Update Oregon court fees increases: Are we closing the courthouse doors?

Here’s the link to a report in The Oregonian posted on OregonLive about this week’s increase in filing fees in Oregon’s civil court system. Longer analysis here explaining the problem.  The comments at OregonLive are a bit disconcerting, what with yammering about frivolous lawsuits and a 1989 Orange County case.

Last I checked, Orange County was in California, not Oregon. And 1989 was, like, 20 years ago.  The case sounds suspiciously like a number of made-up cases from the 1980’s that turned out to be urban mythic. Not that it matters–that wasn’t the case here, and it isn’t the case now.

But the noise about frivolous lawsuits from 1989 in California misses the point.

The real problem is that ordinary Oregonians–people who pay their bills and keep their heads down–are going to be barred from the courthouse. It’s not just filing fees. The courts will now charge costs at stage of the case (motions, orders, appearances, arguments). The Oregonian article missed that part of the story. Unless we face up to funding services in our state, only the rich will enjoy basic rights like access to justice. You can’t afford it? No justice for you.

Sad day.

2 Responses to “Update Oregon court fees increases: Are we closing the courthouse doors?”

  1. Michael O'Neal Says:

    I agree wholeheartedly with your premise. However, ordinary people have not been able to pay the high fees charged by attorneys and courts for decades. The day when only the rich enjoy access to justice has long since passed.

  2. admin Says:

    Michael-
    Thanks for your comment. I agree that certain types of cases have been out of reach of ordinary Americans for decades. Business disputes, for one. Domestic relations, another.

    But having said that, there are still areas in which available lack of wealth hadn’t closed the courthouse door. Most of those cases involve either contingent fees or attorney fee statute cases. Examples of the first include most injury cases. The second include claims for unpaid wages or civil rights violations. These new fees will make many of those previously affordable claims too expensive to pursue. Still, the bigger picture of the lack of affordable legal services for middle income Oregonians has been a problem for–as you say–decades.

    You are correct that I missed the mark, and I am glad that you pointed out.

    I’m curious if you have any thoughts on how we can do better.

    Thanks,
    David

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