publicity against Ammon.
“All a person needs is a pulse and a pen to file a frivolous bar complaint.”