Nick Christensen, an editor with The Argus/cum Oregonian , laments that there are few alternatives in the Legal World to help the ordinary citizen with a small legal problem that is of real concern to that citizen. The answer to this dilemma is clear and obvious, but everyone, including the media, is looking the other way as the movers and shakers in Oregon's Legal World hand themselves awards for another job well done!
First, let me cut right to the chase. The Oregon State Bar, to its credit, has an efficient and cheap lawyer referral service which may be accessed by going to the Bar's website or you can call directly to 503-684-3763. Oregon State Bar lawyers sign up to help people in fields they practice in for a $35 consultation fee. Having been a lawyer in this service for years, I know it works. The incentive to the lawyer is multifaceted. The consumers that come to the lawyer are usually a cut above people out to just use the system. Often, the single consultation will resolve the problem and the lawyer has the opportunity to create a relationship with the client on other matters. ' Do you have a will'?, for example. The 'Modest Means' program provides an enhanced service for those that can pay, but just not much. The lawyer provides a service at a reduced hourly rate. There are other specialized programs for those in the military and young people age 11-17.
Secondly, Mr. Christensen hits on a subject matter, Landlord/Tenant law, where the Legal World indulges itself and leaves the consumer in the dust. Oregon's Landlord/Tenant law is a mess. It serves neither Landlords nor Tenants. It is hopelessly complicated. Go down to Multnomah County's eviction court in Portland, Oregon some morning and you will see both landlords and tenants lost in the stormy seas of our wonderful Legal World. In the 1970's there was a movement to make the law more user friendly and understandable. Two simple requirements of law writing could solve this problem. No statute, rule or law should have a sentence more than ten words long. Any law that is passed should have to be tested for understanding by an average ninth grader. This is not unrealistic. When I was in high school we had a legal understanding class and there are various high school moot court teams that could do the testing. There is nothing like the enthusiasm and intellect of young people. The Oregon State Bar has a Consumer Law Section which should address these problems. The Chair of the Oregon State Bar Consumer Law Section is Pamela Yee. Her telephone number is 503 642 7641.
Oregon's Attorney General should be more helpful in the area of consumer law, but real politics gets in the way. Bureaucrats in Oregon get the same media pass given to Oregon judges and the Supreme Court of Oregon.
And this brings us to my favorite subject -- the media. (See "Oregon Lawyers and the Oregon Media" at this blog site, 9/16/07) The Oregonian (which owns The Argus) ignored Bob Packwood's misdeeds for reasons that should be obvious to all. Neil Goldschmidt's misdeeds were covered up by the Oregonian for reasons they could never justify. Our Supreme Court of Oregon has been dysfunctional for years and their misdeeds are ignored by the mainstream media in Oregon. For example, the Oregon State Bar voted to implement a formal statewide judicial evaluation program in 2004. In 2006, the Supreme Court of Oregon successfully killed the program to the clear delight of your local judicial public servant. In 2007, the Oregon legislature voted to give Oregon judges a raise without requiring accountability. In Oregon judges do what they want with no oversight nor accountability. Until we solve that one, Mr. Christensen's lament is just so much blowing in the wind.