From the Multnomah Lawyer: News from the Courthouse March 2020

Presiding Judge’s Report and Courthouse Update 


Updates from Presiding Judge Bushong and Trial Court Administrator Barbara Marcille

New Courthouse News
The opening of the new Central Courthouse is scheduled for Monday, July 20. Its official address is 1200 SW First Avenue, Portland, Oregon 97204. The last day of court business in the old courthouse will be Tuesday, July 14, and the old courthouse will be closed Wednesday, July 15 through Friday, July 17 to accommodate the move. The Justice Center, Juvenile Court, and East County Court will each be open those days. During this time, dockets for some essential matters (for example, restraining orders, immediate danger issues, etc.) may be scheduled at the other courthouses. The court is currently working on those details. Courtrooms in the new courthouse have been assigned to judges, and that information will be made public soon. Presiding Court will be in Courtroom 7A on the 7th floor. Trial call/assignment day will be in the old courthouse on Tuesday, July 14, for trials that begin on Monday, July 20.

New Referee. If the Supreme Court approves him as a pro tem judge, Eric Lentz will replace retired referee Steve Todd. Referee Lentz is expected to start in March.

Revised Hours. Due to budgeting issues, the Sheriff has revised facility operating hours for the current downtown courthouse. The building will now be open at 7 a.m. and doors will be locked at 5 p.m. All visitors will need to be out of the courthouse by 6 p.m. Anyone in the courthouse after 6 p.m. will have to be personally escorted out by court staff or judges as the front doors will be locked.

Courthouse Security and Emergency Preparedness. ORS 1.180 provides for the appointment of an Advisory Committee on Court Security and Emergency Preparedness to develop a two year plan for courthouse security.  The plan adopted beginning July 1, 2019, addresses security in the current courthouse, not the new courthouse. Judge Bushong has reconvened the Advisory Committee to consider whether any amendments to the current plan are needed for the new courthouse. The Advisory Committee met in January, and is scheduled to meet monthly until the security issues are resolved. In addition to security in the new courthouse, the committee may address concerns regarding delays in transporting in-custody defendants to a courtroom. Transport delays are exacerbated when there are trials requiring extra security, such as the recent Jeremy Christian trial. On any given day, there are roughly 30 to 60 people on the in-custody list who need to be transported to a courtroom. Membership on the Advisory Committee is set by statute. MBA President, Sarah Radcliffe, represents the bar.

New Courthouse Access. Attorneys will likely require a new identification badge to enter the new courthouse. Details on how attorneys can obtain an expedited access ID badge for the new courthouse will be announced in the near future.

Civil Tips

Trial Dates. Trial dates for civil cases are set at the Trial Readiness Conference (TRC); those dates should be treated as “firm,” subject to change only for good cause such as an emergency that could not have been anticipated at the time of the TRC. Attorneys requesting to reschedule a trial date selected at a TRC for good cause must request a scheduling conference with the presiding judge. The court will not grant a setover at morning call or at ex parte.

Please, No Double-Sided Documents. Because all files are maintained electronically, all documents submitted to the court for filing must be scanned into the court’s case management system. It is more time-consuming for court staff to scan double-sided documents, and back sides of pages are easily missed. The better practice is to submit single-sided documents. Although this is not currently specified in the rules, the court may promulgate a Supplemental Local Rule (SLR) to address this problem. 

Fridays are Motion Days. Trials are held generally Monday through Thursday, with Fridays reserved for hearings on motions, judicial settlement conferences, and other short matters. Attorneys requesting a motion hearing should plan on having the hearing on a Friday, as Mondays through Thursdays are reserved for trials. Attorneys requesting to have a trial continue on a Friday must notify presiding court of that request six weeks in advance of the trial to give the court sufficient time to clear a judge’s docket.

Trials Lasting Five Days or Longer. A reminder: under SLR 7.055(14), if a trial is expected to last five days or longer, you need to send a letter to the presiding court at least six weeks in advance so the court can find an available trial judge. The letter should indicate whether the parties are requesting trial on one or more Fridays. Don’t wait until morning call and report “ready” for a five-or six-day trial.

If Your Case Settles. Another reminder: if the case settles before call, please notify presiding court. There have been an increasing number of cases on the civil “call” docket that presumably resolved because no one appeared at call or contacted the court. If that happens, the court will dismiss the case for want of prosecution/failure to appear at call.

UTCR 7.020(2) and (3). The court notifies attorneys before dismissing a case under UTCR 7.020. If an attorney receives one of those notices and does not want the case dismissed, the attorney should request a Rule 7 continuance. Otherwise, the court will enter a Judgment of Dismissal, and the attorney will have to satisfy the requirements of ORCP 71 for obtaining relief from judgment (and pay the required fee).

Summary Judgment. The court’s revised SLRs went into effect February 1. It has been a long-standing practice in this court to assign summary judgment motions to a pro tem judge. The court greatly appreciates the assistance of its pro tem judges - all approved by the Supreme Court - in handling this important work, but has allowed parties to request a sitting circuit court judge. Under new SLR 5.016, a party requesting to have a summary judgment motion heard by a circuit court judge instead of a pro tem judge must make a timely request to reschedule the hearing before a sitting circuit court judge. The Attorney Reference Manual has appropriate forms. To be timely under the new SLR, the motion to reschedule must be presented at ex parte within five calendar days of the initial assignment to a pro tem judge. Untimely requests will be denied.

“Justice for All” Conference. Presiding Judge Bushong attended the “Oregon Justice for All” conference on January 14. The conference focused on addressing the unmet need for legal services in civil and family law cases. Attorneys are reminded that the court offers a free mediation program for civil cases that have at least one self-represented litigant. The mediation program is coordinated by Kathryn Scott, Mediation Program Coordinator for the court.

New Tech Lunch & Learn CLE. The MBA and the court are planning to hold Lunch & Learn CLE seminars about the technology in the new courthouse. Some programs will occur after the new courthouse opens in July. There may be some limited opportunities for programs before the move to the new courthouse. Dates will be announced.

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