A Message from OSB Adjudicator Mark Turner concerning COVID-19 response
To: Parties and Counsel in Disciplinary Proceedings
From: Mark A. Turner, Adjudicator
I would like to address some questions and concerns that have arisen regarding the handling of disciplinary proceedings in light of the COVID-19 pandemic.
First, the health and safety of participants in disciplinary proceedings is the primary concern guiding our decisions on how cases will proceed. All procedures used will comply with any applicable public health orders issued by appropriate authorities. My goal is to have the system move forward in a way that ensures procedural fairness for all.
On Friday, March 27, Chief Justice Martha Walters issued an emergency order, Chief Justice Order 2020-009, making amendments to the Bar Rules of Procedure during the duration of the COVID-19 outbreak. There are two changes relevant to scheduling and conduct of disciplinary proceedings. The first allows for trials and hearings to be conducted via remote participation if I determine it is necessary to comply with local, state, or national public health plans or recommendations. The second allows me to grant continuances exceeding 56 days in the aggregate for good cause. The order also allows for declarations in lieu of affidavits, and provides for electronic filing and service of pleadings or documents.
Trials set in April have been continued to allow time to consider our options going forward. The next trial currently scheduled is set for May 18 and 19. I plan to conduct that trial via remote participation. I plan to continue holding trials through remote participation until public health orders and recommendations provide we can hold trials in person without unreasonable risk.
The bar has not yet decided on a platform yet for holding remote trials. I am working with bar staff, Oregon state court personnel, and court systems in other jurisdictions to understand the options available. We are considering utilizing a videoconference platform such as BlueJeans or Zoom Pro. Both systems would allow for video or telephonic participation, for screen sharing so that exhibits can be displayed, and for break-out rooms for participants to talk separately so that respondents and their counsel can still confer privately even though they are in different locations. Either platform could be accessed via computer or smartphone. We are also conferring with other states regarding their experience with remote trials. If any of you have experience with a possible platform, good or bad, please share that feedback with the Disciplinary Board Clerk, via email to firstname.lastname@example.org. I anticipate the bar will select a platform by the end of April.
All cases currently set for trial after May will remain on their docketed dates. Participants should anticipate the possibility that they will be held via remote participation and plan accordingly. The Disciplinary Board Clerk will continue to set new trials in the regular course.
If remote participation presents a hardship in a particular case, please advise the Disciplinary Board Clerk as soon as you know that is the case. I will work with all concerned to ensure that no party is deprived of the opportunity to present their case in a procedurally fair manner. I am also open to any suggestions as to how we can improve our system regardless of whether they relate to our pandemic situation.
Working together, I know we can adapt to our new environment. My best to all of you personally and professionally as you do the same in your own lives.
Mark A. Turner