Oregon court system braces for additional layoffs

PORTLAND, Ore. — Lines for services at Oregon courthouses could get longer as the court system moves ahead with elimination of 95 full-time positions by May 1.

The Oregonian reports the layoffs will mean fewer employees to accept payments for tickets, answer questions, pull files from archives and staff courtrooms.

The latest staff cutbacks will mean the loss of 296 positions since 2009, a 17 percent decrease, and it's causing concern for the Oregon Judicial Department.

"People come to courts with life-changing problems: They're accused of crimes. They might lose their homes. They're being harassed or stalked," said Phil Lemman, a department spokesman. "The more you scrimp and save on justice, (the more) philosophically troubling."

Some positions were vacant as administrators anticipated budget problems, but dozens of current employees are expected to be laid off.

The operations budget for the Judicial Department was $243 million for 2007-09 and dropped to about $241 million for 2011-13.

The overall department budget increased from $372 million to $424 million in 2011-13. However, much of the increase goes for judges' salaries, which are protected in statute at $114,468 a year, plus courthouse security, law libraries and Oregon eCourt, a web-based court document system predicted to eventually cut staff time and save money.

Chief Justice Paul De Muniz, the administrative head for the Judicial Department, said employee cuts follow years of searching for efficiencies, such as cutting travel and education.

State courts will be closed nine days over the two-year budget cycle that ends in June 2013. Also, employees will be required to take up to five additional days off without pay.

Doug Bray, trial court administrator in Multnomah County Circuit Court, said the cutbacks are the worst he's seen.

"This is a huge shock wave for the court," he said. "It is an enormous organizational change."

Judges in Multnomah County will soon be sharing judicial assistants and clerks. Trials, sentencings or other court hearings may be postponed for lack of support staff, Bray said.

Share This Story