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Conference Background and Agenda



1.      The Oregon Legislative Assembly should authorize presiding judges to establish courthouse facilitation programs to provide the following free assistance to family law litigants:

a.     provision of educational material and information about court    procedures,

b.     Assistance in completing forms, and

c.   Resource provision and direction to appropriate groups for
 additional services

2.      The Oregon Legislative Assembly should adopt legislation establishing that courthouse facilitators are not engaged in the unauthorized practice of law

The Commission recommends amending Oregon statutes to provide that persons performing family law facilitation services in a program established pursuant to its authorizing legislation be exempt from unauthorized practice of law restrictions. 

3.      The Oregon Judicial Department’s Director of Family Court Services should coordinate the development, updating, and dissemination of sample family law forms for pro se parties

It is the Commission’s view that provision of pro se forms is not the preferred vehicle for delivering legal services.  The Commission’s ultimate objective in providing legal access is to ensure that all family law litigants, regardless or income, can obtain legal services from lawyers. 

4.      The Oregon Judicial Department’s Education Division should regularly include in education events discussion of judicial ethics issues implicated by unrepresented litigants

The Commission recognizes that the tension between judicial impartiality and the duty to provide a meaningful hearing is problematic.  While perhaps more obvious in the broader context of treatment of pro se pleadings and pro se litigants in the actual courtroom, the conflict between impartiality and meaningful access is also present for some judges even outside the courtroom.  

5.      The Oregon State Bar and local bar associations should promote practitioners’ efforts to provide unbundled legal services by:

a.    promoting the use of written retainer agreements particularized for discrete task representation;

b.    continuing to educate lawyers about the practical, ethical and economic issues of discrete task representation, and

c.   increasing efforts to publicize and promote the Modest Means program and other services designed for low and middle-income Oregonians.

6.      The Legal Ethics Committee of the Oregon State Bar
      should evaluate the implementation of the
      Disciplinary Rule amendment allowing
      attorney-mediators to prepare and submit stipulated
      orders and judgments. (At the Commission’s request,
      the Oregon Supreme Court amended the Oregon
      Disciplinary Rules governing attorney conduct to
      allow this change to occur)

The Commission recognizes that additional refinement of the Disciplinary Rules may be necessary.  The Commission was aware of, and discussed, mediators’ concerns.  The Commission recommends that the OSB Legal Ethics Committee work with the OSB Alternative Dispute Resolution Section, the Oregon Mediation Association, the Oregon Dispute Resolution Commission, and other entities, to broaden litigants’ and lawyers’ understanding of the Disciplinary Rule amendment. 

7.      Local family law advisory committees and legal service providers should coordinate access to family law legal resources on the community level, integrating roles for attorneys in developing and delivering courthouse facilitation and other services

The Commission believes that the entities best suited to coordinate these efforts are the local Family Law Advisory Committees (FLACS) and legal service providers. 

8.      The Oregon Judicial Department’s Office of the State Court Administrator and administrators of Oregon’s Child Support Program should identify and develop improved practices in areas where court and agency procedures in family law intersect

The Commission recommends that OJD and the Child Support Program formalize and encourage collaboration by creating a working group to identify and develop solutions for these troublesome intersections.  The inability of low-income parents to access integrated services to resolve their family law problems calls for the assumption of joint institutional responsibility for examining these issues. 

9.      The State Child Support Program should provide to the parents it serves information on the availability of legal services in each community 

10. The Oregon Judicial Department and the Oregon State Bar should continue their leadership on access to justice issues, and actively encourage local, state, and federal governments and the public to support access to justice efforts

The Commission urges the Oregon Judicial Department and the Oregon State BAR to continue this emphasis on access.  In the family law arena, it recommends that:
1.    The OJD’s State Court Administrator’s office and the OSB collaborate to ensure courts
      and litigants have timely access to suitable model forms.
2.    The OSB prioritize statewide Pro Bono Coordination; and
3.    The OJD and the OSB work closely with legislators to ensure that,
      when legislation and rules implicating family law matters are
      proposed, considerations include the impact on pro se litigants and on
      low and middle-income families’ ability to access legal representation.

The OJD and the Bar must enlist local and state lawmakers in the aggressive pursuit of accessible and affordable legal services. 

11. The Statewide Family Law Advisory Committee should monitor implementation of the Commission’s recommendations and report at its annual conference on the status of those efforts

The Commission recommends the Statewide FLAC as the appropriate entity to monitor implementation of the Commission’s proposals.  Ongoing review is necessary to determine which of the Commission’s proposals are working, which need refinement, and which—if any—should be abandoned. 

12. The Oregon Legislative Assembly should fund the Oregon Judicial Department’s Director of Family Court Services position

The Commission reaffirms the commitment to the Task Force on Family Law to the Family Court Services Director position.  The Commission believes that the Legislature should appropriate funds to the Family Law Account adequate to permit the OJD to staff the Director and related OJD positions, to perform the required statutory family court functions, and to implement the recommendations of this Commission.

Reproduced from:

REPORT TO THE OREGON LEGISLATIVE ASSEMBLY January, 1999 - The Honorable Kristena A. Lamar, Paul J. Lipscomb and Rebecca O. Orf, Barbara Fishleder, Russell Lipetzky, Alice Mills Morrow, Kay Pulju, Larry Thomson, Herb Trubo, Maureen McKnight, Jessica Mindlin.

 In a final report given to the December, 1997 Legislative Assembly, the Oregon Task Force on Family Law articulated the continued unmet and acute demand for assistance dealing with pro se litigants in the court systems. At the request of the Task Force, the Legislature created the Oregon Family Law Legal Services Commission. The charge to this group was to evaluate and report on “how courthouse facilitation and unbundled legal services might enhance the delivery of family law legal services to low and middle-income Oregonians.” During the next four years the Commission gathered both qualitative and quantitative information. They held public monthly meetings, solicited written input from lawyers, litigants, experts in the field, court clerks and all interested parties before drafting the proposal and completing its final work with the recommendations found here. 

Oregon Family Law Legal Services Commission 
700 S.W. Taylor, Suite 310
Portland, Oregon 97205