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Oregon Courts Shutting Down

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    J.A.I.L. News Journal _____________________________________________________ Los Angeles, California November 26, 2002
    Message 1 of 1 , Nov 26, 2002
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      J.A.I.L. News Journal
      Los Angeles, California                                        November 26, 2002

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      Oregon Court System
      Shutting Down
      One thing consistent with all governments is that they never draw enough money out of the economy to sustain their operations. If they are getting 500 million dollars from the taxpayers, they will soon need a billion, then a billion and a half, and soon, that will not be enough to sustain their operations. No matter how many billions it draws, it will never be enough, for they will need more. And this cycle always continues until the people rebel and will pay no more for government operations, and government collapses.
      Contemplate the below official report from the State of Oregon stating that they must start shutting down the courts for lack of funding. Of course, we know that governments always first use their "scare tactics" to attempt to frighten the people that the sky is falling if they don't pony up more money, but eventually the consequences of truth cannot be avoided, and it does collapse. "Be not deceived: God is not mocked: Whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap." Gal. 6:7  Whether it be a man, or a civilization, this principle is absolute, and cannot be avoided.      -Ron Branson

      A message from the Chief Justice of the Oregon Supreme Court:

      As you are aware, our state is in the midst of an unprecedented fiscal crisis. Our court system has taken significant budget and staffing cuts already, and now we are preparing for even more devastating impact as we wrestle with eliminating $13.6 million more in funding for the judicial branch, including $8 million in court operations alone.

      Early this month, I appointed a Budget Reduction Advisory Committee, charged with crafting a plan for implementing the cuts. More information will be released as we finalize the details in the next week. Local court plans are in development or will be shortly. I am aware, however, that rumors are surfacing about the impact on court operations, and I would like to share the major tenets of the plan.

      As it now stands, effective March 1, I will implement several measures statewide in our courts, which I've outlined below. The impact is delayed because it is partly dependent on the outcome of the January 28 tax measure.  While the money has already been cut from the judicial budget, it will be partially restored if the January measure passes. However, even if the measure passes, the December revenue forecasts and other loss of state funding could further reduce the judiciary’s budget. 

      Following is the plan for March 1 to June 30, 2003, for court operations. Several actions will need to occur prior to then to implement it on time:

      • Court Closures. All appellate, tax, and circuit courts statewide will close to the public on Fridays from March 1 to June 30, 2003, due to staff reductions. All judges will work Fridays, on items not requiring staff to be present. While trials will not take place, case settlement meetings may be set for Fridays. All judicial meetings, and judge committee work, will be moved to Fridays. Judges who have pending matters under advisement will work on those matters, and on writing opinions.

      • Staff Reductions and Layoffs. Each court will reduce staff work hours by 10 percent, reduce expenditures, and implement layoffs to meet targeted cut levels. The determination of layoffs for each local court is not yet available. Each court is working on a plan to be submitted to the State Court Administrator for review. The local impact may be available around mid- to late-November from presiding judges and trial court administrators.

      • Delayed and "No Action" Processing of Certain Case Types. At this time, to meet the staff reduction levels, all courts statewide will defer processing small claims and non-person misdemeanor cases. Cases can be filed, but will not be further processed during the four-month period. Starting now, these cases will not receive trial dates during that period.
      The processing of all other case types will be pared back and any processing slowed considerably due to the loss of staff. Last December, the courts established a list of priority case types. Violent felonies and juvenile permanency matters are at the top of the priority list (i.e., the last to be cut); small claims and nonviolent misdemeanors are at the bottom.   At this point, the two case types that will be required to have all processing stopped are the bottom two listed. However, how far up the 18-item priority list the courts may eventually have to go will depend on a variety of budget developments, including the December revenue forecast, the  January vote outcome, and any possible legislative actions that may be considered. Statutory changes would be necessary to fully implement the reductions on a permanent basis.

      This process promises to be by far the most difficult test Oregon's courts have ever faced. The people who will be hurt by reductions in the courts are widespread in the communities around the state. Our highest priorities are public safety and child welfare. We will maintain our utmost commitment to those priorities.

      Our courts touch every facet of community life, in ways that many rarely consider, whether it be in small claims, civil probate, traffic, landlord-tenant, domestic relations, juvenile law, or the criminal justice system.  The loss of court system  services to the public will impact cities, towns, businesses, and individual citizens throughout Oregon. We have sought to minimize this impact as much as possible, but significant change to our court operations cannot be avoided at the level of budget cuts sustained.

      Wallace P. Carson, Jr.
      Chief Justice
      Oregon Supreme Court
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