From the Multnomah Lawyer: News from the Courthouse January 2020
Presiding Judge’s Report and Courthouse Update Updates from Presiding Judge Stephen BushongStatewide Time-to-Disposition Standards
Oregon Chief Justice Martha Walters has asked the statewide Case Management Committee (chaired by Marion County Presiding Judge Tracy Prall) to help courts around the state meet the time-to-disposition standards adopted by the Oregon Judicial Department for all case types (criminal, civil, etc.). Currently, not all jurisdictions are meeting all of the standards. Courts have been asked to identify their “best practices” used to keep cases moving through the system in order to meet time-to-disposition standards. The Multnomah County Circuit Court is working on its report to the committee.
Time to disposition is measured from the initiating complaint filing to the entry of judgment that terminates a case. The standards establish goals for timely resolution of most cases, recognizing that there are sometimes good reasons for some cases to take much longer to resolve. For example, civil cases designated as “complex” will take longer to resolve, and the parties in some family law cases may benefit by taking longer to resolve the case.
The court utilizes a central docketing system, which allows the presiding judge to move hearings around so that judges will be available to conduct trials on the cases ready for trial. It has been several years since a case, otherwise ready for trial, has been set over because of judicial unavailability in this county. The presiding judge may decline a request to set over a trial date absent good cause in part to help the court meet the statewide time-to-disposition standards. In general, a request for more time to conduct discovery or engage in settlement negotiations will not be considered “good cause” to set over a trial date previously set by the court.
General Practice Tips and Reminders
If the court has appointed a Guardian ad Litem (GAL) or conservator to represent a minor or incapacitated person in a civil case and the parties settle the case, ORCP 27 I and ORS 126.725 require court approval of the settlement. Under Supplemental Local Rule (SLR) 9.055, the request for approval of the settlement must be presented to the probate court. Judge Patrick Henry currently oversees the probate court. Lawyers are reminded to obtain probate court approval when settling a case involving a GAL or conservator.
The Oregon Legislature adopted a new receivership law - codified in ORS Chapter 37 - in 2017. The statute includes an automatic stay provision - analogous to the automatic stay provided by federal bankruptcy law - prohibiting commencement or continuation of a variety of proceedings against the owner or property subject to the receivership, unless relief from stay is granted by the court. See ORS 37.220. Practitioners should keep this automatic stay provision in mind before attempting to pursue a claim after a receiver has been appointed.
Updates from Trial Court Administrator Barbara Marcille UTCR on Warrantless Civil Arrests
Oregon Chief Justice Walters approved a new UTCR prohibiting warrantless civil arrests in courthouses through the state. This rule was recommended by the UTCR Committee in October 2019. Several other jurisdictions across the country have implemented similar rules. Federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officials have generally respected those rules in other jurisdictions. According to recent media reports, however, federal officials have not agreed to abide by the new Oregon rule. The court is not aware of any instances of civil warrantless arrests in or around the courthouse since the rule took effect. If practitioners learn of civil arrests in violation of the rule, they are encouraged to report them to Trial Court Administrator Barb Marcille or to send an email to Mul.Public.Information@ojd.state.or.us.
User Feedback Kiosks
In order to better serve the community and improve the experience of people utilizing the courthouse, user feedback kiosks will be placed in the current downtown courthouse. This is a pilot program to explore what type of feedback the court can gather and how they can make service adjustments based on that feedback. Three different kiosk stations will be set up near high volume areas of the courthouse - likely the hallway near Room 106/payment counters; near civil cashiering on the second floor; and near the jury assembly room/file room on the first floor. Each kiosk will include an iPad on a stand, and will ask users one question: How would you rate your customer service today? To reply the user chooses either a thumbs-up or a thumbs-down icon. The iPad will be connected to a web-based application that will provide reports showing how positive or negative visitors’ report that their experiences are at different times of the day in these locations at the courthouse. Eventually there will be different types of questions and response options, and there may be a way for users to provide a bit of additional feedback or to leave their contact information for further follow-up. This is slated to be a three-month pilot program. If successful, kiosks will likely be set up in the new courthouse. The user feedback kiosk project will be a way to get near immediate feedback on how people are feeling about their experiences in the courthouse, thereby assisting the court in continuing to make improvements.
New Courthouse Updates
The current projected timeline for the new building opening is dependent on the completion of the exterior stone installation, among other things, so the opening date remains tentative.
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