ND Bar Association Sued by Shared Parenting Proponent Over Open Records

Facebook logo used by Keeping Kids First, a committee supported by the State Bar Association of North Dakota which opposed a shared parenting ballot initiative in 2014. via Facebook

The shared parenting issue – the push to reform North Dakota’s family law to create greater equity between divorced parents when it comes to raising their kids – has been a real headache for the State Bar Association of North Dakota.

Despite being an official regulatory body – if you practice law in North Dakota you must pay dues to and be regulated by SBAND – they have been politically active in opposing ballot measures and legislation looking to institute shared parenting policy. They are still in litigation over their use of attorney dues to pay for political advocacy against a shared parenting ballot measure during the 2014 election cycle. SBAND gave any attorney who wanted one a prorated refund on their dues after the election was over, but that didn’t make the problem go away.

Now they’ve been sued by Terry Brennan, co-founder of an organization called Leading Women for Shared Parenting, for allegedly violating open records laws.

You can read the full complaint below, which was filed today and provided to me by Brennan’s attorney David Chapman of Fargo. Brennan and his attorney are alleging that SBAND Director Tony Weiler:

  • Refused to turn over public record until Brennan identified “who he was with”
  • Failed to respond to requests for records within a reasonable time
  • Engaged in “intentional efforts” to impede access to records
  • Failed to provide legal authority for denying access to records

The records Brennan was trying to access were related to Keeping Kids First, a committee formed to oppose the 2014 shared parenting ballot measure (it was Measure 6 in that cycle) which was supported by SBAND.

I reached out to Weiler for comment but he was not in his office. I’ll update this post when/if he responds.

To editorialize a bit, I think we should all be a little uncomfortable that the official regulatory body of the legal profession in North Dakota is also being used as a political advocacy group. Whatever you may think of shared parenting policies, advocating for or against them should be done privately with private dollars.

Not all lawyers in North Dakota opposed Measure 6. Not all lawyers in our state oppose shared parenting, generally. The lawyers who do oppose those things are certainly welcome to form their own groups, funded with their own dollars, and to pursue their position.

Regulating the legal industry shouldn’t be intermingled with political advocacy.

Rob Port is the editor of SayAnythingBlog.com, a columnist for the Forum News Service, and the host of the Rob (Re)Port on Fargo-based WDAY AM970 from 1-2pm weekdays.

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