The Legal Services Plan is established to help protect and advance the legal rights of the participants. The Plan pursues this objective by making available skilled legal assistance and advice and legal defense services at a reasonable cost in specified areas of law that affect newspapers generally.
In combination with the ongoing educational services provided by the Oklahoma Press Association to its members, the Plan is a system whereby Oklahoma newspapers may seek and secure their legal rights and interests at a reasonable cost and thereby conduct their business in a lawful manner to the benefit of themselves and the public.
While the idea is not new, this Oklahoma Press Association Legal Services Plan is the first such program in the United States for newspapers to provide comprehensive legal advice and group defense of lawsuits claiming damages as a result of a publication.
THE PLAN IS NOT AN INSURANCE CONTRACT
The Plan is designed only to provide quality prepaid legal services and to pay certain specifically-enumerated expenses. The Plan should not be construed to be a contract or policy of insurance for the payment of any judgment, claim, or demand other than the specifically-enumerated benefits set out herein.
The participant shall be solely responsible to pay any final judgment for money rendered against it and to pay any money as a compromise settlement for any claim. No participant may have a claim against the Plan, Committee members, OPA Officers, OPA Board of Directors and staff of same in excess of the fund balance of the Plan.
OPERATION OF THE PLAN
The Plan is financed by the participants in a prepaid prescribed system of dues and out-of-pocket expenses assessed to those participants on whose behalf expenses are incurred. No other charge, except for those authorized herein, is made for services rendered under the Plan.
Each year at the first quarterly meeting of the OPA, the OPA Board of Directors appoints a Committee composed of seven members of OPA whose newspaper(s) participate in the Plan. The Board also designates a chairman and a vice chairman. A majority of the Board may remove or replace any committee member with or without cause at any time. If necessary, the Committee may meet and conduct the business of the Plan by telephone or other electronic means.
The Administrator manages the day-to-day operation of the Plan and reports to the Committee each quarter. These reports will maintain confidential information of each participant and include: the Plan's current financial statements, the number of participants receiving services, the kinds of services provided, and the dues accounts payable and receivable. The Committee reports to the Board at least quarterly.
Retained legal counsel and the Administrator shall keep records from which such reports can be made and will provide the Committee with quarterly reports for the Board that summarize all significant issues addressed by the Plan and all cases defended by the Plan.
The Committee is responsible for establishing overall policies of the Plan and for general overview of the Plan's operations. The Committee shall be responsible for and conduct the grievance procedures set forth.
The primary purpose of the Plan is to provide quality, prompt and direct legal services and legal advice to participants. Although the ability to provide quality services could be impaired if the Plan became overburdened with providing services not specifically enumerated in Benefits A and B, nothing in the Plan shall be construed to prohibit the Committee from providing services not specifically enumerated to participants, if the Committee determines that providing such services will result in a broad benefit to the participants and the newspaper industry in Oklahoma generally.
Subject to approval by the Committee, the Administrator retains counsel and other attorneys to provide services to participants. The services of such Counsel under the Plan shall be provided in accordance with the professional and ethical standards required of lawyers. Counsels providing legal services hereunder shall follow the rules of the Plan. Any Counsel providing legal services under The Plan will have an attorney/client relationship with each participant who receives legal services from the Counsel and with the Administrator.
The Counsel shall maintain the confidentiality of the attorney/client relationship in accordance with applicable professional standards. When the use of local counsel is desired, the affected participant shall be consulted.
Any OPA Business Member in good standing is eligible to apply to become a participant. An eligible newspaper does not become a participant until: (a) the Committee has approved an application, and (b) the applicant has paid six months of dues in the amounts and on the terms established by the Plan.
Legal services provided under Benefit A of this Plan are available to participants on the effective date. Legal Services provided under Benefit B are available to participants six months following the effective date or six months following first receipt of dues for the benefit, whichever date is later.
EXCLUSIONS AND TERMINATIONS
A participant is only entitled to benefits while a participant. The benefits of the Plan are not available to an OPA Business Member that ceases to be a participant either for new services to be rendered or for continuing services arising out of matters pending while a participant.
The end of participation results in immediate termination of services provided by the Plan. Participation may be cancelled by the participant or by the Committee.
The Committee may terminate participation only for the following reasons: (a) failure to pay dues within 30 days after the due date, (b) failure to reimburse the Plan for authorized out-of-pocket expenses within 60 days from billing as required in Benefit B, or (c) willful or intentional failure of a participant to cooperate in the defense of an action for which Benefit B services are provided under the Plan.
A participant must terminate participation in writing on newspaper letterhead and mail it to the Plan Administrator. Termination shall be effective upon the date of receipt.
Any participant who ceases to be an OPA Business Member automatically terminates its participation.
AMENDMENT OF THE PLAN
The Committee may, by majority vote, amend, expand, or restrict the Plan at any time subject to approval of the Board. However, no amendment of the Plan shall deprive a participant of legal services to which the participant was entitled in connection with any matter pending at the time of the change.
In no event shall the attorneys participating in the Plan be required to provide any legal services that give rise to a conflict of interest. If a situation should arise where, in a particular situation, the legal rights of one participant comes into conflict with the legal rights of an OPA Business member, such shall be deemed to be outside of the Plan and no services shall be provided regarding the situation, nor shall the participant be reimbursed prepaid dues hereunder, nor be entitled to comparable independent legal services.
Any participant who believes that it has been denied the full service under the provisions of the Plan shall notify the Administrator of the grievance within 30 days of occurrence.
The grievance must be in writing and consist of a short, but thorough, statement of the participant's complaint. The grievance should be mailed to the OPA Legal Services Plan Committee, Attn: Administrator, 3601 N. Lincoln Blvd., Oklahoma City, OK 73105-5499.
The Administrator shall mail a copy of the grievance to the person who is the subject of the complaint who has 10 days from receipt to respond by submitting a statement describing any attempts to settle the dispute and the subject's position in the matter. The Administrator shall send a copy of the subject's response to the complaining participant who shall have 5 days from receipt to reply.
If the grievance is not settled by the Administrator to the participant's satisfaction within 30 days after notice, the participant shall have 90 days thereafter to file a written grievance complaint with the Committee.
The Committee must decide a grievance within 30 days. The Committee shall hear and decide all grievances submitted to it. A quorum shall consist of a simple majority of the Committee, and a decision thereby may be made by a simple majority of those present and voting. No member of the Committee shall hear a grievance who has a personal interest in the outcome.
The only appeal of a decision by the Committee is to the Board at its next regular meeting.
Attorneys retained by the Plan shall be bound by the decision unless such a decision would give rise or bring into question an issue of professional ethics or legality of conduct, which might jeopardize the attorney's right to practice law or subject them to fine or other penalty.
The following words as used in the Legal Services Plan shall have the following definitions:
A) The name is the "Oklahoma Press Association Legal Services Plan" and shall hereafter be referred to as "the Plan."
B) "Administrator" shall mean the Executive Vice President of the Oklahoma Press Association or the Committee designee.
C) "Board" shall mean the Board of Directors for the Oklahoma Press Association.
D) "Confidential information" shall mean: (1) the financial data a Participant transmits to the Administrator for the purpose of computing dues and (2) the attorney communications with each Participant.
E) "Committee" shall mean the Oklahoma Press Association's Legal Services Plan Committee.
F) "Counsel" shall mean the attorney or firm retained by the Committee to provide the benefits under the Plan.
G) "Effective Date" is the first day of the first month following the date of notification that an application has been approved by the Committee.
H) "Newspaper" shall mean any publication that meets the definition of legal newspaper as defined by 25 O.S. 106.
I) "OPA" shall mean the Oklahoma Press Association.
J) "Participant" shall mean an OPA business member which has been admitted to the Plan and has not cancelled the participation nor had the participation terminated.