Limited Oregon Court Access in Response to Coronavirus

By Litigation Practice Group

On Friday, March 27, 2020, Oregon Supreme Court Chief Justice Martha clarified how Oregon State courts will operate as part of the state’s continuing response to the COVID-19 pandemic. In the form of a Chief Justice Order, Chief Justice Walters clarified which court processes must be conducted in person at Oregon courthouses (subject to social distancing guidance and policies), which should be conducted remotely, which are temporarily postponed, and the role of each Circuit Court’s Presiding Judge in managing the specific and unique circumstances of pending and new cases.

As a result, most civil cases are severely constrained by the following restrictions until at least June 1, 2020:

  • All jury and bench trials are postponed until after June 1, 2020, unless otherwise allowed or permitted by the Presiding Judge;
  • Telephonic/remote hearings for case management and temporary restraining orders may proceed;
  • All other “non-essential” proceedings are postponed until after June 1, 2020, unless otherwise allowed or permitted by the Presiding Judge;
  • Most pending mandatory and voluntary arbitration proceedings and mediations, to the extent social distancing and/or conducting the ancillary proceeding by remote means is not feasible, are postponed;
  • All first appearances in forcible entry and detainer (FED/eviction) proceedings are postponed unless otherwise allowed or permitted by the Presiding Judge;
  • Any exhibits to be used in a remote proceeding are to be submitted through the courts’ electronic filing system.

Presiding Judges may order that specific trials, hearings, proceedings, and first appearances may take place prior to June 1, 2020, in their discretion and under certain circumstances. The Order is effective immediately and will continue indefinitely.

The effect on civil litigants in Oregon’s circuit courts is apparent. Until after at least June 1, 2020, and unless specifically permitted by a circuit court’s Presiding Judge:

  • A landlord (whether commercial or residential) will not be able to quickly obtain possession of a rental property;
  • Many litigants will be left in a state of limbo with trials and associated matters postponed;
  • Lenders may not be able to enforce loan documents through the courts or obtain foreclosure judgments; and
  • Once the courts are reopened, there will be a substantial backlog that will present challenges getting hearings and other proceedings addressed quickly.

Further rules affecting civil litigation in Oregon are likely to come as the State’s response to the coronavirus continues to evolve. The Litigation Group at Saalfeld Griggs continues to monitor these developments to assist our clients with their legal needs.