Tips From the Bench

The Family Law Department

Updates & Answers

by Judge Maureen McKnight

Multnomah County Circuit Court

Chief Family Court Judge


After the crunch of end-of-year judgment signing, the Family Law Department's focus has returned to preparation for eCourt in mid-May. Supervisors, operational staff, and even judges' staff have been involved in a range of work reviewing business processes, developing forms, and analyzing test OJIN-Odyssey conversions. The pace is accelerating and all are anxious for the finalization of the training schedule so we can plan our dockets. We anticipate that judges' training sessions will occur predominantly in the last half of April and the first half of May, so this is the period that attorneys may see the most impact in the amount of hearing time available. Until the training schedule (provided from Salem) arrives, we can't give definite answers yet when questions arise about docket availability, so we appreciate everyone's patience. But we are discussing the viability of a program of mandatory mediation by volunteer attorneys for certain case-types on the trial assignment docket to help address both the "eCourt crunch" and the loss of Judge Kristena Lamar's Friday docket at the East County Courthouse (ECC).

And regarding the ECC, Presiding Judge Nan Waller and the chief judges (Criminal - Julie Frantz, Civil - Steven Bushong and I) met with east county practitioners in November to hear their thoughts about court services and judicial availability at that new courthouse. We have been regularly assigning cases to the ECC on Fridays for Judge LaMar for the last year and are committed to not just maintaining but increasing our family law presence there. The tentative plan is to concentrate East County trial assignment cases (probably determined by party residence) on Tuesday's docket for Wednesday hearing at the ECC. One of the judges would then be assigned to the ECC on each Wednesday, to hear ex parte matters at 8:30 a.m. and 1:30 p.m., and to resolve the matters assigned from the trial assignment docket the day before. Some "non-east county" cases may well be heard at ECC on Wednesdays (and some east county cases heard downtown) depending on attorney, party, and judge availability. We also are planning for ex parte matters and restraining order applications to be heard at the ECC on Monday afternoons; these by the pro tem judges who otherwise sit as juvenile court referees and handle the related family law matters for that dependency caseload. If you haven't been at the ECC, you should drop by at 18480 SE 182nd Ave to check out the fantastic facilities.

We've also been discussing the proposed changes to the OSB Principles and Standards for Counsel in Dependency Cases. An OSB workgroup has suggested new rules in this and other areas in light of Oregon's 2006 adoption of the Oregon Rules of Professional Conduct, which rules were based on the ABA's Model Rules of Professional Conduct. The treatment of clients with "diminished capacity" (including aspects of minority) under these new proposals has significant implications not just for dependency attorneys but for lawyers representing parents in family law matters. Our judges have weighed in with concerns, and Judge Susan Svetkey is our lead on this issue.


Questions asked at MBA CLEs:  

                Q:           Does SLR 8.041 "non-ex parte" motion procedure apply to temporary relief motions under CRS 107.097?

                A:            It could if the movant did not want to docket the motion. The problem is that if the served party filed objections to the temporary relief, the movant will likely wait longer for a hearing date (given the 14 + 3 days that have already passed plus the need to find at that point an open slot on the trial assignment docket) than if the movant had gotten the trial assignment date from the beginning and served notice of that date. The use of the proposed order approach ultimately depends on the movant's assessment of the other party's likelihood of objecting.


                Q:           Why is my motion to reinstate a dismissed case not being signed?

                A:            Maybe because you haven't complied with SLR 8.044. Once a General or Supplemental Judgment of Dismissal (or any judgment) has been signed, compliance with ORCP 71 is needed to set it aside. But parties can easily stipulate that inadvertence or excusable neglect exists if your stipulated judgment didn't get in by the dismissal date, or even that they each waive ORCP 71 requirements.