6/23/2023 News Roundup


<<On Thursday, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis announced the formation of a nationwide coalition of numerous sheriffs, including four in Oregon, to work together to safeguard American communities from the effects of what they describe as “the ongoing crisis at the southern border.”

The 90-sheriff coalition includes Oregon sheriffs from the counties of: Douglas, Gilliam, Malheur, and Polk.>>



<<Oregon lawmakers agreed to overhaul the state’s criminal defense system, but their solution left many unanswered questions about how to solve the crisis of thousands of people accused of crimes with no lawyer.

Senate Bill 337 passed the House 17-8 on Wednesday and now moves to the governor’s desk for final approval. Along with the funding package House Bill 5532, which also passed in this week’s late-session flurry, lawmakers have approved a restructured Oregon’s Public Defense Commission, with new rules for how attorneys are provided to indigent clients and roughly $108 million to build up its trial defense services.>>

<<Oregon has a shortage of public defenders, a reality that has left hundreds of people without the adequate counsel they’re guaranteed by the state and U.S. Constitution. The state’s system for providing criminal defense is the only one in the country relying entirely on private contracting. Oregon’s public defense structure has been deemed such a complex and inefficient bureaucracy that it can’t guarantee adequate counsel even for those with attorneys.

The bill approved this week requires district judges to develop crisis plans for the more than 300 people currently sitting in Oregon jails with no lawyer, and the hundreds more who are out of custody but still without representation.

But beyond asking for new plans, the legislation takes no concrete steps to secure additional attorneys for unrepresented people, calls for reforms that are several years away and sets a target for hiring new trial lawyers that is more than a decade into the future.

Public defenders within the state are conflicted about whether some of the immediate impacts of the bill will solve the state’s constitutional crisis, or exacerbate it.

Lawmakers, for example, agreed to end the use of state public defense contracts with business consortia, which are made up of private attorneys who handle a set number of cases for a flat fee. Oregon leaders wanted to move away from that model because national experts recommended against offering flat fee public defense contracts, with little oversight, to attorneys who might be working only part-time as public defenders. That system pits the financial incentives for lawyers against the best interests of their clients.

Those consortia currently handle more than half of all criminal defense cases in the state. Under the changes lawmakers approved this week, lawyers in those consortia would have to switch to hourly contracts with the state by 2027 or reorganize as a nonprofit firm.

Jonathan Sarre, director of the Oregon Defense Consortia Association, said he expects the disbanding of consortia will drive some people away from public defense. He sees the nonprofit, state employee or hourly models as less attractive options for many lawyers because they offer less freedom and more bureaucracy than private business.

“At least in the short term, if not the long term, it’s going to result in a net loss of people,” Sarre said.>>

<<Also unclear is how the state will address the issue of pay to encourage lawyers to serve as public defenders. The bills passed this week include money to provide raises for public defenders, who historically earn less than their prosecutor counterparts. But lawmakers haven’t provided details on the process for determining how that money will be spent.

Ultimately, the legislature opted to move toward a new system that gives the state closer oversight of the quality of representation public defenders provide their clients. That new system includes a new roster of trial lawyers employed by the state. The bill calls on Oregon to provide 30% of all public defense, but not until 2035.

Lawmakers and advocates have been attempting to revamp Oregon’s criminal defense system for years, and they said Senate Bill 337 represents the most comprehensive change they could realistically accomplish.>>



<<Oregon legislators voted Wednesday to ban so-called “ghost guns,” 3-D printed firearms without serial numbers that are assembled at home and can be easily purchased online.>>

<<The legislation, which now heads to Gov. Tina Kotek for her signature, effectively expands on the legal definition of a firearm under federal law to include unfinished frames and lower receivers, major handgun and rifle components which, when fully fabricated, require a serial number.>>

<<The Oregon Firearms Federation, a gun rights group currently suing the state to stop voter-approved gun laws from taking effect, called the ghost gun ban a “gun grab” and part of “the left’s extremist agenda.”>>

<<Once signed into law, owning or selling an un-serialized firearm will be a Class B violation, a non-criminal offense punishable with a fine.

Manufacturing or selling an undetectable firearm, such as a plastic 3-D printed firearm, will be a felony. Owning one will be a misdemeanor.>>

<<Portland Police Lt. Ken Duilio, who leads the teams charged with investigating and preventing gun violence, said that of the 1,364 firearms they recovered in 2022, 48 of them, or 3.5%, would have been banned under this new legislation. Seven of those un-serialized firearms were used in crimes against another person, like assault, robbery or murder.

“I just don’t think it comes up enough,” Duilio said. “Ban or no ban, I don’t think it makes a huge impact.”

Tracing a firearm using the serial number can sometimes be helpful, he said, but most of their investigations focus on using the unique markings each gun leaves on shell casings.>>



<<Cities across Oregon have until July 1 to update their rules around unsanctioned homeless camping to comply with a state law that was passed in 2021. That law, HB 3115, makes homeless camping on public property legal when no shelter is available.

Portland City Council made a change to the city’s ordinance earlier this month when they voted to ban daytime camping, with homeless people facing fines or jail time if they violate the ban three times or more.

That ruling was met with protests outside city hall and heated hours-long testimony.

In Hillsboro and Beaverton, camping has always been prohibited. Both cities just passed ordinances to allow camping overnight on some public property if no shelter is available. It will remain banned during the day.>>

<<The city of Gresham made the least number of changes to its homeless camping rules. It simply adjusted certain wording in the code. The policy itself remains the same: Camping is not allowed at any time unless shelter is unavailable.>>

<<One main difference between Hillsboro, Beaverton and Gresham are the lack of homeless services compared to those in Portland. In Hillsboro, for example, they don’t have a year-round shelter. While it’s hard to prove, that may be one of the reasons there are so many homeless people in Portland — making the crisis there that much more difficult to manage.

On top of that, camping has been banned in these suburbs for years. That said, Portland has also banned unsanctioned homeless camps on city property. It just hasn’t been very active in enforcing those bans.>>


<<Starting Thursday, the City of Salem changed its rules on homeless camping outdoors to better align with a 2021 state ruling that restricted how cities and counties can regulate camping.

One of the new requirements in this law requires city officials or law enforcement to give campers three days to move their belongings before clearing them. It also requires campers’ belongings to be stored for their retrieval.

Camping restrictions will still be enforced in parks, in front of buildings, near residential zones and in any area designated by the city manager as a no-camping zone.

The city also cannot charge a person or give out a fine to someone who is homeless and doesn’t have access to a shelter.>>



<<A local law firm sent a letter to area officials Tuesday morning telling the story of its client, Megan Little, who was hit by a car as she and her boyfriend crossed Northeast Broadway on March 1.

“As they crossed, Jason Davis made a high-speed left turn onto Broadway, striking Megan and dragging her 15 feet from the crosswalk down the street before coming to a stop,” the letter stated. “Little sustained a fractured right fibula in the collision and lacerations requiring several stitches.”

The June 20 letter further alleges that the incident saddled Little with medical bills and long-term injuries but that police declined to cite or arrest the driver.

It lays bare long-simmering tensions over police’s responsiveness—or lack thereof—in Portland, and also brings up the perennial issue of whether traffic citations, arrests and prosecutions should be a top priority of local law enforcement. The Portland Police Bureau has yet to comment.>>

<<Little was told by the Police Bureau that it would not issue a citation or make an arrest, and that since it does not have a traffic division, she should take her concerns to the Portland City Council.>>

<<It wasn’t until more than a month later and after filing multiple complaints with the Police Bureau, the letter claims, that the driver was cited for driving while suspended and uninsured. There have been no citations issued for the act of hitting a pedestrian, reckless driving or any other possible violation.

Since the driver had no insurance, Little has received no compensation to help with medical bills or missed work.

Davis received just a $715 fine for driving uninsured and with a suspended license, and was cited again for the same violation this week.

Oregon court records show he has been cited for driving uninsured or without a valid license—or both—five times since 2010.

The city disbanded the traffic division in December 2020 in the wake of George Floyd’s murder and civil unrest in an effort to decrease racial disparities in traffic stops. (Black men are disproportionately pulled over for traffic stops compared to white people.) Those traffic officers were reassigned to other positions, partly to deal with a major staffing shortage.

A 2022 traffic accident report released by city transportation officials shows that traffic incidents and deaths made a huge jump beginning in 2021. In 2022 alone, there were 28 reported traffic-related pedestrian deaths, compared to just 16 in 2019 and 18 in 2020. While it’s likely a combination of factors that caused the jump, many look to the Police Bureau to help improve traffic safety around the city.

Last month, the bureau announced the rebirth of its traffic division in a limited capacity. At the time, the bureau cited rising crashes and low enforcement numbers as reasons to bring traffic enforcement back.>>



<<A wooden reminder of Portland’s chaotic protest period is coming down. Multnomah County Chair Jessica Vega Pederson has announced plans to remove the perimeter wall surrounding the new central courthouse nearly three years after it was erected to protect the Circuit Court building from nightly protests in 2020.

In a statement, the county’s chief executive said removing the wall was a step toward reactivating downtown, where foot traffic has never recovered since the pandemic and social unrest emptied offices.>>

<<Last month, people in the courthouse atrium began feeling the sun there for the first time after the county took down planks boarding up the three-story-tall glass windows on the main level of the courthouse.>>

<<But other vestiges of the city’s makeshift ramparts remain, including the iron fence surrounding the nearby federal courthouse, as well as the boards blocking the main entrance to the Multnomah County Justice Center and the glass arcade above it. The Justice Center houses the county jail and Portland police headquarters.>>



<<The Clark County Council unanimously approved a five-year body camera contract for the Clark County Sheriff’s Office with Axon Enterprises, which also includes vehicle cameras and updated Taser products.

The body cameras are expected to be rolled out in late summer or early fall of 2023, officials said. The Taser deployments will start after the cameras have been deployed and training/qualification is completed in fall 2023.

The vehicle cameras feature a forward-facing camera to capture video of the back seat of patrol vehicles and is slated to begin in early 2024.

According to the sheriff’s office, the county also approved a supplemental budget and staffing to support the program.>>