From the Multnomah Lawyer: News from the Courthouse April 2019

Presiding Judge’s Report - Judge Stephen Bushong

Justice Reinvestment
The Oregon Criminal Justice Commission held a Justice Reinvestment Summit in Salem February 13-15. About 1,400 people from across the state attended. Governor Brown offered some opening remarks, and the House and Senate Judiciary Committees held their sessions at the summit. Oregon’s justice reinvestment program, established through legislation, involves allocating funding that would otherwise need to be spent on building more prisons and “reinvesting” those funds in community-based programming including intensive supervision, treatment and other resources. The attendees learned about the correctional system in Norway, which has a population similar in size to Oregon, though Norway has only about 2,000 people in prison compared to 14,000 in Oregon. In Norway, the deprivation of liberty that results from incarceration is the only punishment, and inmates are taught how to be good neighbors from day one. Oregon recently sent a delegation, including the Director of the Oregon Department of Corrections, to Norway to learn more about the Norwegian system. Attendees at the summit also learned about treatment courts, pretrial release, supervision, and other programs. Ideas shared at the summit could lead to some reforms in Oregon.

Civil Case Management
Courts across the state are in the process of implementing recommendations from the Civil Justice Improvement Task Force. One of the key recommendations requires courts to set firm trial dates. Trial dates are set in this county at a Trial Readiness Conference (TRC). Attorneys should come to a TRC ready to pick a trial date that works for all attorneys, parties, experts and other witnesses. Attorneys should avoid spring break (week of March 25th this year) and the statewide judicial conference (week of October 21st this year). If trial is expected to last five days or longer, under SLR 7.055(14), attorneys must send a letter to presiding court six weeks in advance and request an early assignment to a trial judge. Under those circumstances, attorneys should not wait until the scheduled “call” date and report “ready” for a five-day (or longer) trial. Failing to comply with this rule makes it difficult for the court to find an available trial judge. Under SLR 7.016, the parties must participate in an appropriate dispute resolution (ADR) process if the case is not resolved within one year from the date the complaint was filed (or six months from the filing of a third-party complaint), whichever is later. Attorneys must also file a Certificate of Compliance with the ADR requirement. Under subsection 4 of SLR 7.016, parties must participate in ADR in good faith; failing to do so could subject a party to sanctions.

Once a trial date is set, it can be postponed or setover only for “good cause” at a scheduling conference with the presiding judge under SLR 7.025. Attorneys should not request a setover at ex parte or morning call. “Good cause” means something that could not have been anticipated when the parties chose a trial date at a TRC. The need to conduct more discovery or engage in further settlement discussions ordinarily will not be considered “good cause” for a trial setover. Under SLR 7.056, day-of-trial setovers must be presented to the presiding judge; the assigned trial judge does not have the authority to consider a day-of trial setover. Attorneys have sometimes asked why the court cares if a civil case is not set for trial within one year. UTCR 7.020(5) establishes the one-year-to trial rule for civil cases (other than designated complex cases, which must be set for trial within two years under UTCR 7.030(4)). The reason for that rule, adopted many years ago by the UTCR Committee, is that litigants, attorneys, and the business community want the justice system to resolve cases quickly, thereby keeping the cost of litigation down. In addition, the court has established “time to- disposition” standards that require the court to resolve 90 percent of civil cases within one year, and 98 percent within two years. The Oregon legislature expects the judicial branch to meet its established performance standards. The court is calling upon attorneys to manage their practices to comply with the UTCRs and help the court meet its time-to-disposition standards.

Things Attorneys Can Do Better
At ex parte, attorneys sometimes will ask the judge to sign an order without submitting a motion. Under UTCR 2.010 (12), attorneys must submit a motion - even a stipulated motion - with a proposed order, and the motion must be a separate document from the order.
Show cause hearings are typically placed on the call docket, absent unusual circumstances. A motion for an order to show cause should be supported by a declaration or affidavit, and the order should include a space for the call date on the day before the actual show cause hearing. The judge and courtroom will be assigned at call. Most show cause hearings are set for a Friday, with call on Thursday. Attorneys should select a call and hearing date that gives them sufficient time to serve the order on the opposing party at least five days in advance of the hearing. Motions for an order to show cause should be presented to the presiding judge even if a motions judge has been assigned to the case.

Not all judges are available to conduct judicial settlement conferences (JSCs) in civil cases. The court’s website includes a list of judges who may be available to conduct JSCs in civil cases. The court does not maintain a master calendar of judges’ availability for JSCs; attorneys will need to contact the judge’s chambers directly. Most JSCs in civil cases will take a half-day. If more time is needed due to the
complexity of the case, attorneys should consider selecting a private mediator.
Judge Bushong reported that there have been 13 jury trials in civil cases in January-February. The Chief Civil Judge keeps track of jury trials in civil cases. In recent years, the court has averaged about 100 civil jury trials per year. About 70-80 percent of the civil jury trials in recent years have been personal injury cases. Chief Civil Judge John Wittmayer retired at the end of February; the new Chief Civil Judge is Judge Chris Marshall.
The Multnomah County Sheriff ’s Office has announced reductions in its “Close Street
Supervision” (CSS) program in criminal cases. The sheriff ’s office expected to supervise about 100 individuals released pre-trial under the CSS program, but CSS is currently attempting to supervise nearly 300 individuals. This has led the sheriff ’s office to reduce services available under the CSS program.

Courthouse Update - Barbara Marcille, Trial Court Administrator

The judicial branch is seeking bond funding approval from the Legislative Assembly this session to complete the new courthouse. The final request - for $9.25 million - will cover furniture, technology, and moving expenses. Judge Nan Waller and Trial Court Administrator Barb Marcille have been coordinating with Presiding Judge Bushong, Chief Justice Walters and State Court Administrator Nancy Cozine on the last funding package needed for the new courthouse.

A Courthouse users Group meeting will occur in April to begin planning for the actual move into the new courthouse. The logistics for moving the entire court will be complicated, especially when the actual moving date is yet unknown. Currently, the court expects the move to take place in May or June 2020, and expects to firm up the move date later this summer.

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