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Courts in the Time of Corona

Since March of 2020, Oregon’s courts have remained open during this time of public health emergency, operating under strict limitations. On May 15th, 2020 Oregon’s Chief Justice Martha Walters issued a new order on how the courts are to operate in the state amid the coronavirus pandemic. Chief Justice Order No. 20-016 states that all courts must conduct trials necessary to comply with constitutional speedy trial requirements, In-Custody juvenile delinquency adjudications, and proceedings that are defined as Category 1 and 2 essential proceedings. Proceedings defined as Category 1 and 2 essential proceedings include, but are not limited to, civil commitment hearings, protective order applications and certain juvenile dependency and delinquency proceedings, temporary guardianships and conservatorships, and specialty court proceedings.

All courts may conduct proceedings defined as Category 3 essential proceedings only if enough staff is available and social distancing requirements are met. Proceedings defined as Category 3 essential proceedings include, but are not limited to, TROs, certain family law matters, juvenile dependency proceedings and motion hearings that do not require witness testimony.

In courts where Governor Kate Brown has authorized Phase One reopening status, courts also may conduct, on and after June 1st bench trials and all other court proceedings, except jury trials and FED first appearances and trials. Courts with Phase One reopening status must also have enough staff available and ensure that social distancing requirements are met. Currently, all Oregon counties, except for Multnomah, Washington, Clackamas, Marion, Polk, Jefferson, Morrow, and Umatilla, have been approved for Phase One Reopening Status.

In courts where Governor Brown has approved gatherings of at least 50 people in one location, Jury trials in all criminal and civil cases and FED first appearances and trials may be conducted if sufficient staff are available, social distancing requirements can be met, and if no applicable moratorium is in effect. All other courts will continue to operate under Level 3 restrictions,

Jury trials must be held in the courthouse or alternative physical location. All other proceedings may be held remotely, with the Presiding Judge of the county deciding the mode of trial. When any part of a proceeding is held in-person, the proceeding must comply with social distancing and other safety requirements. The Presiding Judge of the county may require that people wear masks in the courtroom and must encourage their use where court operations are conducted.

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