February 22, 2018

House Bill 4095: Evidentiary Privilege for Lawyer Referral Services Passes the Legislature

On the opening day of the 2018 legislative session, the House Judiciary Committee heard HB 4095, a bill to clarify that communications between a consumer and a lawyer referral service are included within the attorney-client privilege as provided under Rule 503 of the Oregon Evidence Code. Like the attorney-client privilege, the lawyer-referral-service privilege under HB 4095 would be held by the client. The expansion of confidential communications to include lawyer referral services would ensure that information shared with a lawyer referral service would be protected beginning with the initial communication between the client and the lawyer referral service.

Since 1971, the Oregon State Bar has provided access to a lawyer referral service to Oregonians looking for help or guidance on a legal matter by connecting them with a lawyer or appropriate services. In 2016, the Bar’s lawyer referral service received almost 80,000 requests for referrals, and approximately 47,000 Oregonians were connected with a lawyer. Many of those who did not connect with a lawyer were directed to social services, the Attorney General’s office, Legal Aid services, the Oregon Judicial Department, and other state or county services.

The bill moved out of the House Judiciary Committee unanimously and passed the House 59-0 with one excused. The bill received a hearing in the Senate Judiciary Committee on February 16, 2018 and passed out of committee unanimously as well. On February 21, 2018, the bill passed the Senate 29-0 with one excused. It now goes to the Governor’s desk for her signature.

The bill moved out of the House Judiciary Committee unanimously and passed the House 59-0 with one excused. The bill received a hearing in the Senate Judiciary Committee on February 16, 2018 and passed out of committee unanimously.

Additional information on the Oregon State Bar’s lawyer referral service can be found here.

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Oregon Judicial Department Submits Four Bills for 2018 Legislative Session

This session the Oregon Judicial Department submitted four bills for the legislature to consider. These bills address judicial compensation, Oregon eCourt, and legal resource centers.

Judicial Compensation

This year, the Oregon Judicial Department has submitted two bills addressing judicial compensation. HB 4096 would increase the compensation for circuit court, appeals court, tax court, and supreme court judges. Although Oregon judges received an increase in judicial compensation in the 2013 legislative session, as well as a cost-of-living adjustment in 2015, according to the National Center for State Courts, Oregon circuit court judges are ranked 49 out of 51 in compensation. The bill passed out of the House Judiciary Committee unanimously and was sent to the Joint Committee on Ways and Means.

Under current law, a state employee enrolled in the OPSRP pension program under PERS is unable to count his or her years previously worked towards vesting in the judicial pension system. Tier I and Tier II PERS members, however, are able to use years covered by Tier I and II towards vesting in the judicial pension system. SB 1546 would modify the statutes so that Oregon judges who have previously worked under OPSRP would be able to count their previous years of service for vesting purposes in the judicial pension system. The bill received a hearing and work session in the Senate Workforce Committee and passed the Senate 27-0 with three excused. The bill has now been assigned to House Business and Labor for a public hearing and work session scheduled for February 26, 2018.

Legal Resource Centers

This year, the Oregon Judicial Department has proposed HB 4097. The bill allows courts to establish a court facilitation program to provide litigants with educational materials, court forms, assistance with court forms, information on court processes, and referrals to other agencies and resources. The concept was raised in part by the rebuilding of the Multnomah County Courthouse, which is scheduled to be completed in the next few years. The concept of court facilitators and legal resource centers was also explored and supported in the Oregon State Bar’s Futures Report. The bill received a public hearing and work session in the House Judiciary Committee. The bill was amended in the committee with the -6 amendments and passed out of committee unanimously. The bill passed the House 55-0 with five excused and has been sent to the Senate for consideration.

Oregon eCourt

During the 2017 legislative session, the legislature increased Oregon eCourt filing fees for civil practitioners. In addition, a percentage of the criminal fines, fees, and assessments were also directed towards covering the costs of Oregon eCourt. Under the current funding schedule, 60 percent of eCourt users are not paying to support the system. In response to that issue, the Oregon Judicial Department, with the support of the Oregon State Bar, has proposed creating an assessment on state agencies to provide funding for Oregon eCourt.

SB 1545 would create an assessment that would be apportioned among all state agencies for the use of Oregon eCourt. This would be in addition to the above-mentioned sources of funding. The bill received a public hearing and work session in the Senate General Government and Accountability committee and was referred to the Joint Committee on Ways and Means by prior reference.

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Former State Legislator, Ray Baum, Passes Away

The Oregon State Bar was saddened to hear that Ray Baum, lawyer, former state legislator, public utility commissioner, and congressional aid to Congressman Greg Walden passed away on February 9, 2018. Ray Baum was first elected to Oregon legislature in 1988 and served for many years. Most recently, Baum was the staff director of the House Energy and Commerce Committee.

On February 13, 2018, Congressman Greg Walden paid tribute to Ray Baum on the House Floor. The video of his speech can be viewed here.

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Bills of Interest

HB 4008 – Makes calculation of projected future earning potential of plaintiff that takes into account race or ethnicity of plaintiff inadmissible in civil action.

HB 4009 – Heightens standard for taking child into protective custody without court order.

HB 4063 – Designates Department of Transportation as lead agency for autonomous vehicle programs and policies.

HB 4085 – Requires court to award attorney fees, costs and necessary disbursements to tenant prevailing in action arising under rental agreement or landlord-tenant law.

HB 4095 – Establishes privilege for communications with lawyer referral service.

HB 4096 – Modifies annual salaries of judges of Supreme Court, Court of Appeals, Oregon Tax Court and circuit courts.

HB 4097 – Modifies provisions relating to law libraries and law library services provided by counties.

HB 4135 – Establishes Advance Directive Adoption Committee for purpose of adopting form of advance directive to be used in this state.

HB 4149 – Prohibits prosecuting attorney from conditioning plea offer or release on defendant’s waiver of specified rights, eligibilities and legal challenges.

SB 1540 – Modifies definition of child abuse for purpose of mandatory reporting.

SB 1545 – Provides for cost of providing state court technology services to state agencies to be assessed against agencies beginning July 1, 2019.

SB 1559 – Directs state agencies to establish procedure for employees to anonymously disclose certain information.

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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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