From the Multnomah Lawyer: News from the Courthouse July/August 2019

Presiding Judge’s Report and Courthouse Update - Presiding Judge Stephen Bushong and Barbara Marcille, Trial Court Administrator

Reminders Regarding Procedural Issues
The show cause docket: The normal show cause docket is set for morning call Thursday for hearings to be set on Friday. This is because the court expects show cause hearings to generally be resolved in a day or less, and since Friday is not a normal trial day, judges have availability. Recently, Judge Bushong has noticed people tending to forget this, and submitting orders directing a person to appear at a hearing, rather than to call for a hearing to be scheduled the following day, and requests for hearings on days other than Friday. It is possible for these hearings to occur on different days of the week, but this increases the chance the parties appear and won’t have a judge available for their hearing.

Some attorneys appear at ex parte with extra copies of orders. With the electronic court system, this is not necessary. All attorneys need to bring in are the original orders - the court will file the originals and signed copies can be downloaded from the computer system. There are two exceptions. For TROs, if there is material you need the judge to read, drop off a copy early. Also, show cause orders will need to have a service copy, which clerks can make for attorneys.

The court recently changed the process for handling petitions for review of state agency orders in other than contested cases. If it is just a petition - and not a writ - the procedure is to file the petition, and the court will schedule a scheduling conference. The purpose of the scheduling conference is to discuss a schedule for filing the administrative record (if any); to set a briefing schedule; to determine the length and nature of the hearing; and to schedule the hearing.

Justice Involved Women Conference
On May 31, 2018, representatives of the court and others attended a conference at Portland State University regarding women involved in the criminal justice system. It was a statewide conference funded by a grant from the Oregon Criminal Justice Commission (CJC), and was attended by representatives from the court system, law enforcement, probation departments, prosecutors, and defense attorneys.

Women involved in the criminal justice system can present different types of challenges, needs, and opportunities than men. Women are often victims as well as defendants; their trauma, mental health or addiction issues, or childcare concerns can affect their behavior. The criminal justice system does not always have adequate systems to address these issues. For example, Inverness Jail has a treatment readiness dorm available for male inmates, but not for women.

Change in Grant Funding for Special Programs
The Oregon Criminal Justice Commission (CJC) has implemented some changes in its grant programs. In general, CJC grants fund two major programs statewide - the Justice Reinvestment (JRI) program, and specialty and treatment courts. The programs serve somewhat different goals. JRI is designed to reduce the use of prison as a sanction for criminal behavior, and “reinvest” those statewide savings in local communities, with the goals of reducing recidivism and protecting public safety while still holding offenders accountable. Specialty or treatment court programs are designed to reduce criminality by addressing the root causes of criminal conduct even if there may not be a corresponding reduction of prison usage.

In the past, specialty court grant recipients, such as the Department of Community Justice (DCJ) or treatment providers, would apply directly for CJC grants. This year, CJC is requiring the specialty court grant programs to be coordinated through the Local Public Safety Coordinating Council (LPSCC). This change was designed to avoid overlap between programs and provide for a local oversight body to coordinate the programs. In addition, CJC is no longer determining specialty court funding based on the number of people served by the program. Instead, CJC is requiring applicants to describe the types of services needed and the expected cost of those services.

Multnomah County Circuit Court currently participates with other stakeholders in four specialty or treatment courts to be funded by CJC grants: STOP (Sanction-Treatment-Opportunity-Progress) Court for drug offenders; START (Success Through Accountability, Restitution, and Treatment) Court for property and other offenders involved in the criminal justice system because of substance abuse disorders; Mental Health Court for offenders needing mental health treatment; and DISP (DUII Intensive Supervision Program) for offenders with multiple DUII convictions. Obtaining adequate funding for these programs is critical to public safety. Grant applications were addressed by LPSCC and submitted to CJC in mid-June.

Judicial Settlement Conferences in Civil Cases
Attorneys often ask about judges’ availability to conduct judicial settlement conferences (JSCs) in civil cases. The court does not maintain a master calendar of judicial availability for JSCs. Attorneys should confer and come up with a list of acceptable judges, then call the judges’ chambers for available dates. JSCs should be scheduled for a Friday; judges are required to be available for trial assignments Monday through Thursday. Judicial availability is limited, and not all judges will agree to conduct settlement conferences in every case. For simple personal injury cases, attorneys are encouraged to consider using a more recently appointed judge; they are likely to have greater availability for those conferences. Most JSCs in civil cases will take at least two hours; many will require at least a half day. If the case is particularly complex or will require more time, parties are encouraged to use a private mediator.

Supplemental Local Rule Changes
The court is in the process of updating its Supplemental Local Rules (SLRs). SLR changes must be approved by the statewide Uniform Trial Court Rules (UTCR) Committee. The court expects to present SLR changes in three categories:
  1. Housekeeping/cleanup changes (not major substantive changes).
  2. Significant rewrite of SLRs governing family law, probate and juvenile matters. The court has been working on streamlining and improving the understandability and consistency of the SLRs in these areas.
  3. The court is proposing an SLR that addresses requests to reschedule a summary judgment hearing before a sitting circuit court judge. Summary judgment hearings are typically assigned to a pro tem judge. This process was adopted many years ago to help the court handle all the work of the court with limited resources. The pro tem judges are experienced lawyers approved by the Oregon Supreme Court to hear these matters; they often spend many hours reading briefs and cases in preparation for the hearing. The court encourages parties to continue to use pro tem judges for most summary judgment hearings. If a party objects to having the motion heard by a pro tem judge, it can request the matter be rescheduled before a sitting circuit court judge. The court’s updated Attorney Reference Manual describes the process and includes forms. The court is proposing a new SLR to codify that process. The proposed SLR will include a time limit for making the request. Untimely requests will be denied by the presiding judge.
If approved, the SLR changes would take effect February 1, 2020. Attorneys are encouraged to review the SLR changes when the UTCR Committee releases them for public comment.

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