January 30, 2018

Oregon Judicial Department Requests Additional Funding from Legislature

During the 2018 Legislative Session, the Oregon Judicial Department (OJD) will be requesting $5.3 million of additional funding from the legislature to finish out the current budget cycle. This request was presented during the January Legislative Days and will be considered by the Ways and Means Committee during the 2018 legislative session.

During the 2017 legislative session, OJD received a two-year budget that was approximately $20 million less than the cost of funding the current service level. In response to this reduction, OJD has made a number of changes, including holding positions vacant, reducing public service hours and/or staffing, family law services and drug court capacity. These actions, in conjunction with savings from the previous budget cycle, left the court with a $5.3 million budget hole. During a budgetary hearing held in January, the Legislative Fiscal Office provided documentation stating, “Absent additional funds, the Department will need to begin staff layoffs or require furloughs to continue operations, thereby increasing the impacts to judicial services.” Additional information on the funding request can be found on the Public Safety Subcommittee’s webpage for January 11, 2018 under “Meeting Materials.”

The Ways and Means Committee, the legislature’s budget writing committee, voted to consider the request during the 2018 legislative session beginning on February 5.

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President Nordyke Testifies in Support of 2018 Bar Legislation

On January 12, the House and Senate Judiciary Committees held a joint committee hearing in preparation for the 2018 legislative session. The committees voted to adopt legislative concepts for the 2018 legislative session (including the Bar’s bill, HB 4095), they also discussed topics of interest to the committees, including corrections reform, proposed data-breach legislation, juvenile detention facilities, and licensing of law enforcement officers.

At the request of the committees, Vanessa Nordyke, President of the Oregon State Bar, and Amber Hollister, General Counsel, provided an update on the Futures Task Force and an introduction of HB 4095 (LC 205).

The Bar has proposed legislation to update and expand attorney-client privilege to include lawyer referral services. The bill, HB 4095 will be introduced as a House Judiciary Committee bill during the 2018 legislative session.

The Bar provides a lawyer referral service to assist Oregonians in finding a lawyer to address their legal needs. In 2016, the Bar’s lawyer referral service received almost 80,000 requests for referrals. Often, people share information with a lawyer referral service in order to be matched with a lawyer in the appropriate practice area and experience level. Currently there are no evidentiary protections for consumers who contact a lawyer referral service when they are seeking legal help.

HB 4095 expands the attorney-client privilege found in Rule 503 of the Evidentiary Code to include communications between a lawyer referral service and its clients. The privilege, like the attorney-client privilege, is held by the client. The expansion of this privilege will ensure that a consumer’s communications remain confidential.

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2018 Legislative Concepts Published on OLIS; Bill Tracking available on the Bar’s Website

On January 22, the Oregon Legislative Information System or OLIS began publishing legislative concepts proposed by legislators, the Governor, and the judicial branch. While additional legislative concepts are expected to be introduced during the session, the bulk of proposed bills have been added to the system and are available for review.

If an Oregon State Bar section, committee, or group tracks legislation, the Bar’s Public Affairs Department will send a bill list to the executive committee chair and legislative subcommittee chair in the coming week made up of bills that the department believes will be of interest to the group. Once the group identifies those bills it would like to track, the bills will be added to the Bar’s bill tracking web page, which is publicly accessible.

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Oregon eCourt Survey Results Are In

During December, the Oregon State Bar conducted a survey of Bar members to gather feedback on Oregon eCourt. The eCourt system has been operational in all 36 Oregon counties for at least 18 months, and most attorneys have been eFiling documents for the last two years. The survey asked questions intended to gauge attorneys’ overall satisfaction with the system, solicit suggestions for improvement, and inquire into specific areas of concern raised by Bar groups.

Results of the survey, including specific comments and suggestions made by respondents, are being shared with the Oregon Judicial Department through the OSB/OJD eCourt Implementation Task Force, which will soon be releasing a final report on its work and observations surrounding eCourt implementation.

Overall the system received high marks, with over 70 percent of respondents indicating both that eFiling had expanded their ability to file pleadings and that it had increased the productivity of their offices. The results of this survey were similar to the results of a survey conducted in May of 2016 but showed a moderate improvement in overall satisfaction since that time.

The survey also inquired into some areas about which bar members had previously expressed concerns. One question asked how frequently attorneys choose to serve documents through OJD’s File and Serve system, and to what extent they comply with the current Uniform Trial Court Rule requiring attorneys to supply contact information when they eFile (UTCR 21.100). While results showed that a majority of attorneys comply with the existing rules, a significant minority were unaware of the requirement, perhaps showing a need for additional education and outreach.

Another area of concern relates to orders submitted for judicial signature. About a 1/3 of respondents indicated it takes an average of 10 days or more to get orders signed or fail to receive notice when orders are not signed. These issues, along with issues raised related to document coding, system search capabilities, and others, are likely be on the subject of future work by both the bar and the OJD.

Full results of the survey will be available on the OSB website soon.

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Deschutes County Trial Court Administrator Jeff Hall
honored with 2017 NCSC Distinguished Service Award

Jeff Hall, trial court administrator for the Deschutes County (Oregon) Circuit Court, received the National Center for State Courts’ 2017 Distinguished Service Award, one of the highest awards presented by the organization. The Distinguished Service Award is presented annually to individuals who have made significant contributions to the justice system and supported the mission of NCSC. One trial-level court administrator receives this national award each year.

Hall was instrumental in developing and piloting informal domestic relations trials in Deschutes County, a model that Oregon has now adopted on a statewide basis. Hall is also participating in the effort to apply the recommendations of the Civil Justice Initiative to Oregon and is leading the Deschutes County Circuit Court’s effort to apply differentiated case management practices to child welfare cases as part of a National Center for State Courts project funded by the Casey Foundation.

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2018 Legislative Schedule

Monday, February 5 First day of session
Friday, February 9 First Chamber deadline to schedule bills for work session
Thursday, February 15 First Chamber deadline to hold a work session for a bill
Friday, February 16 Revenue Forecast released
Thursday, February 22 Second Chamber deadline to schedule bills for work
Tuesday, February 27 Second Chamber deadline to hold a work session for a bill
Tuesday, March 6 Deadline for electronic filing
Sunday, March 11 Constitutional sine die (end of session)

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Thank you for reading the Oregon State Bar’s CAPITOL INSIDER.
The archives are available here.

2017 Public Affairs Committee Members

Kathleen Rastetter, Chair
John Mansfield, Vice Chair
Guy Greco
John Bachofner
Chris Costantino
Rob Gratchner
Eric Foster
Liani Reeves

Public Affairs Department

Susan Grabe, Public Affairs Director
Amy Zubko, Public Affairs Legislative Attorney
Matt Shields, Public Affairs Staff Attorney
Kellie Baumann, Public Affairs Assistant

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