May 20, 2019

Nonunanimous Juries Resolution, HJR 10, Receives a Public Hearing in House Rules Committee

On May 6, 2019, the House Rules Committee received public testimony on House Joint Resolution (HJR) 10.  The bill would amend the Oregon Constitution to allow juries to impose verdicts in felony cases only by unanimous agreement. If passed, HJR 10 would be referred to the voters at the next general election.

In 2018, the Oregon State Bar’s Board of Governors adopted a resolution calling for the end of the practice of convicting defendants by less than a unanimous vote. Since then, voters in Louisiana approved a constitutional amendment eliminating this practice in their state. This leaves Oregon as the only state in the nation that still allows defendants to be convicted by a nonunanimous jury.

Vanessa Nordyke, Immediate Past-President of the Oregon State Bar, submitted testimony in support of HJR 10 on behalf of the bar. In addition, the Oregon District Attorneys Association, the Oregon Criminal Defense Lawyers Association, and the Oregon Department of Justice all submitted testimony in support of HJR 10.

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Bills of Interest

HB 2601 – Limits guardian’s authority to limit protected person’s preferred associations with third parties.
HB 3201 – Provides that agreement for deferred resolution of criminal cases may not contain requirement that defendant enter plea of guilty or no contest.
HB 3249 – Provides that client has right to privately communicate with lawyer and representative of lawyer.
SB 783 – Modifies requirement to notify Attorney General of elder abuse proceeding, making failure to notify not jurisdictional defect.

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    Probate Modernization Bills Move through the Legislative Process

    On May 9, 2019, the Senate Judiciary Committee passed three bills from the Oregon Law Commission out of committee and to the Senate floor. The three bills, House Bill (HB) 3006, HB 3007, and HB 3008, were the product of a multiyear work group made up of estate planning and elder law practitioners; representatives from the Oregon Judicial Department, the Oregon Department of Human Services, the Oregon Department of Justice; and academics.

    HB 3006 modifies the probate process for estates with no known assets. HB 3007 clarifies the process for use of a small-estate affidavit in probate proceedings involving estates with $75,000 or less in personal property and $200,000 or less in real property. HB 3008 specifies the process for probate proceedings of wrongful-death claims and estates with personal-injury claims. Both HB 3007 and HB 3008 were amended before passing the House.

    HB 3006 passed the Senate on May 20, 2019.  HB 3007 and HB 3008 passed the Senate on May 16, 2019.  All three bills are on the way to the Governor for her signature.

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    Public Defense Services Commission Budget Moves out of the Joint Ways and Means Committee

    On May 7, 2019, the Joint Ways and Means Committee’s Subcommittee on Public Safety held a work session on SB 5532, the Public Defense Services Commission (PDSC) funding bill. The bill was amended and moved to the full Ways and Means Committee for consideration. Once approved by the full Committee, the bill passed the Senate on Thursday, May 16, 2019 and is on its way to the House.

    The budget proposed by the PDSC for the 2019–2021 biennium was just over $348 million for two years. The budget approved by the subcommittee was $7 million less, with cuts focused on personal and program services. New programs and processes in this budget include a salary increase for the appellate division, additional staff for contract oversight, additional office space, and a replacement for the current financial management system.

    In addition to the PDSC biennial budget, House Majority Leader Jennifer Williamson has introduced HB 3145. The bill would move the Office of Public Defense Services to the executive branch, restructure the make-up of the commission, and require the commission to establish a trial division in addition to the appellate division among other things. HB 3145 was introduced in response to the report from the Sixth Amendment Center. The budget bill passed out of the Joint Ways and Means Committee unanimously and now moves to the House Floor for a vote.

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    Oregon Judicial Department unveils portrait of former Chief Justice Thomas Balmer

    On May 7, 2019, the Oregon Judicial Department unveiled a portrait of former Chief Justice Thomas Balmer. Justice Balmer served as the Chief from 2012 to 2018 and continues to serve as a Justice on the Oregon Supreme Court.

    Pictured, Michael Gillette (Justice 1977 – 1986), Thomas Balmer (Chief Justice 2012 – 2018), and Martha Lee Walters (Chief Justice 2018 – Present)

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    The archives are available here.

    2019 Public Affairs Committee Members

    Eric Foster, Chair
    Eddie Medina, Vice Chair
    Whitney Boise
    John Bachofner
    Kate Denning
    Kamron Graham
    Bik-Na Han
    Michael Rondeau 

    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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