From the Multnomah Lawyer: News from the Courthouse December 2019

Presiding Judge’s Report and Courthouse Update

Judicial Appointments and Transitions
Long time Hearings Referee and Pro Tem Judge Steven Todd is retiring at the end of the year. Judge Todd, a referee since 1997, presides over many high-volume courtrooms and has been an invaluable resource in training judges and referees through the years. The court is extremely appreciative of Judge Todd’s years of service.

Family law Judges Morgan Wren Long and F.G. “Jamie” Troy II were sworn in on October 28 to fill the positions vacated by the retirements of Judges McKnight and Tennyson.

The elevation of Judge Long from a referee position created a Juvenile Court referee vacancy; that position and Judge Todd’s position have been posted for applicants.

Legislative Breakfast
Judge Bushong thanked the MBA for hosting the upcoming Legislative Breakfast. The themes of the event will be: (a) the court’s appreciation for legislative funding of the new courthouse and improved funding for the Oregon judicial branch; and (b) the court’s desire to be a resource for the legislature. The court wants to ensure that legislators have access to information about the court’s work and contacts at the court whose work relates to public policy issues under consideration by the legislature. Some legislators have visited the court recently and more are scheduled to visit in the near future.

Multnomah County Court Rules Update and Reminders
The UTCR Committee has tentatively approved new Supplemental Local Rules for Multnomah County that will go into effect on February 1.

SLR 5.016 provides that after filing a Motion for Summary Judgment and receiving notice that it has been assigned to a pro tem judge, attorneys will have five days to seek reassignment to a sitting judge. This codifies the longstanding practice described in the attorney reference manual and adds a time limitation. After the new rule goes into effect, the court may deny untimely requests for reassignment.

SLR Chapters 8 and 9 have been substantially rewritten to streamline and improve domestic relations and probate procedures. A committee of judges and staff drafted these changes over the past year.

Pursuant to SLR 7.045(1), when an attorney affidavits a judge they must serve a copy of the affidavit and supporting materials on the judge prior to appearing at ex parte. Attorneys are encouraged to contact the presiding court clerks for procedural assistance if they anticipate filing an affidavit vis-àvis an assigned pro tem judge.

Default judgment paperwork should not be presented at ex parte, but instead should be electronically filed. SLR 2.501 lists the only matters appropriate for presentation at ex parte.

Proposed UTCR on Warrantless Civil Arrests
On October 18, the UTCR Committee considered a proposal and supporting legal memorandum regarding warrantless civil arrests in and around courthouses. The proposal would recognize the common law privilege to be free from such arrests. Multiple other jurisdictions have taken similar actions, including Washington (court policy); California (legislation); New York (court policy); New Jersey (court policy); and the District of Massachusetts (injunction). Many lawyers, including Multnomah County District Attorney Rod Underhill, signed a letter supporting the proposal.

Proponents of the rule cite concerns about access to the court system. There is a concern that Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) actions at state courthouses are creating a chilling effect on individuals’ willingness to come to court for their own matters or as witnesses. Plainclothed ICE officers have made arrests and at least one recent incident involved the use of mace.

Both Chief Justice Walters and Chief Justice Balmer before her have unsuccessfully sought assurance from the United States Attorney General that ICE would not conduct warrantless civil arrests at Oregon’s state courthouses. The UTCR Committee ultimately recommended a modified proposal that would apply to the court and its “environs” as defined in the proposal. Chief Justice Walters will determine whether to adopt that proposal as a Uniform Trial Court Rule or a Chief Justice Order. The UTCR Committee did not adopt the portions of the proposal that would have: (a) extended to persons coming or going to court (deemed to be a legislative issue); or (b) specified an enforcement mechanism (deemed to be worthy of further study by a workgroup).

Courthouse Update
Courthouse construction is in its final stage. The designs for the new courthouse were developed four-plus years ago based on studies of desired features that were conducted when the courthouse was being planned, and there have been many changes to business processes, laws, Uniform Trial Court Rules, and technology since the designs were finalized. The court intends to share more information about the improved functionality the building will offer as well as revisit needs and determine how to best meet them. The court will be offering “New Courthouse at Noon” open house sessions to educate attorneys on different aspects of the building, and is also conducting listening sessions with law firms’ technical staff regarding the new courthouse’s audio-visual systems.

In early November, the court held two lunch and learn panel presentations on improving access to justice for those with hidden disabilities. The sessions featured attorneys John Robb and Rima Ghandour; Emily Cooper from Disability Rights Oregon; and speech pathologist Glenn Weybright. This is a continuation of the court’s educational series, intended to improve understanding about members of the community.

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