Tips from the Bench

September 2010
By Judge Maureen McKnight, Multnomah County Circuit Court

Web site/New CIF Rule

On July 27, the web pages for the Family Court in Multnomah County were posted online. Designed both for attorneys and self-represented litigants, the pages include forms, FAQs, referrals for finding legal help and various links and brochures. The link is http://courts.oregon.gov/Multnomah. Under the "Quick Links" box on the right side of the page, click on "Family Court." Materials about the new Confidential Information Form (CIF) rule effective September 1 are available on the "Rules and Procedure" page.

Custody and Parenting Time Evaluations

Due to a very high volume of mediation referrals, the Family Court Services Department is experiencing delays in assigning and completing custody and parenting time evaluations. Orders for evaluations may not be assigned for up to three months after the department receives the order. Because at least 90 days are needed to complete an evaluation once it is assigned, finished evaluations will not be available for up to six months from the date the order is signed.

To expedite assignment to a counselor, practitioners will want to make certain that the parties have paid the evaluation fee and either completed mediation or submitted to the family services office a copy of an order waiving mediation. Given the hardship these significant delays impose, Family Court Services Department Director Janice Garceau will consult on request with attorneys who have specific concerns about a family during the waiting period.

Special Sets

The Family Court judges want to remind attorneys of the availability of special sets for lengthy matters. Half-day matters on the trial assignment docket are regularly finding judges with availability the next day, but judges are very rarely able to accommodate cases requiring a full day (six hours) or more on this short timeframe. SLR 8.015(4) makes clear that a case expected to need at least six hours of court time will be given a special set, i.e., assigned to a particular judge for all pretrial matters and given a trial date on that judge's own docket. Requests for special sets are made to Chief Family Court Judge Nan G. Waller or a judge handling scheduling matters at ex parte time or trial assignment.

Retained Cases

Reminder: Once a judge has retained a case, all matters will be scheduled through that judge's judicial assistant. Practitioners should check in with the retaining judge's staff for any matter on the case before contacting another judge. The way to tell in OJIN if a family law case has been retained by a particular judge is to examine the case name on the top of the entry. If there is an asterisk (*) before the slash in the case name [Smith Mary Ann* / Jones John David], the case is retained. Scroll down to entry #2 in the "Events" screen, and the name of the retaining judge will be listed after the words "Assigned Trial Judge."

Ex Parte and Proposed Order SLRs

Six months ago, significant rule changes were made in the local rules about (1) certifying notice was given of intent to appear at ex parte time and (2) submission of motions not scheduled for hearing. Attorneys are encouraged to familiarize themselves with these rules.