Chief Justice Order Amended Today

This evening Oregon Chief Justice Walters issued amended CJO 20-006.

In addition to continuing the Level 3 health restrictions already in place, the Chief Justice is seeking legislative authority to (1) extend or suspend timelines currently set by statute or rule, and that apply after the initiation of both criminal and civil cases; and (2) ensure the ability to appear in court by telephone or other remote means in most circumstances. If that authority is granted, a supplemental order will be issued.

With exceptions, proceedings and trials scheduled to begin earlier than June 1, 2020, are postponed, and no trials will be scheduled to begin before June 1, 2020.

The Chief Justice also ordered temporary suspension of collection fees and amended UTCR 21.090 and repealed UTCR 21.120. The net result of this change is to permit the use of electronic signatures by declarants if created with secure software.

Read the full press release here.

The Stress of COVID-19

The Oregon Attorney Assistance Program (OAAP) provides confidential and free counseling assistance to lawyers, judges, and law students.

If you, or someone you care about, are feeling overwhelmed, the OAAP is here for you.

The OAAP remains open and attorney counselors are available for individual appointments by telephone or video conference. Set up an appointment today.

Court Operations Update

Trials and hearings likely to be postponed at least through April

Message from Chief Justice Walters, March 24, 2020

Advice for Oregon Lawyers Amid COVID19 Closures and Postponements

With COVID19 news changing daily here are some suggested guidelines for keeping clients informed. This list first appeared on March 17. Modify as needed to comply with Governor Brown’s anticipated Executive Order of March 23 and Chief Justice Walters’s coming update to CJO 20-006.

Keeping Clients Informed Amid COVID19

  • Post notices on your website.
  • Keep your outgoing voicemail message up-to-date.
  • Send an “all client” status email.
  • Post reduced hours or closures at your office.
  • Limit or suspend in-person client visits.
  • Conduct appointments by phone or video conference.
  • Work at home if you can. If you can’t, follow CDC recommended health practices like washing hands frequently and sanitizing surfaces.
  • Prioritize client files. Follow-up with clients whose matters are now postponed or those with upcoming court dates.
  • For specific client outreach, use your phone, not email. Why? Clients will have lots of questions. If you persist with email the likelihood is you’ll be bouncing back and forth for some time addressing all their concerns. You will save time by calling and clients will be reassured when they hear your voice. If calls are running long politely explain you have other clients anxious to hear from you.
  • Use staff to spread the load. They can be a huge help reaching out to and responding to clients.
  • Get virtual help if you need it. To avoid being overwhelmed by calls, consider services like Ruby Receptionist who can help you remotely.
  • If you feel overwhelmed, call the confidential Oregon Attorney Assistance Program. They are available to take your calls and emails.
  • If you are worried about potential legal malpractice claims, reach out to the PLF by email.
  • For ethics questions, see this FAQ. Bar counsel’s office is available by phone or email or you can reach out to private ethics counsel. Keep in mind this is a living document which bar counsel continues to update.
  • Practice patience and kindness – especially toward yourself

Staying On Top of the Latest News

Visit the Oregon State Bar home page frequently for what applies “today.” Current restrictions, closures, and postponements may change.

All rights reserved 2020 Beverly Michaelis

Your Constructive Comments Needed on Court Operations

By now you’ve likely read the following email:

Submit your suggestions by email to pubaff@osbar.org. Deadline: Sunday, March 22 at Noon.

Keep in Mind

We know what slows the spread of COVID-19. Flattening the curve by social distancing and cancelling or postponing activities. Court operations require many people to be present – cleaning staff to wipe surfaces, security, judicial staff, lawyers, parties, and for some cases jurors and jury pools.

If we persist as if nothing has changed, we aren’t social distancing and COVID-19 will spread.

The Role of Technology

Can technology come to the rescue? Maybe. Hearings by phone come to mind. It may also be possible to resolve some matters by video conferencing.

Priorities

But are the matters eligible for disposition by phone and video the most important judicial need? Perhaps. Perhaps not. We need time. Time to assess and time to make arrangements. Slowing things down gives us that.

The Snowball Effect

Believe me, I get it. Postponing matters set for March or April affects everything down the docket. Please be patient. We have one of the best court systems in the country. Look at your calendar. What can you juggle or free up? Talk to clients. The measures laid out in the Chief Justice’s Order are meant to save lives and spare illness. With a spirit of cooperation we can work this out with judges, judicial staff, and opposing counsel.

Parting Thoughts

Day-to-day life has changed. Courts must also change. So must our practices. Acting fast and acting now will shorten the impact of COVID-19 and will benefit us all in the long run.

Stay safe.

All Rights Reserved 2020 Beverly Michaelis