Chapter 7: Criminal Records

Police agencies and district attorneys’ offices often receive requests from the press for various criminal records. Access to these records is governed primarily by state statutes and administrative rules. Under Oregon’s Public Records Laws, the record of an arrest or the report of a crime is generally available to the public. Records and reports remain confidential only if, and so long as, there is a clear need in a particular case to delay disclosure in the course of a specific investigation.

Public Records Laws:

What can be disclosed:

If there is no need to delay disclosure, the press may obtain the following information:

The arrested person’s name, age, residence, employment, marital status and similar biographical information:

  • the offense with which the arrested person is charged;
  • the terms upon which the arrested person was released from custody;
  • the identity and biographical information concerning both the complaining party and the victim;
  • the identity of the investigating and arresting agency and the length of the investigations;
  • the circumstances of arrest, including time, place, resistance, pursuit and weapons used;
  • such information as may be necessary to enlist public assistance in apprehending fugitives from justice.

This list is illustrative, not exclusive.

Limitations on Access to Public Records:

The principal limitations on access to information result both from attempts to protect a defendant’s right to a fair trial, and from the exemption in the public records law regarding disclosure of investigatory information compiled for criminal law purposes. This type of information is exempt, unless it is necessary for the public interest.

In interpreting this exemption, the Oregon Court of Appeals rejected two extreme positions: (1) that materials relating to criminal investigations are available if no prosecutions were initiated or all prosecutions were completed; and (2) material once exempt from disclosure is forever exempt. Instead, the court adopted a middle position, in which the agency possessing the information must identify various purposes for keeping such information secret. Thus, criminal investigatory information will not be disclosed if disclosure would:

  • interfere with criminal prosecutions;
  • deprive a defendant of the right to a fair trial;
  • unreasonably invade personal privacy;
  • reveal the identity of a confidential source, or confidential information supplied only by the confidential source;
  • reveal non-routine investigative techniques or procedures;
  • endanger the life or physical safety of law enforcement personnel.

Because police reports often contain information which, if released, would conflict with one or more of these reasons for secrecy, the press may be denied access to the reports themselves. Instead, the relevant agency will furnish only information from those reports that is not exempt from disclosure under the public records law.

Oregon law permits courts to consider pre-sentence reports before imposing sentence upon defendants convicted of crimes. These pre-sentence reports, prepared by the corrections division or community corrections probation officers, usually discuss the circumstances of the offense, the defendant’s social and family history, his or her present condition and environment and his or her criminal record. Often, pre-sentence reports also contain the results of psychological examinations of defendants and diagnostic opinions by the examining professionals. Under Oregon law, pre-sentence reports are not public records, and access is restricted to sentencing judges, the corrections division, the State Board of Parole, appellate or reviewing courts (when the information in the report is relevant to an issue before the court), the district attorney, the defendant, or his or her attorney and other persons or agencies having a legitimate professional interest in the information. Pre-sentence reports will not be released to the press.

When a person under the supervision of the corrections division (such as an inmate, parolee or person housed in a work release facility) is charged with a new crime, the corrections division, pursuant to its administrative rules, will adhere to the Bar-Press-Broadcasters guidelines for disclosure and reporting of information on criminal proceedings. For those guidelines, see Chapter 1, appendix A and appendix B. Oregon law generally limits access to the full compiled criminal history information kept by the Oregon State Police to law enforcement agencies and certain other government agencies. However, state law (ORS 181.555 and 181.560) also provides that any person, including a news reporter, can obtain some information on the criminal history of an individual.

Procedure for Obtaining Criminal History:

The procedure is to apply in writing to the Bureau of Criminal Identification of the Oregon State Police in Salem, identifying as clearly as possible the person about whose record the inquiry is being made. The bureau will give that person 14 days notice that an inquiry is being made about him. The delay is intended to give the person an opportunity to exercise his or her right to inspect his or her own criminal history and to have it corrected if it is wrong. At the end of the 14 days, the bureau will send to the person making the inquiry, information it may have about (a) any conviction of the subject in Oregon, and (b) any arrest in Oregon which is less than one year old and on which there has been no acquittal or dismissal. Included will be information on felonies, on any offense involving sexual misconduct, and on certain drug violations. Records of other misdemeanors will not be reported.

For this service the bureau is authorized to charge a fee for each inquiry. Anyone receiving this criminal history information should use it with care, because the law specifies that the State Police will release it based on similarity of name and description, without confirming it through comparison of fingerprints.

Setting Aside a Conviction or Record of Arrest:

Oregon law provides, under certain circumstances, that a conviction or record of arrest may be set aside. Under ORS 137.225, persons convicted of a class C felony, (except for specified child abuse offenses); possession of marijuana when that crime was punishable only as felony, crime punishable as either a felony or a misdemeanor; and any misdemeanor for which a jail sentence may be imposed may move to have conviction set aside. There are specific exceptions, however, when the offenses involve sexual abuse or child abuse. The statute also does not apply to traffic violations or traffic crimes.

A convicted person who qualifies, based on the type of offenses outlined above, after three years from the date of judgment, may apply to the court to set aside the conviction. The sentence must have been completed by then, and the person must have had no further legal problems. A person who is arrested but not charged within a year from the date of arrest or a person who was arrested and acquitted, at any time after the acquittal or dismissal of the case may apply, likewise to set aside the arrest.

The procedure involves applying to the court, supplying a copy of fingerprints to the District Attorney’s office to verify the identity of the person making application and, when the application is based upon a conviction, paying a fee of $80.00 through the state police office.

The statutes further provide that, unless the court finds clear and convincing evidence that granting the motion would not be in the best interest of justice, an order setting aside the record shall be granted. The defendant may then be considered not to have been convicted or arrested.

There is an exception to the statute, however, for purposes of a civil action in which truth is an element of a claim for relief or affirmation defense, which allows a party to apply to the court for an order requiring disclosure of the official records in the case in the interest of justice. Likewise, if a prosecutor or defendant in a case involving sealed records supplies an affidavit showing good cause, the court may order reopening and disclosure of any records sealed for the limited purpose of assisting in the investigation of the moving party.

Chapter 6: State Criminal Procedure

The state criminal procedure includes a set of legal proceedings for both a felony case and a misdemeanor case.

Felony Proceedings

Legal proceedings in a felony case typically follow a series of steps from arrest through review by the Oregon Supreme Court. Though proceedings are generally initiated with the arrest (Step 1) , they can also be initiated with the filing of information (Step 3), or the return of an indictment by the grand jury (Step 5). If proceedings are initiated at Step 3 or Step 5, a warrant for the arrest of the defendant is usually issued when the information or indictment is filed.

  1. Arrest: A person can be arrested — taken into custody — for the purpose of charging that person with an offense. A police officer can make an arrest if the officer has probable cause to believe that the person has committed a felony. A police officer can issue a citation in lieu of physical arrest for a Class C felony, unless the crime involves domestic abuse.
  2. Release Decision: This determination establishes the form of release most likely to assure the defendant’s court appearance. Oregon law provides that any person charged with a crime other than murder or treason must be given the opportunity to be released under either: Personal Recognizance — release upon a promise to appear;
    Conditional Release
    — release that imposes regulations on the activities and associations of the defendant; or
    Security Release
    — release conditioned on a promise to appear that is secured by cash, stocks, bonds, or real property. (This is what historically would have been referred to as posting bail. A defendant is entitled to be released upon posting a security deposit that is 10 percent of the total security amount).A judge is likely to impose the least onerous condition reasonably likely to assure the defendant’s later appearance. A defendant in custody shall have the immediate right to security release or shall be taken before a magistrate without undue delay for a release decision. Release authority may be delegated to a release assistance officer. After conviction, the trial judge has discretion whether to grant release pending appeal.
  3. Information: A written accusation is filed with the court charging a person with the commission of a felony offense. If signed by the district attorney, the information is a “district attorney’s information.” If signed by anyone else (such as a victim), it is a “complainant’s information.” This is a preliminary document that serves to commence an action, but it is not the final accusatory instrument that will serve as the basis for the ultimate prosecution in circuit court. An information must be accepted and endorsed by the district attorney.
  4. Arraignment: A person is arraigned in public hearing in court, usually the defendant’s first appearance before a judge. The defendant is advised of the charge and of his or her rights, including the right to remain silent, the right to have an attorney, and the right to have a preliminary hearing within five days if the defendant is in custody or within 30 days if the defendant is not in custody (unless the grand jury considers the case sooner). If the defendant is indigent and requests an attorney, the judge will appoint one.
  5. Grand Jury: A group of seven jurors evaluates evidence and determines whether sufficient evidence exists to warrant filing formal charges against the defendant. The grand jury meets in private and is sworn to secrecy regarding the proceedings. At least five of the seven grand jurors must agree before a formal charge is filed. The district attorney generally presents evidence to the grand jury, calling witnesses one at a time, but the district attorney is not present during the grand jury’s deliberations. The grand jury may return an indictment if it believes the evidence is sufficient to warrant a conviction by a trial jury.
  6. Indictment: This accusatory instrument (formal charge) is filed by the grand jury. This document names the accused and contains a statement of the acts constituting the offense charged. If the grand jury determines there is not sufficient evidence to warrant further proceedings, it returns a not true bill which terminates the case.
  7. Preliminary Hearing: A public court hearing determines whether there is sufficient evidence to warrant holding the defendant for further proceedings. The judge must be satisfied from the evidence that there is probable cause to believe that a crime has been committed and that the defendant committed it. If sufficient evidence is not presented to support a criminal charge, the defendant is discharged.
  8. District Attorney’s Information: This document can be filed for a felony charge if the judge at a preliminary hearing has ruled that there is probable cause to believe that the defendant committed the offense. The filing of a district attorney’s information is an alternative to indictment by the grand jury. The Oregon Constitution provides that, without a waiver, no one can be prosecuted on a felony charge unless there has been either a preliminary hearing or the case has been considered the grand jury. A defendant may waive these rights and agree to the filing of a district attorney’s information to expedite the proceedings.
  9. Arraignment and Plea (following indictment or preliminary hearing): The defendant first appears in court at an arraignment on an indictment or on district attorney’s information. If the defendant is without counsel, the defendant is given an opportunity to obtain counsel before proceeding with the arraignment. If the defendant is indigent, an attorney will be appointed if the defendant requests counsel. The accusatory instrument is read to the defendant and the defendant is given a copy of it and asked how he or she pleads to the charge. Often, a defendant will be allowed a reasonable time to consider the matter before entering a plea. The defendant’s plea can be guilty, not guilty, or no contest. A defendant may plead no contest only with the consent of the court; a no contest plea has the same legal effect as a plea of guilty.
  10. Discovery: A district attorney and the defendant’s attorney are made aware of potential evidence possessed by the other party through discovery. The disclosures required include such things as police reports, the names, addresses, and statements of witnesses, photographs, results of physical and mental examinations, and scientific tests.
  11. Pre-Trial Motions: The state or the defendant may request that the court make certain rulings before trial that have a bearing on the case. A variety of issues can be raised pre-trial. Often, the various pre-trial issues raised by the parties are heard at one time in a pre-trial omnibus hearing. The court might consider issues such as suppression of evidence, admissibility of statements by the defendant, and challenges to the sufficiency of the accusatory instrument.
  12. Trial: Determination is made as to whether the state has proved the guilt of the defendant beyond a reasonable doubt at the trial, a formal public court proceeding. Both the state and the defendant are entitled to a public trial with 12 impartial jurors. (If both the state and the defendant agree, there can be fewer than 12 jurors. In all other cases, at least 10 of the jurors must agree on the verdict. Both the state and the defendant may waive trial by jury and consent to a trial by the judge. In a jury trial, the judge rules on all questions of law and procedure arising during the trial, and instructs the jurors as to the legal principles they are to apply. The jury decides the factual issues and makes the ultimate decision to whether the state has proved the guilt of the defendant beyond a reasonable doubt.
  13. Sentencing: A penalty is imposed upon a convicted defendant at the sentencing. It is the duty of the judge to pass sentence if a defendant has pleaded guilty or has been found guilty. The law establishes maximum sentences for each felony offense. However, sentencing guidelines limit a court’s discretion in most felony cases to a sentence below the statutory maximum. Sentencing guidelines apply to crimes committed on or after November 1, 1989, and take into consideration the severity of the crime and the defendant’s criminal history. In 1994, Oregon voters passed several ballot measures that set mandatory prison terms for certain crimes.
  14. Appeal to Oregon Court of Appeals: Decisions made in trial court can be challenged in an appeal to the Oregon Court of Appeals. The Oregon Court of Appeals is the appellate court having initial jurisdiction to review cases from the trial courts. A convicted defendant has an absolute right to file an appeal with the Court of Appeals. The state can appeal certain pre-trial rulings and sentencing decisions, but cannot appeal a finding of not guilty. The Court of Appeals does not hold trials or hear testimony. It hears legal arguments and reviews the record that has been made in the trial court. Appellate review is generally limited to questions of law and procedure rather than factual findings. That is, possible erroneous rulings by the trial judge are considered, not the jury’s evaluation of the evidence. If it is decided that the trial court made an error that affected a defendant’s right to a fair trial, the conviction is reversed and the case is generally returned to the trial court for a new trial. There are 10 judges on the Court of Appeals. Cases are generally heard by three-judge panels.
  15. Review by Oregon Supreme Court: A decision of the Court of Appeals may be re-examined the Oregon Supreme Court, the highest appellate court in the state court system. The seven-member court has jurisdiction to review decisions of the Court of Appeals. If either the state or the defendant is not satisfied with a decision from the Court of Appeals, a petition can be filed asking the Supreme Court to review the decision. The Supreme Court determines which cases merit review. If review is granted, the court will hear legal arguments, review the record of the case, and issue an opinion that affirms or reverses the decision of the Court of Appeals. The Supreme Court also reviews all death penalty cases.

Misdemeanor Proceedings

Legal proceedings in a misdemeanor case typically follow a series of steps starting with the arrest of the defendant. The proceedings could also be initiated with the filing of a complaint (Step 3), followed by the issuance of a warrant for the arrest of the defendant. Except as described below, the descriptions of procedures followed in a misdemeanor case are the same as those discussed under felony procedures.

  1. Arrest: A police officer may arrest a person without a warrant for any misdemeanor committed in the officer’s presence, or if the officer has probable cause to believe that the person committed a Class A misdemeanor. A police officer can issue a citation in lieu of physical arrest for a misdemeanor, unless the crime involves domestic abuse.
  2. Complaint: This written accusation, verified by oath and filed with the court, charges a person with an offense other than a felony.
  3. District Attorney’s Information: This written accusation is similar to a complaint but signed by the district attorney. Either a complaint or a district attorney’s information can commence an action and serve as a basis for the prosecution of a misdemeanor case. There is no requirement that there be either a preliminary hearing or grand jury consideration as in felony cases. A complaint can be signed by any person, but must be accepted and endorsed by the district attorney before filing.
  4. Arraignment and Plea: Same as for felonies.
  5. Discovery: Same as for felonies.
  6. Pre-Trial Motions: Same as for felonies.
  7. Trial: There are six people on a jury for a misdemeanor charge, and a unanimous verdict is required.
  8. Sentencing: No pre-sentence report is required in a misdemeanor case. Sentencing guidelines and mandatory sentences do not apply to misdemeanors.

Oregon Supreme Court grants access to Portland School District records of alleged employee theft

Filed: October 7, 1999


Oregon corporation, doing business
under the assumed business name of
The Oregonian; and ERIN HOOVER SCHRAW,

Respondents on Review,



Petitioner on Review.

(CC 9308-05795; CA A83594; SC S45020)

En Banc

On review from the Court of Appeals.*

Argued and submitted September 14, 1998.

James N. Westwood, of Miller, Nash, Wiener, Hager & Carlsen LLP, Portland, argued the cause on behalf of petitioner on review. With him on the petition and brief on the merits was Bruce L. Campbell.

Charles F. Hinkle, of Stoel Rives LLP, Portland, argued the cause and filed the response on behalf of respondents on review. With him on the brief on the merits was Per A. Ramfjord.

Hardy Myers, Attorney General, and Michael D. Reynolds, Solicitor General, Salem, filed a brief on behalf of amicus curiae Oregon Attorney General.

Monica A. Smith, of Smith, Gamson, Diamond & Olney, Portland, filed a brief on behalf of amici curiae Portland Association of Teachers, Oregon Education Association, and National Education Association.


The decision of the Court of Appeals and the judgment of the circuit court are affirmed.

* Appeal from Multnomah County Circuit Court,

Ancer L. Haggerty, Judge, and Charles H. Turner,

Judge Pro Tempore.
(keywords for search: school discipline records investigation theft property personnel action)

144 Or App 180, 925 P2d 591 (1996), modified and adhered to 152 Or App 135, 952 P2d 66 (1998).


Plaintiffs Oregonian Publishing Company (Oregonian Publishing) and its employee, reporter Erin Hoover Schraw, filed this action for injunctive relief seeking to compel defendant Portland School District No. 1J (the district) to release as public records several documents relating to an investigation of alleged misuse and theft of school property by district employees. The circuit court ordered release of two of the documents sought by plaintiffs. Defendant appealed, and the Court of Appeals affirmed. Defendant released one of the two documents, but sought review of the Court of Appeals’ decision regarding the other document. We allowed review and now affirm on other grounds the decision of the Court of Appeals.

We take the following undisputed facts from the Court of Appeals’ original and modified opinions and from the record. In early 1993, Ross, the campus monitor at Benson High School, notified McElroy, deputy superintendent of the district, that Ross and several other Benson High School employees had participated in misuse and theft of school property. McElroy asked the Portland School Police, an agency organized under ORS 332.531,(1) to investigate the matter. Sergeant Leedom of the school police conducted the investigation. After interviewing a number of district employees, Leedom prepared a report entitled “Personnel Investigation,” describing problems with control of school property at Benson High School. That report is the subject of this opinion.

The report was delivered to McElroy, who retained it in a file in his office while the district school board reviewed the matter.(2) Ultimately, the district resolved the matter internally. Three employees ended their employment with the district. One of the employees, Parr, the principal of Benson High School, retired and sent a letter to Benson High School faculty and staff announcing his retirement. That letter was quoted at length a few days later in The Oregonian, a newspaper owned by Oregonian Publishing.

A reporter for The Oregonian subsequently telephoned the district and made a request under the public records law to review “[a]ll records contained in the Portland School Police investigation of the misuse of district property by [district employees].” The district refused to release the requested records, claiming that they pertained to a confidential personnel matter and thus were exempt from disclosure under former ORS 192.502(8) (1995)(3) and former ORS 342.850(7) (1995),(4) renumbered as ORS 192.502(9) (1997) and ORS 342.850(8) (1997), respectively.

Pursuant to ORS 192.450 and ORS 192.460, Oregonian Publishing requested that the Multnomah County district attorney review the disputed public records and determine whether they were exempt from disclosure requirements under the public records law. The district attorney reviewed the records and determined that they were exempt from disclosure under ORS 192.502(9) and ORS 342.850(8) as records in a personnel file.

Oregonian Publishing then filed this action for injunctive relief, seeking to compel the district to release the documents in its possession relating to the investigation of alleged misuse and theft of school property by district employees. The circuit court ordered the release of two of those documents, reasoning that Parr’s letter announcing his retirement had been circulated widely and therefore was not exempt from disclosure, and that the district had waived any exemption it might have had for the school police investigation report. The circuit court also ruled that the other documents requested by Oregonian Publishing were exempt from disclosure under the public records law. The district appealed, and the Court of Appeals affirmed. Oregonian Publishing v. Portland School Dist. No. 1J, 144 Or App 180, 925 P2d 591 (1996), modified and adhered to 152 Or App 135, 952 P2d 66 (1998).

After the Court of Appeals affirmed the judgment of the circuit court, the district released Parr’s letter. The district then petitioned for review of the Court of Appeals’ decision that the investigation report was not exempt from disclosure. On review, the district contends that the Court of Appeals adopted an inappropriately broad waiver standard that alters the nature of public records law exemptions and that, under an appropriate waiver standard, it did not waive the statutory exemption for documents in a personnel file under ORS 192.502(9) and ORS 342.850(8). The district further asserts that, because it placed the investigation report in a personnel file, the report is exempt from disclosure under ORS 192.502(9) and ORS 342.850(8). On review, we do not reach the issue of waiver because we hold that the investigation report prepared by the school police is not exempt from disclosure under ORS 192.502(9) and ORS 342.850(8).

Oregon has a long-standing policy in favor of access to public records. The general statement of legislative policy regarding public records has remained virtually unchanged for almost 140 years. An 1862 law originally granted Oregon citizens the statutory right to “inspect any public writing of this state, except as otherwise expressly provided by this code or some other statute.” General Laws of Oregon, ch 8, § 707, p 326 (Deady 1845-1864). Although the 1909 legislature limited that right to persons having “a lawful purpose,” Or Laws 1909, ch 98, the legislature deleted that restriction 52 years later and restored the general right to inspect any public record, subject to certain statutory exemptions, Or Laws 1961, ch 160, § 4. The Oregon legislature made a structural revision of public records law in 1973, gathering records statutes into ORS Chapter 192 and organizing the basic structure of the public records law as it is today. The current statement of legislative policy regarding public records, ORS 192.420, provides that “[e]very person has a right to inspect any public record * * * except as otherwise expressly provided by ORS 192.501 to 192.505.” A public record “includes any writing containing information relating to the conduct of the public’s business * * * prepared, owned, used or retained by a public body regardless of physical form or characteristics.” ORS 192.410(4).

The 1987 legislature adopted a “catchall exemption” in former ORS 192.502(8) (1987), renumbered as ORS 192.502(9) (1997), as a replacement for former ORS 192.500(2)(h) (1985). Or Laws 1987, ch 764, § 1; Or Laws 1987, ch 898, § 26; Attorney General’s Public Records and Meetings Manual, 36-38 (1989). ORS 192.500(2)(h) (1985) exempted from disclosure “[p]ublic records or information the disclosure of which is prohibited or restricted or otherwise made confidential or privileged under * * * ORS 342.850 * * *.” ORS 192.500(2)(h) (1985) attempted to list every statute outside the public records law that in any way prohibited or restricted disclosure of public records. In addition to ORS 342.850, ORS 192.500(2)(h) (1985) listed more than 60 individual statutes and chapters in the Oregon Revised Statutes, but was difficult to maintain as a comprehensive list because the legislature amended, added, and repealed laws affecting the disclosure of public records during each legislative session. The replacement for ORS 192.500(2)(h) (1985), former ORS 192.502(8) (1987), renumbered as ORS 192.502(9) (1997), exempts from disclosure under the public records law “[p]ublic records or information the disclosure of which is prohibited or restricted or otherwise made confidential or privileged under Oregon law.”

“When the legislature adopts an exemption to disclosure of public records * * * [o]ur task * * * is to determine and declare the legislature’s meaning in the exemption adopted.” City of Portland v. Rice, 308 Or 118, 122, 775 P2d 1371 (1989); see also PGE v. Bureau of Labor and Industries, 317 Or 606, 610, 859 P2d 1143 (1993) (“In interpreting a statute, this court’s task is to discern the intent of the legislature.”). Our first step in discerning that intent is to examine the text and context of the statute. Id. at 610-11. When a statute does not define a word or term, we give that word or term its plain, natural, and ordinary meaning. Id. at 611. Context includes “other provisions of the same statute and other related statutes,” id., as well as relevant judicial construction of those statutes. See Owens v. Maass, 323 Or 430, 435, 918 P2d 808 (1996) (context includes judicial construction of earlier versions of relevant statutes). If our analysis of those sources discloses the legislature’s intent, we proceed no further. PGE, 317 Or at 611.

ORS 342.850, which deals exclusively with public school teacher evaluations and personnel files, provides, in part:

“(8) The personnel file shall be open for inspection by the teacher, the teacher’s designees and the district school board and its designees. District school boards shall adopt rules governing access to personnel files, including rules specifying whom school officials may designate to inspect personnel files.”

ORS 342.850(8) does two things. First, it explicitly guarantees that certain people (the teacher, the district school board, and the designees of each) have the right to inspect teacher personnel files. Second, it explicitly requires the district to adopt rules governing access to teacher personnel files. Acting pursuant to the authority delegated in ORS 342.850(8), the district adopted rules restricting the public’s access to the district’s personnel files. Teacher personnel files thus fall within the ambit of the “catchall exemption” to the public records law in ORS 192.502(9).

The district argues that it may keep the investigation report from public view by placing that public record in a personnel file and claiming an absolute exemption for the report under ORS 342.850(8) and ORS 192.502(9) based on the report’s location, rather than its content. The resolution of that issue determines the outcome of this case.

ORS 342.850 neither explicitly defines the term “personnel file” nor does it list the appropriate contents of such a file.(5) Accordingly, we rely on the plain, natural, and ordinary meanings of the words “personnel” and “file” to determine the meaning of the statutory term “personnel file.”

The word “personnel” means “persons of a particular (as professional or occupational) group” or “a body of persons employed in some service.” Webster’s Third New Int’l Dictionary, 1687 (unabridged ed 1993). The word “file” has two meanings relevant to this case: “a container in which papers are kept” (e.g., a folder or a metal cabinet); and “a collection of cards or papers usu[ally] arranged or classified” (i.e., the collection of papers residing in such a container). Id. at 849. Thus, a “personnel file” is a container for papers arranged or classified as to a person in a particular group or employment category, or a collection of such papers in such a container. Those definitions accord with our understanding of the term “personnel file” as it is commonly used. Both meanings are significant here.

The district has the authority to compile and maintain such files as are necessary to perform its statutory obligation under ORS 332.505(1)(b) to “[e]mploy personnel, including teachers and administrators, necessary to carry out the duties and powers of the board and fix the duties, terms and conditions of employment * * *.” Such “personnel files” would usually include information about a teacher’s education and qualifications for employment, job performance, evaluations, disciplinary matters or other information useful in making employment decisions regarding an employee.(6) The grant of rulemaking authority to the district contained in ORS 342.850(8) allows the district to adopt rules governing access to the containers of “personnel files.” ORS 342.850(8) also allows the district to control access to the records stored in each such container, because controlling access to the container itself would have no meaning without the authority to control access to the collection of papers in the container.

ORS 342.850(8) does not, however, authorize the district to exempt a public record from disclosure by placing it in a district personnel file and claiming an exemption based on the report’s title or location, rather than its content. In light of the “strong and enduring policy that public records and governmental activities be open to the public,” noted by this court in Jordan v. MVD, 308 Or 433, 438, 781 P2d 1203 (1989), and in other cases, the legislature clearly did not intend such a result. This court stated in Guard Publishing Co. v. Lane County School Dist., 310 Or 32, 39, 791 P2d 854 (1990):

“A public body may not exempt itself from its responsibilities under the Inspection of Public Records law by adopting a policy that seeks to deprive citizens of their right under the law to inspect public records. Disclosure is the norm; exclusion is the exception that must be justified by the public body.”

The report at issue in this case resulted from Deputy Superintendent McElroy’s request that the school police investigate allegations that Benson High School staff had stolen or otherwise misappropriated school district property. That is a matter of paramount public interest and concern. Although the title of the investigation report is “Personnel Investigation,” the subject noted in the heading of the report is “Misuse and Theft of School District Property,” without any reference to any individual school district employee. The focus of the report is the general “atmosphere” at Benson High School regarding school district property, with documentation and discussion of misuse and theft of such property by several school district employees. The investigation report also discusses the policies in place at the school regarding donated and surplus property, and the need for improvement regarding those policies and their enforcement by the school district.

Testimony by school police officers at trial indicated that, although school police routinely handle what are called “personnel investigations,” the school police do not write personnel evaluations of school district employees, nor are they familiar with the personnel evaluation procedures followed by the district. The recommendation at the close of the report concerns the adoption of new policies and more stringent inventory controls at Benson High School.

The investigation report does not address an individual school district employee’s terms and conditions of employment; neither does it recommend any employment decision regarding the individual school district employees who were the subject of the investigation.(7) The district cannot restrict access to public records simply by placing the records in a personnel file or using a label, such as “Personnel Investigation,” for those records. We conclude that the school district must disclose the investigation report because it is not exempt from disclosure under ORS 342.850(8) and ORS 192.502(9) either as part of a personnel file or because it is labeled “Personnel Investigation.”

For the reasons stated above, the investigation report at issue here is not the type of document that the legislature intended to exempt from disclosure as part of a teacher personnel file. The circuit court did not err in ordering the district to release the investigation report to Oregonian Publishing.

The decision of the Court of Appeals and the judgment of the circuit court are affirmed.


1. ORS 332.531(1) provides, in part:

“The district school board of any school district may establish a law enforcement agency and employ such personnel as may be necessary to insure * * * the security of the real and personal property owned, controlled or used by or on behalf of the school district.”

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2. McElroy discussed the subject matter of the report with the Multnomah County district attorney, who declined to investigate whether criminal charges should be filed against any district employee.

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3. Former ORS 192.502 (1995) provided, in part:

“The following public records are exempt from disclosure under ORS 192.410 to 192.505:

“* * * * *

“(8) Public records or information the disclosure of which is prohibited or restricted or otherwise made confidential or privileged under Oregon law.”

The wording of that section remained the same when it was renumbered as ORS 192.502(9) in 1997. Or Laws 1997, ch 825, § 1. Except as where otherwise noted, we refer to the current numbering of the statute, ORS 192.502(9), throughout this opinion.

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4. Former ORS 342.850(7) (1995) provided:

“The personnel file shall be open for inspection by the teacher, the teacher’s designees and the district school board and its designees. District school boards shall adopt rules governing access to personnel files, including rules specifying whom school officials may designate to inspect personnel files.”

The wording of that section remained the same when it was renumbered as ORS 342.850(8) in 1997. Or Laws 1997, ch 864, § 9. Except as otherwise noted, we refer to the current numbering of the statute, ORS 342.850(8), throughout this opinion.

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5. Neither do the district regulations. District Regulation 5.20.110(1) suggests general categories of personnel file documents, such as “records * * * which relate to * * * character, personal history, scholarship, school reports, and other data of a confidential nature * * *.”

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6. We also have considered the wording of statutes that at least arguably are contextual to those we construe today, ORS 351.065 and ORS 353.260. See PGE, 317 Or at 611 (first level of analysis of legislative intent behind statute includes wording of contextual statutes). We have found no contextual statute that detracts from our construction of ORS 192.502(9) and ORS 342.850(8).

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7. In noting the absence of such material, we do not mean to suggest that inclusion in the report of personnel action recommendations, whether volunteered by Leedom or sought by McElroy, necessarily would change the result we announce today.

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Chapter 5: State Civil Trial Procedures

In civil cases, an action is started by filing a copy of a complaint with the county clerk, generally in the county of the defendant’s residence. A complaint states what the defendant has done wrong, how the plaintiff was injured or damaged and to what degree.

After filing the complaint the sheriff or private process server delivers (serves) a copy of the complaint and a summons upon the defendant. The summons tells the defendant that he or she must “appear” in this case or the other side will win automatically. Appearance is done by filing a legal document (motion, demurrer or answer) with the court. The time for filing an answer, or motion, is within 30 days after the summons is served.

If the defendant is not found, the plaintiff can try again. In some cases where the defendant is not found, service can be upon the public welfare division, the corporation commissioner, the motor vehicles division or by publication in a newspaper of general circulation in the area where the defendant was last known to be. Once the defendant appears, he or she can file motions asking that the service of summons be quashed or disallowed, that the complaint or parts of it be stricken or made more definite and certain. The defendant can file an answer which gives his or her side of the story (affirmative defense or counterclaim), simply deny the complaint, or a combination of these answers.

The court hears legal arguments on motions and can allow or deny all, part or none. Rarely will there be any testimony presented. If the court disallows all or part of a complaint, some period of time, usually 10 days, is allowed to file an amended complaint and the process of motion, demurrer and answer starts again. After the defendant responds, the plaintiff can file motions against the defendant’s answer the same as cited above for the defendant.

If the defendant has answered by giving his or her side of the story, the plaintiff then replies by denying the affirmative allegations.

The court hears legal arguments on motions and can allow or deny all or part or none; again no testimony is presented. The “pleadings” are concluded once a complaint, answer and a reply, if necessary, are filed and all motions and demurrers have been ruled upon.

Summary Judgment:

The judge decides all or part of the case before trial where facts are not in dispute. Any party can ask for summary judgment by a motion filed at least 20 days after the commencement of the case and no fewer than 45 days from trial. The motion is usually accompanied by supporting affidavits and other relevant documents showing there is no genuine issue as to any material fact; and the moving party is entitled to prevail on all or part of the claim.

The party opposing the motion may respond and support his or her response with affidavits and other relevant documents showing there is a genuine issue of fact of trial, the other side is not entitled to relief or the responding party is entitled to win.

The judge may hear oral arguments and consider all documents and grant or deny the summary judgment. Granting a summary judgment decides the case or part of it just as if there had been a trial.

Trial is defined as a judicial examination of the issues between the parties, whether issues of law or fact. A right to jury trial exists where the value in controversy exceeds $200. Right to jury trial can be waived, however, by oral or written motion or by failing to appear for trial. There is no jury trial by right in domestic relations, juvenile, equity or mental hearing matters.

The jury panel is drawn from the registered voters of the county. Jury terms are of a length determined by the presiding judge of the circuit court, but can be no longer than two months. By law, suits for $10,000 or less are to be tried by six-person juries.

At trial the jury is usually 12 persons selected by lot, except that by agreement of the parties there can be a jury of a lesser number — usually six. Challenges to trial jury are for cause or peremptory. Challenges for cause can be of any number and are for such things as being related to a party, having an opinion as to the outcome and other obvious things. Peremptory challenges are for no reason or any reason, and each side can take three (two in a six-person jury). Where there is more than one party plaintiff or defendant they must join in the challenge.

If a trial is to be a lengthy one, the judge can order selection of up to six alternate jurors. They are selected and participate as regular jurors but are excused when the jury retires to deliberate unless a juror has become ill or has been excused during trial.

The trial procedure usually begins when the jury is called to the jury box and examined briefly by the judge. Plaintiff and defense counsel examine each juror and may challenge for cause at this time. Such challenges are then ruled upon by the judge. At the conclusion of counsel’s jury examination (called voir dire) they in turn submit written peremptory challenges (three challenges for each side).

When a jury is picked and all challenges are exhausted or waived the jury is impaneled to try the case.

The plaintiff, followed by the defense counsel, presents opening statements which tell the jury what each intends to prove in the case. The plaintiff then calls witnesses for direct examination. The defendant cross-examines plaintiff’s witnesses. If the judge allows, the lawyers may be allowed some re-direct and re-cross examination.

After the plaintiff has called all witnesses for direct examination, the case rests in chief. At that time, the defendant may move to eliminate certain parts or all of the complaint because the plaintiff has not proved the case, motions to strike, or to dismiss. The judge rules on the motions, often remarking that before the defendant has put on a case, the plaintiff is entitled to all reasonable inferences from the testimony.

The defense then calls witnesses and plaintiff cross-examines and both may re-direct and re-cross examine. The defendant then rests the case in chief. The plaintiff may then move against defendant’s case.

The plaintiff may (or may not) put on witnesses to rebut the testimony of the defense witnesses (not to “prove over again,” but to rebut the defense case). The plaintiff then rests rebuttal.

The plaintiff, followed by the defendant, argues the case to the jury. The plaintiff gets the last word and is allowed to present argument rebutting the defendant’s argument. (The last word goes to the plaintiff because he or she has the burden of proving the case.)

The judge instructs the jury on the general and specific law of the case. The jury deliberates and must find a verdict by the concurrence of at least nine of their number (in a six-person jury, five out of six must concur).

The judge receives the verdict and the jury is discharged.

Probate Procedure:

Probate powers generally include the power to probate and hear contests of wills; to determine heirship; and to control the administration, settlement and distribution of estates of decedents. The judge of the probate court may appoint a commissioner to assist the probate judge. That commissioner may act in most uncontested matters setting up the probate of an estate. The commissioner acts only under the authority of the court and all commissioner orders can be set aside by the court. Unless set aside or modified, however, all commissioner orders have the same effect as if made by the judge.

Domestic Relations Procedure:

In Oregon the grounds for divorce are that “irreconcilable differences” have arisen which have caused the “irremediable breakdown” of the marriage. These grounds can exist even where one side does not want a divorce, as that demonstrates that there are irreconcilable differences.

In Oregon any married person can get a divorce simply by filing a petition with the court and maintaining that there are irreconcilable differences which have caused the irremediable breakdown of the marriage. The petition must be filed in the county in Oregon in which the filing party resides. One of the parties to the suit must have resided in Oregon for at least six months prior to filing. The respondent (the spouse who did not file) need not “answer,” as in an ordinary civil case, but only file a paper saying “respondent appears.”

Either party may ask the court to order the other party to pay temporary child support, spousal support (alimony) or money for filing or attorney fees.

Either party may ask the court for temporary child custody, possession of real or personal property, removal of one spouse from the family home, a restraining order preventing “molesting or interfering with the other or the minor children” or a restraining order preventing either or both from disposing of or encumbering assets. In a court hearing on pre-decree requests the court takes testimony and grants or denies requests such as those listed above. The court may order a child custody study to be made for the purpose of protecting the child’s future interest. This independent investigation helps the court with child custody decisions.

Some courts offer conciliation services authorized by Oregon law. The service is funded by dissolution filing fees and does not cost the parties. The court of its own motion or either party can ask for conciliation services. The court can then suspend the dissolution proceedings for 45 days for conciliation services provided by the court.

Ninety days after filing for dissolution the hearing can commence (90 days can be waived for emergencies). The hearing is conducted as a suit in equity without as judge. The petitioner puts on evidence first. The respondent cross examines and then proceeds when the petitioner has rested the case in chief. The petitioner cross examines and then may proceed with rebuttal evidence if authorized. Then the counsel make closing statements and the court rules.

Often the parties enter into a contract dividing property, providing for custody, support and otherwise settling some or all of the issues. Fault is not an issue in a dissolution. Evidence of causation of the marriage breakdown is irrelevant except as it might bear upon the issue of child custody but only when a direct relationship between fault and custody is shown. The general moral character of a party is not an issue in a custody contest unless it is shown to have a direct effect on the child.

Most dissolutions are obtained when one of the parties has been served with the petition and summons but does not file an answer or appear in court. Often an opposing lawyer is involved but a settlement is made so that the respondent simply agrees to the contents of the petition or the terms of an amended petition or property settlement agreement. Occasionally the opposing counsel or party is physically present at the hearing but does not participate.

Typically the petitioner will testify to the grounds (“irreconcilable differences have arisen causing an irremediable breakdown of the marriage relationship”) and a few other matters and the decree would be granted with the whole thing taking five minutes or less. There is also dissolution by affidavit (mail order divorce?). Some courts may allow a dissolution without a hearing if neither child custody nor support is involved, the parties are co-petitioners or one is in default, the 90-day waiting period has passed and the case is otherwise ready for a hearing or the moving party files an affidavit setting out proof required in a dissolution hearing.

Generally all citizens are allowed access to their courts without the necessity for a lawyer. Several companies sell forms designed to allow persons with no legal training to seek and obtain a dissolution. Some courts require a strict adherence to the rules and others relax the procedure where a party is not represented. But many courts require the intervention of a lawyer where the case is complex, contested, child custody is at issue or where otherwise necessary.

The grounds and other procedures for separation are identical to those for a dissolution. The court shall determine and fix the duration for the separation after which the degree has no effect. The duration can be extended upon motion. The court may decree an unlimited separation. At any time the separation can be changed to a dissolution or dismissed or modified.

Family Abuse Prevention Act:

Under this act, a petition may be filed with the court asking for a temporary restraining order to prevent abuse. The petitioner must show abuse between “family or household members” which causes or attempts to cause bodily injury; fear of imminent serious bodily injury; or causes another to engage in involuntary sexual relations by force, threat of force or duress.

“Family or household member” means spouses, former spouses, adult persons related by blood or marriage or persons who have cohabited with each other within one year of the filing for the restraining order. Petitions and instruction brochures are available from the clerk of the court. There is no filing fee for abuse prevention restraining orders.

The court will hold an ex parte (only one side present) hearing to decide whether or not to grant the relief requested. The court hearing will be held the same day or the day following the filing of the petition.

The court can order temporary child custody, one party be required to vacate the family home, parties be restrained from molesting or interfering with the other or minor children or respondent restrained from entering upon any premises to prevent respondent from molesting or interfering. The order is good for one year. Bail is set for violations of the order. A person who is subject to the restraining order can request a hearing at which the judge may change or cancel all or part of the order. The orders will be entered on the Law Enforcement Data System. A peace officer shall arrest a person where there is probable cause to believe the order has been violated. The judge may release the arrested person on security or on conditional or recognizance release, as in criminal cases.

A hearing is set at which the judge decides whether or not the arrested person is in contempt of court for violation of the order. The penalty can be up to six months in jail and a $300 fine.

* Oregon Revised Statutes which apply include chapters 16 and 107.

Chapter 4: Federal Courts in Oregon

Civil practice in the U.S. District Court for the District of Oregon is changing rapidly as a result of the court’s increase in filings, number of judges and clerks and the complexity of issues presented. Federal civil practice and procedure are now focused upon pretrial work which is increasingly concerned with committing each party’s case to paper.

U.S. District Court for the District of Oregon:

U.S. District Courts are created by statute. The state of Oregon constitutes one judicial district. Court is held at Coquille, Eugene, Klamath Falls, Medford, Pendleton and Portland. In addition, court may be held at any place in the district that a judge directs. The judges of the court are appointed by the president, by and with the advice and consent of the Senate.

Each judge, with one exception, has an office in the U.S. Courthouse in Portland. The other office is in Eugene. Regular court sessions are scheduled at the Portland and Eugene court facilities. Special sessions of the court are held in the district court facilities in Medford and Pendleton as business requires. When court sits in Coquille, Klamath Falls or other places, arrangements are generally made for temporary use of state court facilities.

Although district courtrooms are often made available to administrative law judges, arbiters and hearings offices, the clerk’s office does not schedule hearings or receive or maintain records for the agencies involved. The administrative staffs of the agencies should be consulted for information concerning any particular case.

Local rules for the United States District Court for the District of Oregon took effect on July 1, 1982. Copies of the local rules may be obtained from the clerk’s office for a minimal fee.


The territorial jurisdiction of the Federal District of Oregon is identical to the state of Oregon, although its jurisdiction may extend on the Columbia River north of the Oregon boundary.

Generally, jurisdiction of a particular subject matter requires the existence of a federal question which arises under the Constitution, laws or treaties of the United States. As a rule, no minimum monetary amount in controversy is required for federal cases, except cases arising under the Consumer Product Safety Act.

Civil Case Management:

Two basic systems are used for assigning cases to judges: the “individual calendar” system, under which a case does not become the responsibility of a single judge until it is actually set for a specific trial date. Until 1981, most cases in the district were processed through a master calendar procedure.

Management of civil cases is now governed by certain additional procedures. Civil cases are classified as “central calendar cases” and “assigned cases.” When initially filed, all cases are “central calendar cases” and remain so until assigned to a particular judge. Generally, cases are assigned to a particular judge or magistrate upon the lodging of a pretrial order (an order embodying the terms and stipulations agreed upon at a pre-trial hearing or meeting). Assigned cases also include Social Security cases, class actions and other cases as assigned by the chief judge or the calendar management committee based on the particular nature of the case or because of a judge’s involvement or investment of time and effort.

Central Calendar Cases:

Central calendar cases are managed on a master calendar concept. A judge will not be assigned until the pretrial order is lodged. The court’s local rules governing all motion procedures apply to central calendar cases. An original copy of all documents should be filed with the clerk’s office. Scheduling is done by the clerk’s office. Appearances, conferences and hearings may be conducted by any judge or magistrate. At the commencement of an action, each party is given a form of consent to a magistrate hearing all matters and entering judgment, an order establishing a date for completion of discovery within 150 days and for lodging of a pretrial order within 180 days. A motion for extension of such times must be filed before the established date. The motion must be supported by affidavit and set forth good cause and appropriate use of prior time. Upon filing of such a motion for extension of time, a conference will be set before the judge or magistrate monitoring the central calendar on the second Monday after filing in Portland, and in Eugene on the second Tuesday after filing.

Assigned Cases:

In all assigned cases, original documents should be filed by the parties with the clerk, and the extra copy should be delivered by the parties directly to the judge to whom the case is assigned. Upon assignment, notification is given to the parties that the case number is changed by the addition of letters indicating the assigned judge or magistrate and that, thereafter, all scheduling including the setting of hearings and trial date is done by that judge or magistrate.

Either at the same time or shortly after the notification of assignment, the parties will be informed of the specific intentions and requirements of the judge to whom the case is assigned. The assigned judge will set a time for a preliminary pretrial conference at which all aspects of the case will be discussed and schedules will be set. The conference may be conducted by telephone.

Special Handling:

Certain types of actions receive special handling:

Government actions for recovery of money upon guaranteed student loans and overpayments of Veterans Administration benefits. No conferences or status reports are scheduled. Upon filing of the complaint, each party is given an order establishing a date for completion of discovery (presently 90 days from filing) and for lodging of the pretrial order (presently 120 days from filing).

Actions against the secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services relating to Social Security benefits or claims for Social Security benefits. Again no conferences, calendar, or status reports are scheduled by the clerk. At the time of filing, the clerk must provide the parties with a copy of the special order for Social Security review cases. Upon submission of the action for summary judgment these cases are assigned to district judges and magistrates.

Civil Action:

A civil action is commenced by filing a complaint with the court. Actions arising in the northern section of the district are filed with the clerk in Portland. Actions arising in the southern section of the district are filed with the clerk in Eugene.

Upon filing a complaint the clerk issues a summons and delivers it to the marshal or any other person authorized to serve. Summons can be by anyone who is not a party to the litigation and 18 years of age or older. In most cases in the Oregon District Court, however, the marshal cannot serve summons except in cases involving indigent defendants, seamen, on behalf of the United States and certain circumstances under court order. Upon request of the plaintiff, separate or additional summonses shall be issued against any defendants. Summons can also be issued by first-class mail, following special procedures and forms available through the court.

The summons is “issued” by the clerk when it is signed and sealed by the clerk or clerk’s deputy. The time within which a party may answer or otherwise respond is generally 20 days for a party served within the District of Oregon and 60 days when service is made upon the United States or any agency or official thereof.

Motion Practice:

Motions are calendared by the clerk’s office on the fourth Monday after filing in Portland and on the fourth Monday after filing in Portland and on the fourth Tuesday after filing in Eugene if the motion does not pertain to discovery. An original copy of the motion and supporting materials are filed with the clerk. Two weeks before the scheduled motion date, a tentative motion calendar is prepared which apportions motions in unassigned cases among the judges and magistrates available for hearing on the calendar day. Approximately 10 to 12 days before the scheduled date of hearing, notice of the setting is given to counsel by the clerk.

Discovery motions are calendared for the second Monday after filing in Portland, and in Eugene on the Tuesday following the second Monday after the motion is filed.

Upon representation of an attorney that no party affected has an objection to a continuance, the clerk may grant an application to calendar a motion one week later than its regularly scheduled time, in either Portland or Eugene. The application must be made within one week after the motion is filed. Thereafter, continuances may be granted only by the court.

If oral argument is desired on a motion, a request must be endorsed on the motion, statement in opposition or reply to the statement. The determination whether to hear arguments will be made by the judge or magistrate deciding the motion. If no such request is made by any party, the motion will be decided on the written submissions. Special arrangements must be made in an application for a temporary restraining order and motion for preliminary injunction. Ex parte motions upon other central calendar cases are submitted to the clerk’s office for presentation to a judicial officer by the clerk. Counsel’s appearance will not be required unless requested by the court.

Pretrial Order:

A trial judge is assigned to central calendar cases upon lodging the pretrial order. The pretrial order forms the framework for the pretrial conference or conferences.

Agreed facts may be collected from the pleadings, answers to discovery, and additional matter about which there is no dispute. These agreed facts may serve as the basis for motions for summary judgment.

A party’s contentions should include contentions of fact and law. These contentions should be sufficient to withstand a motion to dismiss or, if appropriate, a motion for summary judgment and should include appropriate denial of an opposing party’s contentions which otherwise may be considered admitted.

Pretrial Conference:

Following the lodging of the proposed pretrial order, the assigned judge will schedule a preliminary pretrial conference either by telephone conference call or by personal appearance. The attorney who will try the case must participate in the conference unless permission for substitution is granted in advance. If an attorney does not have authority to discuss settlement, the client or representative of the client with such authority must also be present. In addition to settlement, counsel should be prepared to discuss their estimates of the number of expert and lay witnesses, length of trial, the basic legal and factual questions involved, any special problems anticipated, the dates for further pretrial conferences and for trial and whether the trial is by jury or to the court. Thereafter, the judge or magistrate will issue an order confirming the dates and establishing pretrial requirements.

The trial date will be set by and may only be changed by the judge or magistrate to whom the case is assigned. Usually, all actions are tried where they are filed, either in Portland or Eugene.

The federal rules of evidence apply generally to all civil actions and proceedings, including admiralty and maritime cases, to criminal cases and proceedings, to contempt proceedings except those in which the court may act summarily, and to proceedings and cases under the bankruptcy act. During a trial in the Oregon District Court attorneys may not approach the bench or witness without leave of the trial judge. All papers and items submitted to the court or a witness during a trial must be handed to the bailiff.

All exhibits, except those which the court has specifically authorized to be secret, must be marked in advance of the trial and must be reviewed by counsel for all parties. Without leave of court, no exhibits may be introduced at trial that have not been previously marked.


In a civil case any party may demand a trial by a jury of six or twelve persons. In criminal cases, the number of jurors is 12. Alternate jurors may be selected in such numbers as the trial judge determines. Challenges for cause (bias) are taken orally. Peremptory challenges (discretionary) are exercised in writing.

The Clerk’s Office:

In addition to maintaining the file, the clerk keeps a “docket” sheet for each case. An abstract notation is made in the appropriate docket of each paper filed, every process issued and all appearances, orders, verdicts and judgments. The date that the order or judgment is actually noted on the docket is the effective date of the order or judgment for purposes of appeal.

Case Numbering:

The case number assigned at the time of filing indicates the year in which the case was filed. For example, 99-136 was the 136th civil action filed in 1999. To distinguish cases filed in Eugene, the case number consists of the year followed by four digits beginning with 6, such as 82-6042 was the 42nd case in Eugene in 1982. Suffixes may be added to indicate the judge assigned to the case. The initial “C” stands for Coquille; “M” is Medford; and “P” is Pendleton.

U.S. Magistrates:

U.S. magistrates are appointed by the judges of the court. Full-time magistrates are appointed for a term of eight years; part-time magistrates serve a four-year term. Part-time magistrate positions are authorized for Pendleton, Bend and Coos Bay.

Jurisdiction and Powers of Magistrates:

The jurisdiction and powers of the magistrates have been broadly interpreted by the U.S. District Court for Oregon. In addition to traditional powers conferred upon U.S. commissioners and their power to conduct trials of minor offenders, a magistrate may be designated to hear and determine any pretrial matter except motions: for injunctive relief; for judgment on pleadings; for summary judgment; to dismiss or quash an indictment or information; to suppress evidence in a criminal case; to dismiss or to prevent maintenance of a class action; to dismiss for failure to state a claim; and to involuntarily dismiss an action. The district judge may designate a magistrate to conduct hearings, and to submit to a judge proposed findings of fact and recommendations for disposition of those motions and for “applications for post-trial relief made by individuals convicted of criminal offenses and of prisoner petitions challenging conditions of confinement.” In these cases the magistrate files proposed findings and recommendations with the court and a copy is mailed to the parties.

The judge will determine whether to conduct a new hearing or hear arguments or may make a determination based on the record developed before the magistrate. Additionally, the judge may accept, reject or modify, in whole or in part, the magistrate’s findings and recommendations, receive new evidence, recall witnesses or recommit the matter to the magistrate with instructions.

The court has further specially designated the full-time magistrates to conduct any or all proceedings in jury or nonjury civil actions and to order the entry of judgments when consent to exercise such jurisdiction is given by the parties. Upon entry of judgment in such a case, an aggrieved party may appeal directly to the appropriate U.S. Court of Appeals from the judgment of the magistrate in the same manner as an appeal from any other district court judge.

Bankruptcy Court:

Oregon has four full-time judges of the bankruptcy court. Three are in office in Portland; one is in Eugene. In addition to holding court regularly in Portland and Eugene, bankruptcy judges conduct hearings in Pendleton, Roseburg, Klamath Falls, Medford, Bend, Astoria, Seaside, Tillamook, The Dalles, Coos Bay, La Grande, Lincoln City, Albany, Grants Pass, Salem and Coquille. Initial petitions in bankruptcy filed on behalf of persons residing in Coos, Curry, Douglas, Klamath, Lake, Lane, Jackson and Josephine counties are filed with the bankruptcy court in Eugene. Initial petitions for persons residing in any other county in the district are filed with the bankruptcy court in Portland.

The judges of the court appoint a clerk who appoints deputies who may act in the name and with the authority of the clerk. The principal office of the clerk is in Portland. A divisional clerk’s office is in Eugene. The clerk’s duties include maintenance of court records and the docket and schedules.

Major Areas of Difference Between State and Federal Courts in Oregon:

Significant differences occur between state court and federal court systems. These include:

Different statutory systems (state Oregon Revised Statutes v. federal United States Code);
Different procedures for handling of cases (federal courts tend to allow more discovery);
Different privileges as far as excluding evidence (state courts tend to have more evidentiary privileges);
Different case law precedents (the likely results of a case may vary greatly depending upon which court suit is brought in); and
Different fee and cost structures depending on type of case (the costs to try a case vary greatly between state and federal courts).

Oregon Cases in Other Federal Courts:

The federal judiciary includes not only the local U.S. District Courts and regional numbered Circuit Courts of Appeal (Oregon in the 9th Circuit), but a number of specialized federal courts including:

U.S. Supreme Court in Washington, D.C. :The ultimate appeal court, and a special trial court for suits between states;

U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit: a national court of appeals in Washington, D.C. with jurisdiction over many types of suits against the United States (monetary claims, taxes, customs, contracts, etc.) and ALL patent appeals form any federal court;

U.S. Court of Federal Claims: a national trial court in Washington, D.C., with jurisdiction over many types of suits against the United States (monetary claims, taxes, customs, contracts, etc.);

U.S. Tax Court: a national trial court in Washington, D.C. for tax refund cases and a few types of other tax cases;

U.S. Court of International Trade in New York City: the trial court for most customs cases and some types of related cases;

U.S. Court of Veterans Appeals in Washington, D.C.: a new court for veterans claims appeals.

Federal Jurisdiction of Oregon Cases in Other States:

Besides Oregon cases in the federal courts listed above, federal law allows Oregonians to sue and be sued in other federal district courts, depending upon the facts and nature of the case.

In addition, federal law allows for consolidation of similar cases in multiple district courts into a single federal district court. Typical of these cases are product liability cases, major airline crash cases, etc.

Also bankruptcy courts and district courts handling limitation of liability admiralty cases can force all related cases to be brought in the same proceeding.

Chapter 3: Oregon State Courts

The Oregon Constitution established a supreme court and “such other courts as may from time to time be created by law.” The original Article VII of the constitution provided for circuit courts, county courts, justice of the peace courts and municipal courts. These provisions now have the status of statutes, a result of the adoption of amended Article VII of the constitution on November 8, 1910. This action allowed the legislature to create new courts, such as the tax court. The circuit court is vested with all judicial power, authority and jurisdiction not specially vested in another tribunal.

The geographical, civil and criminal jurisdiction of all trial courts of the state system have been defined by legislative action. Municipal courts are created by local charters, but are subject to legislative directives.

Separate courts of law and equity have never existed in Oregon although some procedural differences between suits and actions were maintained. In 1980, revised criminal proceedings abolished the last vestiges of procedural variations in state trial courts based on cases being historically “legal” or “equitable.” Because it is a constitutional right, the right to a jury trial was not affected by the adoption of the revised proceedings. The procedures unique to trying a case before a court or jury are preserved.

Generally, appeals may be made from decisions of all lower trial courts and tribunals to the appellate courts created by state law. In general, actions at law can be appealed only on issues of law, such as upon an allegedly erroneous ruling by the trial judge. In equity cases, findings of fact can be made by the appellate court based on a de novo review of the record. Trial court decisions on appeal may be affirmed, reversed, or modified and the cause can be remanded for a new trial in the court below. All courts of the Oregon state court system administer both criminal and civil law. Although municipal courts and administrative tribunals are not an integrated part of the Oregon judicial system, appeals from their decisions may be brought in the appropriate state courts.

The Judiciary:

The judiciary of the state court system consists of judges elected by non-partisan ballot for six-year terms. Judges of the Supreme Court, the Court of Appeals and the Tax Court are elected statewide. Circuit judges are elected within the judicial district in which they sit. When a judgeship is vacated between elections by retirement, death or resignation the vacancy is filled by gubernatorial appointment. Such positions are subject to election to full six-year terms at the next general election.


Oregon law provides that the county courts having juvenile and probate jurisdiction, the circuit courts, the Court of Appeals and the Supreme Court are courts of record (those with reported proceedings). Justice courts and municipal courts are not.

Municipal Court:

Municipal courts exist in most Oregon cities; they are established by city charter but controlled in some procedures by state law. The primary function of a municipal court is to decide cases that involve the violation of city ordinances. Such decisions may be appealed to the circuit court.

Municipal judges are appointed by city councils except in two municipalities, where they are elected by the city’s voters. The judges are not required by state law to be attorneys. In a number of cities a position of municipal judge is combined with that of city recorder or some other office.

Justice Court:

Justices of the peace operate the justice courts authorized by boards of county commissioners.

Justice court jurisdiction extends to most civil cases where the amount claimed does not exceed $2,500, except that this jurisdiction specifically excludes cases involving libel, slander, title to real property, criminal conversation, malicious prosecution or false imprisonment. Small claims departments exist in justice courts where actions for recovery of money or damages of $1,000 or less may be heard.

Criminal jurisdiction in justice courts extends to all misdemeanors, but defendants may elect to have their cases transferred to a district court or, in the absence of a district court, to the circuit court in the county of arrest. Justice court jurisdiction also includes traffic and other violations. Decisions of justice courts may be appealed to the circuit court.

Justices of the peace are not required to be attorneys and their courts exist in approximately 37 Oregon communities.

County Court:

In nine Oregon counties an elected county judge performs certain judicial functions in addition to general administrative duties shared with elected county commissioners. Probate, guardianship and conservatorship cases are heard by the county judge in Gilliam, Grant, Harney, Malheur, Sherman and Wheeler counties. Juvenile and adoption matters are handled by the county judge in Crook, Gilliam, Harney, Jefferson, Morrow, Sherman and Wheeler counties. County court judges are not required to be attorneys. Decisions of county courts may be appealed to the circuit court.

District Court:

In 1913 the Legislature established a state district court in every city with a population of 100,000 or more. This was the beginning of the district court, which replaced the justice of the peace court in Multnomah County. Since the original act, district courts have been established in 27 of the 36 Oregon counties.

District courts were abolished by the Oregon Legislature effective January 15, 1998. All former district courts are now circuit courts.

Circuit Court:

The circuit court is a court of record exercising all judicial power, authority and jurisdiction not vested in some other court. The court has jurisdiction in all civil and criminal cases, including the trial of felonies. Circuit courts also hear appeals by trial de novo from justice courts and county courts.

The circuit court operates in 20 judicial districts, each of which contains one or more Oregon counties. Each judicial district has one or more circuit judges elected for a six-year term. ORS 3.225 gives general authority, subject to approval of the chief justice, for circuit courts, by rule, to establish specialized subject-matter departments, such as for probate, domestic relations or juvenile cases. Any judge may serve in any department as assigned by the presiding judge of the court. In a few counties the county judge, rather than a circuit judge, hears the cases involving juvenile, adoption, probate, guardianship and conservatorship matters.

Tax Court:

The Oregon Tax Court has exclusive jurisdiction in personal income tax cases, corporate excise and income tax cases, property tax cases, inheritance and gift tax cases, and appeals from the supervisory orders of the State Department of Revenue in cases involving the local budget laws.

The Tax Court has a regular division and a small claims division. Limits for small claims actions are based on the amount of tax or property value involved. For example, an income taxpayer disputing a tax assessment or refund of $500 or less may appeal directly from the tax auditor of the Tax Court small claims division without first appealing to the department of revenue.

The Tax Court has statewide jurisdiction with headquarters and courtroom in Salem, but the court regularly sits in other counties of the state to be closer to where the taxpayer resides or where the property in question is located. Decisions may be appealed to the Oregon Supreme Court.

Land Use Board of Appeals:

Established as part of Oregon’s land-use laws, the Land Use Board of Appeals (LUBA) is the first state level of appeal of many city and county land use and zoning decisions. Cases brought before LUBA generally cannot be appealed to local circuit courts, and vice versa. The next step from LUBA is the Court of Appeals.

Court of Appeals:

Established in 1969, the Court of Appeals consists of 10 judges who are elected by statewide ballot for six-year terms. These judges elect a chief judge of the court from among themselves also for a six-year term.

The Court of Appeals has jurisdiction over all appeals from decisions of the circuit courts and over the review of decisions made by certain boards and administrative agencies of state government.

Parties to Court of Appeals cases may petition the Supreme Court to review Court of Appeals decisions. The Court of Appeals then decides whether to reconsider its decision and the Supreme Court decides whether to review the decisions of the Court of Appeals.

Supreme Court:

The Supreme Court is established by the state constitution and consists of seven judges elected for a term of six years who in turn elect one of their own to serve as chief justice for a six-year term.

The Supreme Court is a court of review and in its discretion decides which decisions of the Court of Appeals to review, usually selecting those with legal issues calling for significant interpretation of laws affecting many citizens or societal institutions as well as those involved in the case at hand.

In addition to the review of Court of Appeals decisions, the Supreme Court decides appeals from the Oregon Tax Court and is also empowered to assume original jurisdiction in mandamus, quo warranto and habeas corpus proceedings.

Oregon law confers administrative authority and supervision over the courts of the state on the chief justice. The Supreme Court has disciplinary authority over members of the judiciary and members of the Oregon State Bar, including the chief justice of the Court of Appeals and the presiding judges of the circuit and district courts. The principal assistant to the chief justice in carrying out court duties is the state court administrator.

The Supreme Court’s office and principal courtroom are in Salem, but occasionally the court sits elsewhere in Oregon.

Chapter 2: Common Law

The system of law in the United States is unique among nations because of its combination of common law and constitutional hierarchy.

Common law is judge-made law. It is case law. The only way that the judiciary can speak is through individual cases brought to it for resolution. Unlike the other branches of government, the judiciary is not a self-starter. Common law begins when citizens file a case in the courts. Only constituents can invoke the workings of common law.

During the past 40 years, federal, state and local governments have enacted increasing amounts of legislative law. However, rather than lessening the impact of judge-made law, this development has added broader dimensions to the common law. Legislation needs interpreting. Courts construe statutes when required to do so in individual cases. Thus a body of common law develops around the enactment.

Many of the legal problems of the media are resolved by common law processes. Libel and privacy cases are common law torts unfettered by comprehensive legislative enactment or administrative regulation. As a result, reporters, editors, broadcasters and publishers must piece together judicial decisions in order to discover the sometimes complex jigsaw of legality.

Dual Function of Common Law:

Case decision in the common law process fulfills two purposes: It resolves the dispute between the litigating parties, and it lays down a precedent on which the future can rely. Thus, it looks backward at a controversy already existent and looks forward to potential controversy not yet in being.

The former function is born out of the need to look at each case anew, to give every citizen a day in court, to examine each case in its own context. It is situational justice; it champions specificity. The latter function, however, is born out of the need to be consistent with the past, to examine previous cases in conjunction with the case at hand. It protects societal security and stability. It fosters generalization.

There is, therefore, a strange mixture of rigid generality with flexible specificity in the common law. The need to be uniform and to apply law consistently in like situations locks common law into fixed rules and principles and regards the common law as a neatly balanced, self-structured system. On the other hand, ad hoc decision-making favors examination of contemporary norms and customs and regards the common law as the reflection of current society.

Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr., said  “It is the merit of the common law that it decides the case first and determines the principle afterward.” He was urging that the value of common law is its contemplation of each dispute as it arises without its own situational justice. Generalizations that single-package all situations should be mere observations after the fact, not controls before the fact. To this extent, common law is anathema to statutory law.

Statutory law applies deductive thinking. The statutory norm becomes the major premise in a syllogism; the alleged fact of a violation is the minor premise. Outcomes in statutory law are arrived at by application of reasoning from the general to the specific, from abstract to reality. (The case by case tenets of common law suggest an inductive approach.)

A case decision by the courts becomes precedent for future cases. This is called the doctrine of stare decisis (to adhere to decisions). To what degree should judges follow precedent set by former cases? A great deal of controversy has always existed on that issue.

At one end of the spectrum are judges who look to the former case(s) and theorize some generality from it; the “rule” of the prior case becomes mechanically controlling in all similar future cases. The most strict of these judges will give “the rule” a status akin to statute and will deny even their own power to overturn it. This was the clear law in England until as late as 1965 where not even the highest court in England (Law Lords of the House of Lords) would overturn their own prior decisions.

At the other end of the spectrum, there are judges who regard case precedent as simply persuasive analogy. Those judges will not consider the decisions of prior cases as settled law in deciding the case at hand. They are, however, influenced (but not bound) by a need to reason uniformly in similar situations, so that outcomes are reached with logical consistency.

Trial courts are committed to the strict view in applying the decision of higher appellate tribunals. Appeals courts are the ones more apt to evaluate the need for stare decisis.

Some appellate courts will vacillate in choosing the strict or liberal view of precedent. That ambivalence is usually the product of court personnel changes. Our own Supreme Court of Oregon has wavered on stare decisis and the overturning of precedent. In 1955, in Landgraver vs. Emanuel Lutheran Charity Board, Justice Walter L. Tooze speaking for a 5-2 majority refused to strike down the court-created charitable immunity doctrine, stating: “Once the court has ascertained and declared that public policy, it becomes the law of the state, and is as binding as a legislative enactment.”

In the following eight years, five new justices reached the court. This new alignment in 1963 overturned the charitable immunity doctrine. Justice Alfred T. Goodwin, writing the majority opinion, said: “It is neither realistic nor consistent with the common law tradition to wait upon the Legislature to correct an outmoded rule of case law. The pull of stare decisis is strong, but not inexorable.”

In European countries such as France, courts are neither bound nor influenced by their own decisions nor by the decisions of higher courts. Indeed, a judge is precluded from announcing general rules in a given case; citation to the applicable provision of a written legislative code is all that is necessary.

The European courts are also less centralized, so that district appellate courts rather than a central hierarchical court are more likely the final resort. With detailed codes providing national continuity, there is less need for judicial uniformity or centrality.

Distinguishing Common Law Precedent:

The overruling of precedent is, of course, the most drastic result that can occur in the common law. Because overruling precedent disturbs the stability of the common law, judges often employ the tactic of distinguishing precedent rather than overturning it.

One device for ignoring a prior case pronouncement is simply to declare that pronouncement is dictum, a tangential remark not necessary to the decision in the previous case and, therefore, not precedent. Because the judiciaryís power can only be invoked by disputants in controversy, a court cannot broaden its power by going beyond the confines of what is necessary to solve that controversy. Any attempt to do so is mere dictum and not binding.

Another device for distinguishing precedent is to find that facts of the previous case are not analogous. For example, pronouncements in a criminal opinion are not binding in a contract case.

A more candid device for not applying precedent mechanically is the recognition that some precedent is not as compelling as others. The late U.S. Supreme Court Justice Felix Frankfurter urged that cases which were not well researched, carefully argued, or thoroughly considered, should be frankly devaluated on the scale of precedent.

Precedent may be viewed strictly or loosely. It may be strictly construed and held to its narrow environment, thus virtually discarding it as precedent. Or it can be broadly construed and liberally extended to all of its language, thus spreading its mantle over large area of subsequent cases. Whether a given court chooses one or the other deployment depends upon that courtís attitude as persuaded by trends, “trends in the situation or in the times at large.”

Due to the volume of cases and the need to expedite case backlogs, many federal courts and boards have adopted rules whereby certain specified decisions are not to be used as precedent and whereby certain expedited decisions may not be appealed.

Formalization of Common Law Appellate Opinions:

There are by-products of this common law system. A case-by-case approach to the law demands the writing and publication of judicial opinions. In the two centuries of American law, more than 3 million judicial opinions have been written and are housed in over 17,000 volumes of cases. The millions of words of judicial opinions written each year further spawn texts, encyclopedias, and a vast amount of commentary upon the law published in over 500 law reviews and other periodicals, all of which command thousands of pages of indices. Such proliferation unmasks the notion that common law is “unwritten” law. On the contrary, it is the most written law.

The essence of the common law is the written judicial opinion. Unlike statute or executive decree, it spars in the marketplace of ideas. In the pattern of editorials or essays, the judicial opinion talks to us, gives us reasons with which we may agree or differ. It discusses. It attempts to persuade. But most of all, it deals directly with the non-antiseptic world of actual behavior between real and specific people.

Common law is born out of citizen dispute. A legal system that develops from those popular origins in contrast to one where laws are propounded sweepingly by the political elite from abstraction and perceived future needs, is arguably more responsive to the spirit and mores of its constituency.

Chapter 1: Free Press and Fair Trial

Several institutions exist in Oregon to help assure the rights of free press and fair trial. Their purpose is to protect both— through cooperation and consultation rather than by confrontation.

They include:

Oregon State Bar-Press-Broadcasters Council: This council was established in 1962 by the Oregon State Bar (OSB), the Oregon Newspaper Publishers Association (ONPA) and the Oregon Association of Broadcasters (OAB) to work on matters of common interest to the three professions,

The council is composed of six members appointed by Oregon Association of Broadcasters, six members appointed by the Oregon Newspaper Publishers Association and 12 members appointed by the Oregon State Bar. It operates on a yearly calendar that begins with the September meeting and ends with the May meeting. It meets on the first Saturdays of September, November, February and May, and the meetings are hosted on a rotating basis by the member organizations. If the September meeting date falls on the Labor Day weekend, the September meeting is on the second Saturday.

The council is empowered to act on its own authority, without referring its actions to the parent organizations, but it may not take positions on behalf of its parent organizations.

The chair of the joint council shall rotate annually by its calendar years. For example, in 1997-98, the chair was held by the Oregon State Bar; in 1998-99, the chair was held by the Oregon Newspaper Publishers Association; and in 1999-2000, by the Oregon Association of Broadcasters.

Much of the work of the council is focused on issues of free press and fair trial, but from time to time the joint council organizes and sponsors other activities of mutual benefit to the legal and news professions, such as conferences, seminars and the publication of this handbook.

Any person may bring a matter before the joint council. It can be reached through the central office of any of the three sponsoring organizations: the OSB, ONPA or OAB.

Guidelines for Reporting and Comment on Criminal Proceedings: The first main activity of the joint council was, in 1962, to draft and agree upon a joint statement of principles for news reporting and comment on criminal proceedings, aimed at assuring the public the opportunity to be kept fully informed without violating the rights of any individual.

In 1967 the joint council added to this statement a set of guidelines for reporting of criminal proceedings. These recommendations, often referred to as the ìOregon Bar-Press Guidelines,î are intended to advise reporters, lawyers, law enforcement officials and other involved persons as to what is generally appropriate to say, or not to say, about a criminal proceeding prior to a trial. The guidelines also make recommendations concerning the photographing of criminal defendants.

The guidelines are advisory only. The decision on whether to follow them in a particular case is left to the discretion of the individuals involved. However, they have been approved by the respective conventions of the Oregon State Bar, Oregon Newspaper Publishers Association and Oregon Association of Broadcasters.

The joint council has also established a procedure for dealing with complaints of violations of the bar-press guidelines.  In essence, it calls for the joint council to try to mediate a resolution of the complaint between the parties involved. If this is unsuccessful, the joint council is authorized to appoint a subcommittee to investigate and publish an advisory opinion as to whether a violation of the guidelines has occurred.

Judicial Conference Resolution of 1977: In 1975 and 1976 the joint council considered the constitutional issues raised by judicial restraining orders aimed at limiting news coverage of criminal proceedings, particularly pre-trial proceedings. It proposed a procedure by which a judge, lawyer or journalist who anticipates a possible fair trial-free press conflict in a particular case can attempt to have the issues resolved by voluntary consultation rather than by issuance of a court order. The Oregon Judicial Conference considered and amended the joint councilís draft and then adopted it unanimously on April 20, 1977, as a recommended procedure for Oregon judges to follow.

Media Guide Handbook on Oregon Law and Court System


This handbook was prepared by the Oregon Bar-Press-Broadcasters Council to increase cooperation among these professions and provide wider understanding of the Oregon court system among journalists and broadcasters.

Members of the Oregon State Bar, the Oregon Newspaper Publishers Association, and the Oregon Association of Broadcasters shared their expertise to develop this reference manual. Its purpose is to answer the most commonly asked questions concerning the media and courts.

This handbook explains concepts such as common law and statutory law. It answers questions about the ethical boundaries of the media and courts. It explains how ethics rules are enforced and who enforces them. Defamation, privacy laws, public access to government records and rules regarding cameras in the courtroom are among the topics discussed. A glossary of common legal terms concludes the handbook.

The authors have produced a short course on how courts function. The intent of this effort is to enhance understanding between those who use the courts and those who inform the public about courtroom events.

Adobe PDF icon Media Guide Handbook on Oregon Law and Court System (pdf file)

Table of Contents

Oregon State Bar-Press-Broadcasters Council
Guidelines for Reporting and comment on Criminal Proceedings
Judicial Conference Resolution of 1977

Dual Function of Common Law
Distinguishing Common Law Precedent
Formalization of Common Law Appellate Opinions

The Judiciary
Municipal Court
Justice Court
County Court
District Court
Circuit Court
Tax Court
Land Use Board of Appeals
Court of Appeals
Supreme Court

U.S. District Court for the District of Oregon
Civil Case Management
Central Calendar Cases
Assigned Cases
Special Handling
Civil Action
Motion Practice
Pretrial Order
Pretrial Conference
Clerk’s Office
Case Numbering
U.S. Magistrates
Jurisdiction and Powers of Magistrates
Bankruptcy Court
Major Areas of Difference Between State and Federal Courts in Oregon
Oregon Cases in Other Federal Courts
Federal Jurisdiction of Oregon Cases in Other States

Summary Judgment
Probate Procedure
Domestic Relations Procedure
Family Abuse Prevention Act


Felony Proceedings
Misdemeanor Proceedings

Public Records Laws: What Can Be Disclosed
Limitations on Access to Public Records
Procedure for Obtaining Criminal History
Setting Aside a Conviction or Record of Arrest


Delinquency Jurisdiction
Dependency Jurisdiction
Juvenile Procedure -Preliminary Hearing
Juvenile Procedure -Jurisdictional Hearing
Juvenile Procedure -Dispositional Hearing
Access to Records
Access to Hearings


Media or Other Public Access Coverage of Court Events (Trial Court Rule 3.180)

‘Public Interest’ Regulation
Political Editorials -Personal Attack Rule, Political Candidate Advertising
Obscene and Indecent Programming
Lotteries -State Authorized, Indian Gaming
Contests and Promotions
Children’s Programming on Television
Recorded Telephone Conversations
Prohibited Advertising on Broadcast Stations -Liquor, Tobacco, Fireworks


Freedom of Information Act
Published Data
Non-Published Data
Requesting Data Under the FOIA
Vaughn Indices and Disputes and Appeals On Exemptions
Exemptions to FOIA
Comparison of FOIA and Litigation Discover Procedures
Federal Privacy Act
Exemption and Exceptions
Routine Destruction of Records
Unofficial Records
Electronic Records
Oregon’s Public Records Law
Sources of Public Record Information
The World Wide Web
Tips on Using the Public Records Law

What is Defamation?
Oregon’s Retraction Statute
Media Standards in Defamation Lawsuits
Public Figure Plaintiffs
Private Figure Plaintiffs

Police Agency Personnel
Federal Government Ethics Rules

Guidelines for Hospitals and Other Healthcare Facilities
Guidelines for Physicians
Guidelines for News Media
Release of Information to the News Media
Patient Conditions Defined
Police and Accident Cases
Outpatient and Emergency Care
Psychiatric, Drug and Alcohol Abuse Cases
Organ Transplants
Unusual Illnesses
Interviews and Photographs
Patient Discharges
Newsworthy Persons

Statutory Exceptions
Informant’s Consent
Protection Other Than Oregon’s Shield Law