OREGON JUDICIAL CONFERENCE –2009
I learned several years back that there are numerous meetings around the state that touch and concern the public as well as the law business that are secret. The Oregon Judicial Conference is one of them. But right there on the Oregon Judicial Department’s current Statement of Values is that word; yep, there it is: “Oregon courts provide justice and uphold the rule of law. We value: ”……”Openness”.
If that is so, when you have a meeting at the Salem Convention Center from October 19, 2009 to October 21, 2009, WHY is your meeting not even on the Hotel/Convention Center meeting marquee? I have a picture of it. All it says is “Meeting -- Kim Blanding”. Kim is the Oregon Judicial Department staffer responsible for the annual judicial conference. Even the Salem Statesman Journal newspaper didn’t know you were having a meeting (see Don Currie, City editor). MyGod--a syllabus to the three day affair is secret!!
Let’s go back to basics. Why do we have a judicial conference anyway? It is mandated by statute! ORS 1.180. If you google it, all you get is the Oregon Blue Book which says the conference has this for a purpose:
“The conference is directed to make a continuous survey and study of the organization, jurisdiction, procedure, practice and methods of administration and operation of the various courts within the state.”
This is exactly what the 1.180 statute says. But, the Oregon Supreme Court doesn’t obey the law. The statute says (t)he conference “shall “ make that annual report to the Governor. According to Kingsley Click, the Judicial Department State Court Administrator, “The Conference itself has not issued such reports in recent years”. But, these very judges have held innumerable times that “Shall” means “Shall”!
Monday -- Here is what we do know. The conference itself is a three day affair. On the first day there is a meeting of the Judicial Council. This organization was formed last year from the Conference Executive Committee and is headed by Supreme Court Justice Thomas Balmer. Justice Balmer joked at the business meeting that when he made a request for agenda items for the Judicial Council, no one knew what it was. It’s purpose, according to Justice Balmer, is to advise the “Chief” and “State Trial Court Administrator”. I wonder where their meeting minutes are?
Tuesday -- On the second day there are “education” meetings according to Kim Blanding, but I was not allowed to attend nor receive a syllabus of what ‘edumacation’ goes on during that session. In a word, it is a secret meeting.
At lunch on the second day, there is the hour-long “Business Session” of which I have already reported. In short, it is a non-event and an excuse for a fancy lunch for 200 Oregon judges.
Association Reports -- Judge Wollheim gave a report on the Appellate Judges Association. Judge Dan Harris gave one on the Circuit Judges Association. He advised that the Association has parted ways with their lobbyist and they are presently interviewing six (6) other lobbying firms. Judge Frank Yraguen reported on the Senior Judges Association. Did you even know there were such organizations? I didn’t.
Then came an emotive presentation by Judge Janice Wilson on a new Oregon Judges Charitable Foundation. This is a newly formed organization to provide a slush fund for indigent judges. I didn’t know there were any.
Oregon Chief Justice Paul J. De Muniz waived his report on changes to the Code of Judicial Conduct, probably because I was in the audience. Following a flag ceremony, the Business Session was over.
Wednesday -- I would report on the second day afternoon ‘education’ session and the following day golf session, but I was not allowed to attend either event. So much for openness at the Oregon Supreme Court. (I was even willing to caddy.)
Before I made my scary drive back to Portland, I went back to ask Ms. Blanding in front of Sgt. Tim Fox, if she was sure I could not attend any of the ‘education’ sessions. She was sure.