SB 296 Chief Justice during Emergency suspend time periods in court proceedings

06/08/2021
SB 296 VOTE:NO
Signed into Law by Gov Brown

Status (overview) of bill:https://olis.oregonlegislature.gov/liz/2021R1/Measures/Overview/SB296
Committee assigned to bill:https://olis.oregonlegislature.gov/liz/2021R1/Committees/SVEP/Overview


This bill authorizes the Chief Justice of Oregon Supreme Court, during the period of statewide emergency and upon finding of good cause, to extend or suspend time periods or time requirements in rules or statutes in specified court proceedings.

Limited Government
the first special session of 2020 passed HB 4212 which gave the authority in question here to the Chief Justice to allow flexibility with timelines and in-person appearances required by various statutes, as the COVID-19 pandemic was new and the risk of many people in the courthouses was unknown. That current authority will sunset on December 31, 2021. This bill wishes to remove that sunset as well as the limitation to COVID as the only emergency which gives the Chief Justice the authority. This is an unnecessary and unacceptable expansion of the power of one individual over the power of the peoples’ representatives in government, especially when the Supreme Court has decided to allow the governor’s declaration of emergencies to not be confined to the 28-day limit set by the legislature in 2003 and 2007 for COVID types of emergencies, but allow it to be open-ended per general emergency language which was intended for more deadly catastrophes like earthquakes and floods. Between the governor’s ability to make emergencies permanent, and the chief Justice’s ability to alter timeline requirements permanently, the peoples’ rights are insufficiently protected. If another true emergency occurs, the legislature can meet and grant specified and limited power to the Chief Justice for that particular emergency in a short time.

Local Control
The peoples’ representatives are closest to the people and should be the bearer of the peoples’ will and must retain the authority to declare time requirements in statute. It should not be delegated to a single individual. The governor’s power has already been unacceptably expanded, the Supreme Court has blessed that expansion and the power granted to the chief justice in this bill would make the two offices effectively unchecked arbiters of the law. Even the bill’s supporters agree that the existing authority was not required to be used much as people adjusted to working remotely faster than expected.

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