From the Multnomah Lawyer: News from the Courthouse May 2019

Presiding Judge’s Report and Courthouse Update – Judge Stephen Bushong
Judicial Appointments

Governor Brown appointed Amy Baggio and Heidi Moawad to the Multnomah County Circuit Court.
Amy Baggio took the bench on April 8, filling the vacancy created by the retirement of Judge Marilyn
Litzenberger. Heidi Moawad started April 29, and filled the vacancy created by the retirement of Judge John Wittmayer. It is anticipated that the Senate may act on the appointment of Judge Karin Immergut to the federal district court in May. Governor Brown also announced her intention to appoint Steffan Alexander to replace Judge Karin Immergut.

Chief Justice Martha Walters submitted a comprehensive budget, Senate Bill 5513, to begin restoring some of the court’s funding that has been lost over the last 10 years. The funding authorized by the legislature in 2017 left 80 FTE positions in OJD unfunded. The Chief Justice’s budget requests (1) funding for the 80 FTE positions, and (2) restoration of another 97 FTE positions to support problem-solving courts and to allow courts throughout the state to provide public access eight hours per day. Currently, the OJD has 215 fewer employees than in 2007, in spite of a state population increase of over 10 percent in the past 10 years. In addition to the need for adequate staffing, the OJD also needs more judicial positions to do the work of the court effectively. The National Center for State Courts conducted a judicial workload assessment study for Oregon, which concluded that Oregon needs about 40 additional judges. The Chief Justice’s budget requests funding for 14 additional judicial positions across the state.

The budget proposed by the Co-Chairs of the Ways and Means Committee does not restore any of the unfunded FTE positions to the OJD. Instead, the Co-Chairs’ proposed budget assumes that no additional revenue will be available and calls for a $41 million reduction from current OJD service levels. The Chief Justice and others are working hard to explain the critical nature of the requests in OJD’s budget, and we are still early in the budget approval process. The judicial branch’s initial presentation to the Joint Public Safety Subcommittee of Ways and Means was held April 1-4, and there will be additional opportunities for testimony before Ways and Means. The final balancing of the budget typically takes place in June. The Chief Justice has not yet announced a plan for addressing any budget cuts if the legislature does not fully fund the OJD, but historically the Chief Justice has applied a formula to spread the budget cuts across the state courts.

The Chief Justice’s budget also includes the final funding needed for the new Multnomah County Central Courthouse. The court’s request is for $9.3 million to pay for the last of the expenses to make the court operational in the new building. This includes the technology and furnishings that get installed in the building after construction has been substantially completed, which can be bond-funded, as well as the cost of moving the court into the new building, which is a general fund expense. The court will not be able to open in the new building without this final allocation of funding. Judge Nan Waller and Trial Court Administrator Barbara Marcille have been taking the lead on advocating for this final piece of funding for the new courthouse. Judge Waller and Barb have presented to several Ways and Means subcommittees, and continue to meet individually with members of the legislature.

The court appreciates the support it received from the MBA in collecting anecdotal evidence from litigators and clients regarding the importance of the court system in their lives and businesses.

UTCR and SLR Rules Update
The UTCR Committee approved two new rules at its March 8 meeting; the new rules will be effective on August 1. Both changes were recommended by the Civil Justice Improvements Task Force. The UTCR changes are posted on the OJD website.

  • UTCR 5.150 (amended): This rule was renamed from Expedited Civil Jury Cases to Streamlined Civil Jury Cases. It provides for a “date certain” trial date for streamlined cases and eliminates the discovery limitations - such as the limit on depositions - and other issues that had previously been raised by the bar.
  • UTCR 5.180 (adopted new rule): House Bill 2356 (2017) established requirements for legal actions filed by debt buyers (or by debt collectors acting on their behalf) to collect on purchased debt. The UTCR specifies procedures for complying with the new legislation, and also requires plaintiffs to include certain identifying information in the case caption to aid the court in identifying and tracking consumer debt collection cases.
The court is in the process of updating the Supplemental Local Rules. The court is taking suggestions from the bar, which must be submitted by May 15 to Judge Bushong and Barb Marcille. The new SLRs will go into effect February 1, 2020.

Addressing Diversity and Equity
On April 12, the court hosted a production for judges and court staff of “Hands Up!” by Portland’s Red Door Project. The production consisted of seven powerful and deeply personal monologues exploring the experiences and feelings of black individuals in the wake of the events in Ferguson, Missouri. This presentation at the courthouse was made possible by an OSB Diversity and Inclusion grant and the efforts of the court’s Diversity and Equity Committee.

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