Filing Fees, Courthouse Staffing, Courthouse Projects, and Legal Aid
The July 2 edition of Capitol Insider included this announcement regarding filing fees, which increase effective October 1, 2019:
Increase in Filing Fees – HB 3447 increases most civil filing fees by six percent. Examples include filing, motion, settlement conference, trial, document, and marriage solemnization fees. The increase in filing fees will go into effect on October 1, 2019. Almost $300,000 of the increase will be directed to the State Court Technology Fund this biennium with the remainder deposited into the state’s General Fund.
In addition, public bodies and local governments will contribute to eCourt funding via “case initiation fees” effective immediately. Other good news includes increased revenue allocation for Legal Aid, courthouse staffing, and courthouse projects.
Approved Changes to the UTCR Effective August 1
The latest changes to the Uniform Trial Court Rules are now available online. The updates address the Certificate of Document Preparation, streamlined civil jury cases, consumer debt collection cases, family law procedures, exhibits in juvenile cases, filing of the DMV record, extreme risk protection orders, notice of filing expedited matters, and statewide post-conviction relief (PCR) rules.
While the company is engaged in an “ongoing effort to ensure those transcripts do not remain in any of Alexa’s other storage systems,” there are still records from some conversations with Alexa that Amazon won’t delete, even if people remove the audio.
In addition, Alexa also retains all purchase requests, reminders, and alarms.
You, the user, must take the extra step to delete this data – and even if you do – Amazon doesn’t always follow through.
Despite reports by cnet and other tech sites, this news flew under the radar when reported last Tuesday – two days before Independence Day.
As cnet points out, voice assistants aren’t the only cause for privacy concerns. Any smart home device – locks, doorbells, or appliances – can potentially collect and share your data. Be aware that the price you pay for convenience may mean sacrificing privacy.
Let’s face it, no organization is immune from having to make the tough decision to terminate an employee. Of course no one likes to do it, but that still leaves the real question of how and when you should do it? This is especially true for lawyers beginning a new practice or expanding their existing practice…
Assuming the employee has not committed an act that warrants immediate termination, consider these suggestions from the post referenced above:
Document, Document, Document: Scrupulously document disciplinary issues (if it’s not documented, it’s as if it didn’t happen).
Start with Warnings: When addressing performance issues, consider using a progressive disciplinary approach: For example, an escalating series of verbal, written, and other more serious notifications to the employee so they can attempt to improve their performance. However, this would not apply to serious performance breaches, nor for new employees who clearly don’t have the skills for the job.
Be Consistent: Take the same disciplinary approach for all employees—being mindful of each individual’s unique background and characteristics such as race; color; religion; pregnancy; gender identity; sexual orientation; national origin; age, 40 or older; disability, visible or invisible; or genetic information.
Document Some More: Always document the termination with a concise termination memo. If you do not provide the reason(s) for termination, the employee might assume the actual reason for their discharge was due to whatever protected category applies to them, such as race, gender, or age.
Don’t Waver: In the termination meeting, be professional but firm in your decision. The termination memo should do much of the talking for you.
Stick to the Script: Do NOT say anything different to the employee than what’s included in the termination memo—this is not the time to be overly reassuring and retreat from the true reasons for discharging the employee.
Go in as a Team: Try to have a manager who knows the employee present for the termination. A team approach—two management representatives, or a management representative and a human resources representative, or a management representative and a career counselor, etc.—is preferable because one person can take notes and there will be more than one witness to confirm what is said.
The Professional Liability Fund offers a Checklist for Departing Staff and sample office manuals, which may be helpful. From the home page, select Practice Management > Forms and peruse the “Staff” and “Office Manuals” categories.
Funds held in your IOLTA account are deemed abandoned if the owner has not accepted payment of the funds, corresponded in writing about the funds, or otherwise indicated interest in the funds within two years after the funds are payable or distributable to the owner. See ORS 98.332.
June is the time to identify abandoned funds
The normal cycle for assessing, reporting, and remitting abandoned funds occurs annually in June and October. Go through your records now to determine if you are potentially holding unclaimed funds. As noted in The Ethics of Unclaimed Lawyer Trust Account Funds: Mystery Money, “Disputed funds are not abandoned funds. Instead, lawyers are obligated to maintain the disputed funds in trust until the dispute is resolved.” Oregon RPC 1.15-1(e).
October is the time to remit and report abandoned funds
Make a reasonably diligent effort to locate the person entitled to the funds.
Google the person and his/her contact information.
If you subscribe to a people search service such as Accurint, use it to locate a current address.
If you have an investigator on retainer, ask him/her to run a skip trace. Hiring an investigator is probably not necessary, although the scope of making “a reasonably diligent effort” is not defined.
Use your common sense. If a large sum of money is involved, an investigator may be warranted.
Attempt to communicate by writing to the last known address and calling the last known telephone number. Explain the consequences if the person fails to respond.
If letters, emails or texts are returned undelivered, retain proof. Document attempts to call the person.
If you have emergency contacts for the person, reach out to them. If your contact efforts are unproductive or the emergency contacts have also gone missing, keep a record of your efforts.