PART 2 -- THE OREGON COURT OF APPEALS
Oregon's Court of Appeals is made up of ten (10) judges, three women and seven men. The most recent Court of Appeals departure is Judge Virginia Linder who was elected to the Supreme Court of Oregon. The most recent addition to the Oregon Court of Appeals is Hon. Ellen Rosenblum who had been a circuit court judge in Multnomah County.
Every year the Court of Appeals issues an annual report as does the Oregon Supreme Court. Oregon Supreme Court Chief Justice Paul De Muniz in his annual report to the Salem City Club this year pronounced that our judicial system "...is strong, accountable and innovative." According to his annual report, Oregon Court of Appeals Chief Judge David Brewer wants his court to be...transparent...accomplished...collegial and respectful." The Court of Appeals plans to install its first case management system and is undergoing an extensive remodel of its building. The new management system (ACMS) replaces OJIN. For those that are not current OJIN customers you can sign up to this new system at http://www.ojd.state.or.us/ojin/index.htm.
Statistical Update -- The Oregon Court of Appeals saw a decrease in the total number of filings in 2006. In 2005 there were 3,801 cases filed in the Court of Appeals. In 2006 there were 3,518 filings or a decrease of 283 cases filed. Both civil cases and criminal cases have dropped dramatically since 2001. There were 2,458 cases filed in the Court of Appeals in these catagories in 2001. In 2006 there were only 1,970 such cases. While the report characterizes the Oregon Court of Appeals as "... one of the busiest .. in the nation", there is a question as to whether it is working smarter and efficiently. The Court advises in this report that they will be asking for additional staff to process the court's "...heavy motions docket."
Appellate Settlement Conference Program -- While the settlement rate for this program is 72% in 2006, only about 150 cases enter the program each year. In contrast, the Court is issuing an average of 380 written opinions each year. Commenced in 1997 and fully funded only in 2001, the Appellate Settlement Program is underutilized. Wouldn't it make sense for the Court to use it's resources to settle more cases rather than issue more written opinions? Think of the savings to the participants in the system.
Court of Appeals Performance Measures Project -- The purpose of this project is to provide a method to objectively measure as "...part of an accountable arm of state government" the Court of Appeals successes and shortcomings. They plan to measure quality, timeliness and public trust and confidence. This project should be fully designed and implemented in 2007 according to the 2006 annual report.
Appellate Process Review Committee -- It is not so long ago that there was a budget crises in Oregon and in the Oregon Courts. The Oregon legislature called for a review of the appellate court system in 2003 and the Appellate Process Review Committee was created in April of 2003 to issue a report to the Joint Interim Judiciary Committee. The report was issued in August 2004 with a list of seventeen (17) recommendations. The last recommendation stated: "In three years, the Oregon State Bar should appoint a task force to revisit this report and study ways in which the courts and the bar can increase the effectiveness of the court operations."
Government leaders often count on the public's failure to monitor what government says it will do.
There is a disconnect between the trial courts in Oregon and the appellate courts. Many Oregon trial judges could care less whether they follow the Rule of Law. Providing justice is the first virtue of our court systems. The public should not have to walk over a bed of hot coals to obtain justice in our trial courts, but that is what happens. After undergoing that test of fire, the public should not be told by our trial courts that they can always appeal. This is an easy way for trial court judges to get rid of the case, but does not aid a member of the public in getting justice. Justice is fairness. Is it fair for trial judges to fail to study the pleadings and arguments before them then bounce the matter to the Oregon Court of Appeals, "...one of the busiest intermediate appellate courts in the nation"?
It costs well over $5,000 to appeal an average case in Oregon with a concomitant delay of up to two years. The Appellate Settlement program is fine, but has an odd filter. President Bush wants Iran to give up their nuclear reactor before commencing negotiations over whether they should have to give up their nuclear reactor. After one party files for mediation under the Appellate Settlement program in Oregon the appellate settlement court administrators then ask the wrong party if the case is suitable for the settlement program. They ask the attorney who is on the hourly meter!
AWOPS! There is another disconnect. An AWOP is affirmation without an opinion in the Oregon Court of Appeals. In theory, an appeal to the Oregon Court of Appeals is nondiscretionary. The Court of Appeals must take the case. On the other hand, the Oregon Court of Appeals may issue an AWOP anytime it likes and does not have to explain why the parties won or lost. This makes the case one of discretionary review in the Oregon Court of Appeals and it provides the loser with no information as to why they have lost an arduous appeal process after the member of the public has walked over two roads of hot coals. The losing attorney has no way to explain to this client nor the next about why the advocated Rule of Law was not applicable.
Well, for me I am anxiously awaiting the Oregon State Bar's task force report on the seventeen (17) recommendations on how to improve Oregon's appellate court process. Funny, Chief Judge Brewer didn't mention this Appellate Process Review in his annual report, but maybe he is awaiting 2007 to implement the seventeen (17) recommendations.