University of Denver

Oregon Civil Justice Improvements Task Force

In 2016, the Conference of Chief Justices Civil Justice Improvements Committee (CJIC) released Call to Action: Achieving Civil Justice for All, which contains thirteen concrete and detailed recommendations to improve state civil justice systems. IAALS provided support and expertise to the CJIC throughout their work on this report.

In August 2017, Chief Justice Thomas A. Balmer of the Oregon Supreme Court established a Civil Justice Improvements Task Force to review the Call to Action report and make recommendations about how it could be applied to Oregon’s court system. The creation of the Task Force was also inspired by the three-day Western Regional Summit hosted by IAALS and the National Center for State Courts.

The Task Force issued a thorough report in June 2018. It first reviewed Oregon statewide trial court statistics to understand the characteristics of Oregon state court dockets, as recommended by IAALS’ and NCSC’s Roadmap for Implementation of civil justice reforms. Drawing upon this landscape, the Task Force worked through each of the thirteen Call to Action recommendations in order, considering how each point in Call to Action could best be applied to Oregon courts.

In all, the Task Force supplied dozens of recommendations, including: methods for judges to enhance procedural fairness and avoid treating attorneys better than self-represented litigants; low-cost suggestions to rebuild the state’s judicial and staff training programs; and a new court rule to better protect consumer debt defendants. The Task Force also recognized that previous reforms in Oregon (such as Oregon’s Uniform Trial Court Rule (UTCR) 7.020 regarding case management and its streamlined case-pathway systems) were not being used consistently to realize their full potential. The Task Force made recommendations to better utilize these previous reforms—for example, recommending that courts adopt uniform and transparent guidelines for issuing continuances and proposing several amendments to the expedited jury trial rule to make it more attractive and user-friendly.

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