Oregon eCourt and Arbitration

Are Oregon arbitrators required to eFile arbitration awards and judgments? Let me answer that question with another question: were you conventionally filing awards and judgments prior to the implementation of mandatory eCourt?  If your response is yes, then odds are you must eFile.  Let’s step through the analysis with this caveat: please verify the necessity of eFiling with the OJD help desk [see endnote] or your friendly local court clerk.

What do the UTCRs say?

UTCR 13.210(5)
Within 7 days after the conclusion of the arbitration hearing, the arbitrator shall send the award to the parties without filing with the court and shall establish procedures for determining attorney fees and costs.  Result:  In a non-dissolution case, the arbitrator files nothing.  The onus is on the parties.

UTCR 13.210(6)
In dissolution cases, the arbitrator shall send the award to the parties within 7 days after the conclusion of the arbitration hearing and shall direct a party to prepare and submit a form of judgment. The arbitrator, upon request of any party, shall give the parties an opportunity to be heard on the form of judgment. The arbitrator shall then approve a form of judgment and file the award, along with the approved form of judgment, per UTCR 13.220. Result: In a dissolution case, the arbitrator becomes the “filer.”  The rule expressly states the arbitrator shall … “file the award.” If the dissolution case is in a judicial district which has implemented mandatory eCourt, the arbitrator must eFile the award in compliance with UTCR Chapter 21 (text searchable PDF, under maximum file size, etc.)

Are There Any Exceptions to UTCR 13.210(5)?  What about Local Rules?

Ah ha, grasshopper – you have learned well!  The fly in the ointment is exactly that. If the case is in a jurisdiction that has adopted Supplementary Local Rules (most have), you must follow the SLR.  If the SLR requires you, as arbitrator, to file the award or judgment, you’re stuck.  Thus my question above: did you conventionally file awards and judgments prior to the implementation of mandatory eCourt?  If yes, nothing changes except the filing method.  If you are in a jurisdiction that has implemented eCourt, you must eFile. [Double-check with the OJD help desk or your local court clerk if you are unsure.]

A list of jurisdictions with SLRs (including links to the rules) can be found on the PLF website.  Select Practice Management > Forms > Docketing & Calendaring > “State Court Rules – UTCRs and SLRs.”

What is an Example of an SLR that Requires Arbitrators to File Documents?

By imposing conditions for filing awards, Multnomah County SLR 13.085 implies that the responsibility lies with the arbitrator:
(1) The arbitrator shall not file an arbitration award with the court until the issues of attorney fees and costs have been determined. The arbitrator shall certify on the award that no issues of costs or attorney fees remain undecided upon filing of the award. Unless otherwise ordered by the court, no amended or supplemental arbitration award shall be filed, regardless of whether judgment has been entered on the original.
(2) At the conclusion of arbitration, if the arbitrator attempts to file the award with the Court without the proof of service of a copy of the decision and award upon each party as required by ORS 36.425(1), the award will not be filed and will be returned to the arbitrator.

Key Points to Remember

  • If you previously filed awards and judgments with the court, nothing has changed. Filing is still your responsibility. The only difference is how you file, and that will depend on whether the jurisdiction has implemented eCourt.
  • Read the SLRs! At the present time, Multnomah County puts the onus on arbitrators, Washington County does not.
  • Know the UTCRs.  UTCRs govern where SLRS have not been adopted.
  • Communicate with the parties.  If it is the responsibility of the parties to eFile your award or judgment, say so and cite the pertinent UTCRs.

All Rights Reserved [2015] Beverly Michaelis

Oregon Judicial Department Help Desk –
Monday through Friday 7:00 am to 6:00 pm

503-986-5582 or 1-800-922-7391
ETSDHelp@ojd.state.or.us

Not Checking E-Mail Costs Lawyer $35,000

Last month a lawyer in Philadelphia lost his right to pursue a $35,000 fee claim because he did not receive electronic notice of the scheduled arbitration.  The ruling is on appeal, so there is a small chance the lawyer will ultimately be able to argue his claim.  In the meantime, take heed:  if you practice in e-Court, you must learn the technology. 

In the Philadelphia case, the lawyer relied on his wife, who was also his secretary, to retrieve and read e-mail.  When she broke her arm and was out of the office for an extended period, the lawyer simply allowed e-mail to accumulate.  He made no alternative arrangements to retrieve e-mail, failed to hire a temporary secretary during his wife’s absence, and did not know how to use Philadelphia’s e-court system to view upcoming docket activity.  To further aggravate matters, the lawyer did not inform the court of his inability to access e-mail.

I have written before about e-Court best practices and the perils of sticking your head in the sand.  Watch this blog next Tuesday for an important reminder about spam filters and e-Court.

Copyright 2011 Beverly Michaelis

Note:  To obtain the six-page opinion in the Philadelphia case, reference Knox v. Patterson, PICS No. 11-0256, available from Pennsylvania Law Weekly.  Many thanks to Amaris Elliott-Engel who broke this story on The Legal Intelligencer in her post Not Checking E-Mail Costs Attorney the Right to Arbitrate February 16, 2011.