March 17, 2019
Re: Testimony to Joint Committee on Ways and Means
Dear Co-Chairs Johnson, Steiner Hayward, Rayfield, and members of the Joint
Committee on Ways and Means:
My name is David Rosen. I am an attorney in Bend. I am on the board of the Oregon
Law Foundation, which oversees the distribution of IOLTA interest for legal services and
is one of the organizations that commissioned the recent Civil Legal Needs Study. I am
also a former Deschutes County Bar Association President and a Founding Member and
the Chair of the Deschutes County Access to Justice Committee, which created the first
Lawyer in the Library program outside the courthouse and the first opportunity for
members of the public to access court records in a city other than where the court resides.
I am here today in support of Access to Justice. I am here in support of Senate Bill 357;
to ask that you restore court staffing levels; and to ask that you provide additional judges
to the counties that are significantly understaffed. These are all Access to Justice
problems, and one does not work without the other.
We – as those who can afford to feed our families, who are not living pay-check to paycheck,
whose family does not go homeless when we encounter a legal problem – are
failing the people of our state. The disparity in equal access to legal services is a train
that has long left the station and moving down the tracks further away from the masses
and with great speed. The effort to close that gap is a function of resources, which at this
point feels like the equivalent of being provided a two-person handcar with one hand tied
behind each persons’ back trying to catch a bullet train. We need better funding for legal
aid, we need to restore court staffing levels, and we need to provide additional judges to
counties that are significantly under-staffed.
This not a judicial problem, this is an Oregon problem. A failure to act now is a failure to
ourselves. As Chief Justice Walters said, when legal needs go unmet, “the health, safety
and resiliency of individuals, families, and entire communities are impacted.” A failure
to fund these issues creates problems well beyond the legal problems. And many of these
problems are addressed by the state in the form of significantly more expensive funding.
I’ve enclosed a copy of the recent Civil Legal Needs Study for your review. This study
provides undeniable data that we are in crisis. I appear today as an ally and supporter.
But a vote not to provide additional legal aid funding, a vote not to bring judicial
resources back to normal, a vote not to provide counties in dire need of a judge with more
resources, is a vote that the results in this study are acceptable.
When you look at this study, when you consider the actions to take, I ask that you ensure
that Access to Justice is a part of the guiding principles for the decisions you make. A
body that enacts the law but does not ensure equity among its constituents is not living up
to the democratic ideals that it was founded upon. I don’t say this with disrespect. I say
this for those who don’t have the opportunity to say it. I say this because it needs to be
Thank you for your time, for your service, and for your own efforts to keep Access to
Justice at the forefront of your decisions.