by Lane Borg, OCDLA President
From the June-July 2013 issue of The Oregon Defense Attorney.
“What do you want to do with this bill?” This has been asked of our legislative lobbying team on several occasions this session, and it feels kind of odd and good and strange. Our lobbying effort has once again reached into the rarified air of being a player—maybe that is too strong, but we have been as proactive this session as reactive. We had our very successful Legislative Drive-In to celebrate the 50th Anniversary of Gideon, plus we have had two hearings in which we were invited to orchestrate the presentations—the Brady bill hearing in Senate Judiciary and the pay parity bill in House Judiciary. Thanks must go to Sen. Floyd Prozanski and Rep. Jennifer Williamson who introduced these bills. And yet, the hearings were ours and I think as an organization we did ourselves proud.
The Brady bill hearing was highlighted by a guest appearance by Washington, D.C., attorney and discovery expert Rob Cary, one of Sen. Ted Stevens’ (R. Alaska) defense attorneys. Additionally many attorneys from around the state told tales of Brady violations including a case where the detective “scrubbed” the state’s witness’s impeachable evidence from a public record. This bill not only had a hearing but several work sessions, and, for you legislative wonks (you know who you are), the bill went to a “dash 6” before unanimously passing out of committee with a “do pass”. This is so cool—people worked on a bill that we the criminal defense bar introduced. They fought over language and our adversaries “weighed in”; you do not do this unless it matters, unless you are dealing with a player. The days of introducing a bill midway through session and wondering why it never saw the light of day are gone.
Next we had the parity bill in the House. The lineup of testimony was both heartbreaking and heartwarming. When I was a young lawyer I did not have Internet, but not because I could not afford it like one of my lawyers testified, but because it did not exist. It is hard to hear the struggles of younger attorneys. But we also had support from our natural opponents: the DAs weighed in and hit a home run, the bargaining unit of the Multnomah County DA’s office not only wrote in support but appeared to testify. The ODAA (our DA counterpart to OCDLA) appeared and testified in support. And when the exhibit showing the disparity was projected on the screen, the committee members could not stop looking at it and shaking their heads. Many words of support were put on the record and this conversation will continue.
Our lobbyists Gail and Aaron were time and again sought out to review language for—dare I say—“approval,” or at least “can you live with this?” reviews. This was both challenging and rewarding. It is good to have the respect that members from both sides of the aisle care what we think, but it is also challenging because now we need to respond on things like sex offender registration reform, marijuana reform, drone usage policy, and on and on. Once again the days of roaming the halls like some distorted soothsayer predicting doom in some distant appellate court are gone. Our voice was sought out and respected and has changed policy.
However, we must be mindful of our limitations. We are a poor date; we will spark but not marry them. Ultimately, we go back to the courts, our natural arena, and we will do our best to challenge, distinguish, and nullify the very laws we helped craft. That is our nature; that is what we do for our clients. It is noble and right and I will never apologize for that, but it may have its cost. Time will tell. For now, I can only do what I can do, speak the truth as I see it, donate my monthly pledge to the PAC (even small but regular donations have an impact when added to by brothers and sisters) and keep showing up to educate, inform and advocate in whatever forum I can for the cause.
Thanks goes out not just to Gail and Aaron our dedicated and tireless lobbyists, but also to Neal Weingart, Kasia Rutledge, John Henry Hingson, David Angeli, Kara Davis, Eric Deitrick, Conor Huseby, Bronson James, Bob Moon, Michael Romano, and law student Juan Chavez. These folks gave of their time to come down and inform the process, and we are all better off for their service. Now go strike these laws down.
OCDLA Board President Lane Borg is director of the Metropolitan Public Defender in Portland. He serves on the Education and Legislative committees.