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    Jennifer Williamson Says She Won’t Run for Portland Mayor

    Rep. Jennifer Williamson (D-Portland), the Oregon House majority leader, is not running for Portland mayor, she tells WW.

    “It’s timing,” she says. “I was just elected majority leader and there are a lot of opportunities for us in Salem.”

    Williamson says she seriously considered running and had discussions with supporters about entering the race.

    “In the end, staying in Salem was the right choice.”

    Williamson’s quick turn as a potential mayoral candidate—speculation she may run hit the gossip mill only last week—is a response to Mayor Charlie Hales’ abrupt announcement on Monday, Oct. 26 that he would bow out of the 2016 election.

    In the days after Hales’ announcement, the names of other potential candidates have surfaced, including Multnomah County Chief Operating Officer Marissa Madrigal, whom Hales has nudged to run.

    Meanwhile, Oregon Treasurer Ted Wheeler, who announced Sept. 9 that he would seek the office, has raised more than $125,000.


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    Willamette Women Dems to meet

    The Willamette Women Democrats will welcome state Sen. Ginny Burdick (D-Portland), state Rep. Jennifer Williamson (D-Portland) and state Rep. Kathleen Taylor (D-Portland) to talk about “Behind the Scenes: How Politics Shaped the 2015 Legislative Session,” during their meeting to be held from 4-6 p.m. Sept. 9 at Oswego Lake Country Club, 20 Iron Mountain Blvd. in Lake Oswego.

    During the 77th session Democrats held the majority in the State Senate and House but faced many challenges, starting with the resignation of Gov. John Kitzhaber, who was replaced by Secretary of State Kate Brown as Oregon’s new Democratic governor. Significant pieces of legislature, including tougher ethics laws, background checks on gun ownership and implementing the new marijuana initiative demanded legislative action. It was regarded as a “stressful session,” which resulted in gains as well as disappointments on several issues. Burdick, Williamson and Taylor will share their insights about the politics, priorities, accomplishments and what’s in store for the future.

    The public is invited to attend the event. The cost is $15 for members and $20 for non-members. Light refreshments will be served. Those wishing to attend should RSVP by Sept. 2 online at, email or call 503-656-4445.

    Willamette Women Democrats is a locally organized, nonprofit, progressive organization established to provide informative programs, promote progressive politics and encourage women to be politically active.

    Source: Lake Oswego Review

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    Make it Oregon policy: Release police bodycam videos

    The value of bodycams should be that the public can see how police do their jobs.

    Oregon lawmakers are considering a bill that would standardize the use of body cameras worn by police officers and strictly limit the public release of the video recordings. Those limits are reasonable for the most part, but when a recording involves the use of force by an officer, the presumption should be to release the video, not restrict it.

    Police use of deadly force against citizens, armed and unarmed, is an issue of growing concern, and lawmakers across the country are grappling with how to respond to those concerns while allowing law enforcement officers to do their jobs and protecting the public at the same time. Many police departments have responded by equipping officers with body cameras that take video recordings of their interactions with suspects and others.

    The Oregon measure, House Bill 2571, does not require police departments to use the cameras, but sets out guidelines if they choose to do so. Among other things, departments using cameras would have to require the camera to be turned on as soon as an officer had probable cause or reasonable suspicion that a crime had been committed and leave it on until the police action was complete, and retain the recordings for at least six months.

    HB 2571 would exempt the recordings from disclosure under public records laws except in two narrow instances: If the recording was part of a court proceeding or if it involved the use of force by an officer and the public interest required its release.

    Elements of court proceedings already are public records, and ought to remain so. The desire to protect the privacy of individuals who interact with police is understandable, and most of the recordings likely would be of little interest to anyone not directly involved.

    But any time an officer uses force, especially when injury or death results, releasing the recording should be presumed to be in the public interest, not subject to the discretion of the department. There is already an exemption for records involving active police investigations, and that would certainly apply when the use of force is being investigated. But once the investigation concludes, the recording should be released.

    We would add a third instance when a recording should be a public record: when a complaint is filed against an officer alleging wrongdoing or misconduct, even if the matter does not become a court case. The public has a legitimate interest in how police officers conduct themselves on the job, and anyone questioning that conduct should be able to request a video recording of it.

    Just as trust in government is strengthened when government records are available to the public, trust in law enforcement will be improved if recordings of police conduct are not hidden from public view.

    — Mail Tribune, Medford, March 25

    ‘Body camera videos are public documents and should be treated as such’

    The challenge associated with so many police custody or use-of-force cases is in belief: plain acceptance that things happened as police say they did. Yet police officers suffer from the credibility gap as much as an at-times incredulous public: Slow reconstructions of controversial events from narrative accounts by witnesses and police can wring faith from a community by showing a murky result, satisfying no one.

    Body cameras do not fix everything. Least of all do they furnish uncontested truth. But their increasing embrace by departments nationally has yielded a new genre of public document: footage of engagement by police with suspects or others, as seen from the point of view of the officers wearing the camera. What is shown, typically, is believable. The body camera in that sense represents a documentary advance that, if managed wisely, can benefit the public and the police.

    Portland embraces the new technology. Mayor Charlie Hales has made clear he wants body cameras to be available to all police officers while on duty by next year. Meanwhile the Legislature considers a bill that would establish ground rules to be followed by all Oregon towns and cities choosing to employ body cameras for their police officers.

    House Bill 2571, sponsored by Rep. Jennifer Williamson, D-Portland, and others, draws a sensible baseline that allows communities to create their own protocols and policies governing body-camera use. Among other things, the bill requires that body-worn cameras record continuously, from the moment an officer develops a reasonable suspicion that an illegal action is about to occur or has occurred, The Oregonian/OregonLive’s Maxine Bernstein reported.

    That means no editing, no gaps in the event record. That also means the officer must, amid the many sudden decisions to be made in critical moments, choose to activate the camera in the first place — a leap of faith in some situations, perhaps, and the target of critics who worry about the selective use of the cameras by police. And Williamson’s bill correctly stipulates that all recordings would be the property of the law enforcement agency, not a third party hired to do so, safeguarding the public against contractors who might fail to recognize potential compromises to the personal privacy of innocent citizens. Who, if caught running nude from the shower during a domestic dispute, would want such footage to be released as a public document?

    But that’s where things get sticky. HB2571 would require that videos from police body cameras be exempt from public disclosure except under limited circumstances. While the bill is otherwise smart and should be adopted by the Legislature, its provision to keep the documents out of the public’s review in most instances works against hard-won transparency provisions already in Oregon law and should be struck. The person caught running from the shower already enjoys protections against a damaging release.

    The spirit of HB2571 aligns with actions underway in several other states. Arizona and Florida lawmakers, for example, have said they fear criminals could, using freedom of information laws, indiscriminately acquire police videos for uploading to the Internet only to extort those who are embarrassed and online. But that argument quickly falls apart: Several provisions already in Oregon law can be invoked to limit a document’s release in the interest of protecting personal privacy or an ongoing criminal investigation. And it ignores the fact that detailed incident reports at the police station or videos captured by a police squad car’s dashboard camera are public documents available for the asking.

    Body camera videos are public documents and should be treated as such. To selectively withhold them is to address a problem that does not exist. Lawmakers should refashion the otherwise solid HB2571 to ensure body camera videos are readily available, passing the tests posed by so many exemptions on the books. The new law would then be a real gain in assisting communities in the complex task of having police officers reliably record their engagements with the public while bolstering their accountability as well as the public’s.

    — The Oregonian, Portland, March 26

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    Our View: A small contribution to fairness

    Posted Feb. 10, 2015 at 12:01 AM

    A bill that would bring Oregon into line with nearly every other state in helping to pay for legal services for low-income residents passed the House on Monday. The Oregon Senate should follow suit, and the governor should sign the legislation.
    When a class action lawsuit involving many plaintiffs is settled, or a verdict is reached holding the defendant liable for damages, the court contacts members of the affected class and distributes the money paid in damages by the corporate defendant. Inevitably, some members of the affected class either cannot be found or choose not to participate.
    States have enacted various ways to deal with this leftover money. Because the corporate defendant has agreed to pay damages or has been found liable and ordered to do so, returning the undistributed money to the defendant essentially reduces the penalty. Many state laws provide that at least a portion of this money go to help provide legal services to low-income residents who can’t afford to hire their own attorney.
    The distribution of money in this way follows a legal doctrine known as “cy prés,” sort for the Norman French phrase “cy prés comme possible,” or “as near as possible.” The idea is that money in a will or trust, or money ordered paid to settle a claim, should be used for a purpose close to the original intent if that original intent cannot be satisfied. Support for legal services is considered a close approximation to class-action damages because consumer protection cases make up a portion of legal services cases.
    In Oregon, class-action payments that cannot be distributed are returned to the corporate defendant.
    House Bill 2700 would change that. Half of any unspent damages would go to legal services offices around the state, and the other half to charity at the discretion of the judge.
    HB 2700 would not solve the funding problems plaguing legal aid in the state. The amount of money is relatively small, and Oregon does not see a large number of class action lawsuits. But the principle is sound: Our system of justice means little if those without resources are denied access to the courts. This bill is one small way to contribute to fairness, and should be enacted.

    Source: Mail Tribune

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    Protecting Our Privacy

    Dear Friend,

    In the 21st century, the technology in our lives literally changes every day. Data that used to take rooms full of file cabinets to store can now be carried around on an ultra slim laptop or pulled down from the cloud on your smartphone.

    This new technology has made extraordinary improvements in our lives and economy, but it also poses very real threats to our privacy and our constitutional rights.

    Thankfully, even though we live in a time of extraordinary change, the safeguards in the Bill of Rights are constant. The 4th Amendment to our US Constitution protects us against unlawful searches and seizures by the government. And Article 1, Section 9 of the Oregon Constitution does the same thing.

    But while technology keeps leaping forward, our laws are lagging behind in protecting Oregonians. 

    Privacy is an issue of personal freedom, not a partisan one. That’s why my Democratic colleague Senator Chip Shields and I have been reaching across the aisle to find common ground with Republicans in the Legislature on actions we can take together to protect our individual freedoms.

    This summer, I’m proud to be part of an interim workgroup developing policy recommendations to update our privacy laws in Oregon.

    I wanted to update you on a number of issues we are considering and ask for your views about the challenges you face protecting your right to privacy.

    Here are a few of the key privacy issues our committee is working on:

    1. Transparency in Government Surveillance

    We have a right to understand what technologies government is using to monitor, observe or analyze the behavior or activity of Oregonians. And we have the right to know what policies govern the use of those technologies. We are considering new laws to promote transparency in government surveillance activities and ascertain what measures agencies are taking to protect privacy.

    2. Protect Private Electronic Communication Records

    Our electronic communication shouldn’t be treated differently than our postal mail or written notes when it comes to monitoring by the government.  And yet outdated laws allow that to happen with law enforcement being able to take advantage of loopholes in our laws to collect digital data and records without having to go before a court for permission. We are considering updates to Oregon privacy laws to ensure online and digital activity receives the same protection our snail mail does. 

    3. Protect Cell Phone Location Tracking Records 

    GPS records and cell phone location records give us a digital footprint that can allow us to be tracked in almost every moment of our day. This data can reveal highly personal, and even intimate, details of an individual’s life. We are looking at an update to Oregon law that would require a warrant for probable cause (except in an emergency) before the government could obtain cell phone location records. 

    4. Protect Smartphone Privacy

    It used to be that police had to get a warrant and conduct extensive investigations before they could track a person’s communications, movements and private life after an arrest. Today, law enforcement can strip a smartphone of all its data for review during an arrest encounter. This can amount to a violation of constitutional rights and an extreme invasion of privacy.  We are considering new updates to Oregon laws that would protect smartphone privacy and require a warrant to search a cell phone.  

    5. Establish Guidelines for Automatic License Plate Readers

    Today in Oregon, law enforcement agencies can deploy automatic license plate readers on our roads and retain location information and a photograph of every vehicle that passes each camera. This stored data can reveal the private movements of thousands of Oregonians who have committed no crime. We are considering new laws to put long overdue statewide guidelines in place for the use of automatic license plate readers and safeguards against the retention of private personal data and unnecessary sharing of these records between governments and private companies. 

    At least 16 other states have either passed or are currently considering legislation to address the collection, aggregation and dissemination of information on ordinary citizens. Oregon is falling behind in protecting our privacy right now and we need to catch up. 

    If you want to make sure these issues are addressed during the next legislative session, please add your name to our citizens’ petition here.

    It may be 225 years old, but the Constitution still guarantees our basic right to privacy even from the newest technological advances.

    We can work together to make sure Oregon leads the nation in protecting those rights.


    JW Signature

    Representative Jennifer Williamson

    P.S. Please take a few moments to fill out our survey on your privacy concerns and make sure you add your name to our citizens’ petition by clicking here.

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    33 Days in Salem


    Dear Friend,

    On March 7, we completed the 2014 legislative session in Salem. It’s called a short session because it only lasts for 33 days.

    Your feedback and ideas from town halls, emails and community meetings helped me focus on the issues that matter most to the people of Portland’s westside.

    I wanted to take a few moments to highlight some of the key priorities I fought for in the Legislature this year:

    1. Investing in Education. I continued to make strengthening our public schools from pre-K through college my top priority

    •   I supported a new $2.2 million investment in early learning programs to help more Oregon children succeed in school.
    •   I voted for new summer learning grants so 5,000 children at high poverty public schools can get additional learning time.
    •   I worked to make higher education more affordable by voting for the Aspiration to College Bill to support more first generation     community college students.
    •    I supported “The Oregon Promise” to study whether it’s realistic to allow high school graduates to attend community college for free.


    2. Protecting Our Privacy. Weekly revelations about federal intrusions into our private communications made it a top priority for our state government to focus on safeguarding our privacy.

    • I sponsored SB 1583 to prohibit law enforcement from obtaining private electronic information without a warrant.
    • I supported SB 1522 to place limits on how long law enforcement can hold data from Automatic License Plate Readers and who they can share it with.


    3. Keeping Oregon Pro-Choice. I’ve worked to protect reproductive rights for over 20 years. Now, I’m fighting hard in Salem to stop far-right attacks on our right to choose.

    • I was chief sponsor of HB 4061 to safeguard Oregon women’s access to medically accurate information.
    • This legislation prohibited a public body from forcing medical practitioners to give false, politically motivated advice on reproductive health issues.


    4. Standing Up for Consumers. Oregon is one of only two states that allows at-fault corporations to recover unclaimed penalties they have been ordered to pay consumers in class action lawsuits.

    • I was proud to co-sponsor HB 4143 with my colleague Tobias Read to close this loophole and demand fairness for Oregon consumers when they have been injured or defrauded.
    • The bill would have transferred unclaimed penalties from at-fault corporations to Legal Aid to help more Oregonians get access to legal services.
    • The Oregonian’s Steve Duin called HB 4143 “the best idea to come out of the legislature in recent memory.”
    • The bill passed the House but unfortunately failed in the Senate on a 15-15 vote after an all-out assault by lobbyists for BP and big tobacco.


    5. Demanding Accountability and Transparency. We shouldn’t have to wait for access to quality health care, but problems with Cover Oregon kept thousands from getting the care they deserve.

    • I sponsored HB 4122 to safeguard taxpayer dollars with tough new standards for oversight and accountability on large, public IT projects.
    • I sponsored HB 4154 to direct Cover Oregon to get a federal waiver so Oregonians who couldn’t use the website can get the subsidies they deserve.


    6. Taking Care of Our Most Vulnerable. I was elected to represent everyone in District 36 and I’ve worked hard to give a voice to those who can’t always speak for themselves.

    • I supported more assistance for our community mental health system by voting for $10 million in additional housing.
    • I voted for $2 million in additional funding for emergency housing and the state’s homeless assistance program.


    We didn’t win on every issue this session, but I was proud to lead the way on our progressive values. When it comes to safeguarding reproductive rights, protecting consumers and privacy and keeping our public schools strong, many more challenges lie ahead.

    Please let me know your thoughts on the top priorities facing Oregon. Click here to complete our newest survey.

    Thank you for giving me the honor of representing you in the State House.


    Representative Jennifer Williamson

    P.S. Don’t forget to fill out our new survey to let me know your thoughts on Oregon’s future priorities.

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    Steve Duin: A golden opportunity to repair class-action law and rescue Legal Aid

    When Kris LaMar worked for Legal Aid’s Family Law Center in 1973, she remembers the painful Monday morning ritual:

    “We had to turn the intake phones off by 10 a.m,” says LaMar, who retired in January from the Multnomah County Circuit bench.  “It was a spigot.  And we had to turn it off.”

    And what would that mean, for the rest of that grueling week, for the victims of domestic violence, tenants unfairly evicted from their apartments, or the dirt-poor women clawing their way through a bitter child-custody dispute?

    “They just had to fend for themselves,” LaMar says.

    “That’s our state.  We have never committed as a society to provide legal services to the poor for anything other than criminal cases, which the state and federal constitutions require.”

    Never.  Forty years later, Legal Aid receives less than $6 million from the state’s General Fund, and serves only 15 percent of the Oregonians who need its counsel for landlord-tenant disputes, fraud cases and family-law beefs.

    So, you can not possibly imagine the relief and celebration in legal circles when two legislators — Reps. Jennifer Williamson, D-Portland, and Tobias Read, D-Beaverton — finally came up with a creative solution to this perennial funding problem.

    Seriously.  You can’t. Unless, of course, you have followed the disheartening arc of Dave Frohnmayer’s legal career.

    Williamson and Read took note of the fact that Oregon is one of only two states in the country that returns the unclaimed proceeds in class-action cases to the very parties that ripped everyone off.

    Let’s say a jury determines that BP West Coast Products recklessly violated the Unlawful Trade Practices Act at its gas stations — as a Multnomah County jury did in January — and awards a class of 2.9 million consumers $200 each.

    If many claimants are impossible to locate because BP destroyed the debit-card receipts, BP (formerly British Petroleum) is allowed to keep the unclaimed portion of the $580-million award.

    David Sugerman, class counsel in the case, estimates that unclaimed monies will easily exceed $100 million.

    Read and Williamson have, in House Bill 4143, a better idea: allocate those unclaimed class-action awards to the endowment fund for legal-aid services.

    “This is a game-changer for Legal Aid,” says Bob Stoll, a retired Portland attorney and one who has neither clients nor financial interest in the legislation.

    Not only will Legal Aid be able to reopen and support many of its rural offices, Stoll notes, but companies like British Petroleum and Philip Morris would no longer “keep most of the damages a jury determined belonged to others.”

    LaMar — who ended her career providing “shotgun justice” for the folks who couldn’t afford a lawyer — framed the issue rather well:

    “Why would anyone possibly be opposed to that?”

    Why, because Frohnmayer and Bill Gary are (a) stalwart defenders of the Oregon Constitution, or (b) the very lawyers who are being paid so handsomely by cigarette manufacturers and oil conglomerates.

    Tough call.

    The Eugene attorneys represent Philip Morris in an ongoing class-action suit, and have been hired by BP to curtail its damages.  They have also lobbied passionately against this godsend for Legal Aid.

    In a letter to Oregon legislators, Frohnmayer and Gary called the bill “unconstitutional, unfair and fundamentally unworkable.”

    And speaking by phone Friday afternoon, Frohnmayer said, “This bill has been seriously misrepresented by people who should know better.  The problem with this bill is that Legal Aid is a stalking horse for serious and controversial changes in class-action rules.  The additional problem — and I can’t believe no one is talking about this — is that the law was made retroactive, to existing cases.”

    Yet it is the Frohnmayer/Gary lobbying effort — rather than what Frohnmayer calls “this hand-grenade of a bill” — that has been met with disappointment and derision by many in the Oregon legal community.

    LaMar said she was especially disappointed because Frohnmayer, as Oregon’s attorney general from 1981-1991, “was charged with prosecuting many of the violations of law that class-action plaintiff attorneys pursue.  Many of these class-action lawsuits develop because attorneys general can’t take on that kind of case-load.

    “I respect Dave Frohnmayer,” LaMar said, then added, “Why has Dave changed so much?  That’s kind of painful.”

    “The act of advocacy alters one’s opinions,” Portland attorney Greg Kafoury observes.  “When you have spent your career defending what large corporations do, much of it marginally criminal or against the public interest, you develop a point of view, and one diametrically opposed to the view that sent you to law school.”

    Stoll is even more blunt:  “I think Frohnmayer is making a bogus argument.  He sold out to Big Tobacco, and now to Big Oil.” Referring to three prominent supporters of the bill, AGs past and present, Stoll added, “You can hardly say that Hardy Myers, Ted Kulongoski and Ellen Rosenblum are radical legal scholars.  They are very balanced in their approach.”

    “Bob Stoll is not a disinterested party,” Frohnmayer fired back.  “He’s a plaintiff’s lawyer who brings class-action suits.  And this one is a bum rap.

    “This is a compelling set of constitutional considerations, and I’m getting blown off as the captive of special interests.  There’s not a word that I said (Thursday) that I would not have said as a state representative, while setting up the Council on Court Procedures; as the attorney general, while prosecuting or defending class-action suits; and as a law professor, looking at constitutional adequacy affecting individual rights.”

    At the moment — the Williamson/Reed bill has already passed the House — the opinions that matter most are in the Oregon Senate.

    Those legislators have a choice to make, and one they’ve had a great deal more time to consider than the Nike tax break rushed through in 2012’s one-day special session.

    They can ask themselves if justice is better served, and funding for Legal Aid finally secured, by adding Oregon to the list of states that insist defendants in class-action suits pay fully for the havoc they unleash.

    Or, once again, they can tell the most impoverished Oregonians to fend for themselves.

    — Steve Duin

    Source:Oregon Live