Oregon’s History of Working Collaboratively on Access to Justice
Oregon has a long history of partnering on issues relating to access to justice. We can call this the Oregon Access to Justice Coalition. Legal aid programs in Oregon grew out of proposals by the Oregon State Bar (“OSB”) and the Multnomah Bar Association (“MBA”) in 1936. Since 1971, when Oregon conducted its first legal needs study at the request of the Governor and the OSB, Oregon’s leaders have been invested in providing civil legal services to low-income Oregonians throughout our geographically diverse state and clearly see the importance of a coordinated approach to legal services delivery. Throughout the years, there have been numerous of Task Forces, planning groups and Study Groups with key players, including the Chief Justice, the OSB, the Oregon Law Foundation (“OLF”), members of the Oregon legislature, the corporate community, private bar leaders, and other political leaders in the state, that have tackled issues ranging from the development of standards and guidelines for Oregon’s legal aid programs, delivery systems for legal aid, strategic planning for legal aid, and working collaboratively for increasing funding for legal aid and looking for new sources of funding. Because collaboration has been key since the early efforts in Oregon, the entities that focus on civil legal services avoid duplication of efforts because the entities are interrelated and integrated. Some examples of board membership of various organizations are noted below.
Oregon’s Model for Addressing Civil Legal Aid
Oregon’s approach to addressing access to justice has evolved over time, beginning with our early leadership on these issues. In the early 1990s, Oregon leaders suggested that other states adopt Oregon’s model and adopt structures like the Campaign for Equal Justice. On several occasions, leaders from elsewhere have come to Oregon to suggest that Oregon adopt a Commission model advanced by the American Bar Association, but the consensus in Oregon has been that Oregon’s current model works best for Oregon. Our systems are closely integrated and our communications are strong and work efficiently. When a Task Force or strategic planning group is called for, our leaders are eager to participate. We have found that this type of structure, with limited duration Task Forces and focused tasks, has made effective use of the time commitment our leaders have available. We have resisted creating another structure that might require additional staffing and funding to operate.
Our leaders such as the Chief Justice, the Attorney General, bar groups, the Governor’s Office, and key legislators have been very willing participants in supporting civil legal aid and have been outspoken advocates for legal aid. Other standing groups, such as the OSB Legal Services Program, CEJ, OLF, and legal aid boards work collaboratively and on an ongoing basis on issues related to integrated legal services delivery, funding for legal aid programs, and distribution of resources. The OSB, CEJ, OLF and legal aid programs work closely together on legislative proposals regarding funding, and these efforts involve the Attorney General and our Chief Justice. Oregon boasts about 290 volunteers, including those leaders listed above, who help raise money in the CEJ’s annual fund drive, assist with education and outreach efforts about access to justice, or assist with legislative efforts.
Our existing structures are integrated: The OSB appoints some of the members of legal aids’ boards. Legal aid recommends board members for the Oregon Law Foundation (“OLF”) board. Oregon’s legal aid programs have some positions on the OSB Legal Services Program Committee. The Presidents of the OSB and OLF hold seats on the Campaign for Equal Justice (CEJ) board of directors; key staff members act as liaisons. The Oregon Courts also have a liaison to the CEJ board.
In 2002, LSC’s Equal Justice Magazine had this to say about Oregon’s access to justice model:
Mauricio Vivero, then LSC Vice President of Governmental Relations and Public Affairs, stated,
Most recently, Oregon’s legal aid programs, with participation from the CEJ, OSB and OLF have completed a comprehensive strategic plan focusing on service delivery and distribution of resources. The plan was adopted in December 2013. In January 2014, Oregon will launch the Task Force on Legal Aid Funding that will take a comprehensive look at funding for legal aid, and will work to set both short-term and long term goals. The following individuals or groups will participate in the Task Force: the Chief Justice, the Attorney General, Senate President, the office of the Governor, key legislators, key Oregon foundations, the OLF, OSB, CEJ and leaders from the Oregon corporate community.
Oregon’s Accomplishments and Early Leadership
Oregon is proud to have been on the access to justice forefront in the following ways: