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Need court records? Bring a book

Lines get even longer after cuts in staff, hours for legal records office

It's one budget cut that has affected the public across the board.

If you need a copy of your divorce papers, driving conviction or other records from the Multnomah County Courthouse file room, you're going to have to stand in a long line. And the line keeps growing as the room's staff and hours of operation shrink.

The file room, funded by the state as part of the Oregon Judicial Department, already has seen two budget cuts in the last year.

The first, which took effect in early May 2002, resulted in the file room's hours being reduced to noon to 5 p.m., with information no longer available by phone. Then, as a result of the failure of Ballot Measure 28, both the file room and the courthouse were ordered closed to public business on Fridays beginning in March.

The result?

'Every Monday is like the Monday after a three-day weekend now,' Multnomah County District Attorney Michael Schrunk said.

The effect of the two cuts can be seen both inside and outside the courthouse.

'We open at 8,' said Jerry Roberts, a Multnomah County sheriff's deputy who works courthouse security. 'People used to be able to take care of business between 8 and noon. Now everyone has to come at one time.'

He points at the lunch-hour line that winds out into the street from the security bottleneck at the courthouse's Southwest Fourth Avenue entrance, then takes visitors around to the file room on the building's main floor.

'At 1 p.m., this line will instantly double,' he predicts.

It does.

Although the file room theoretically could get back to full staff and full-time hours when the new state budget goes into effect July 1, county trial court Administrator Douglas Bray isn't optimistic that the Legislature will apportion more money for his department.

So, forewarned is forearmed: Avoid getting divorced and other things that mean trips to the file room. Don't go on Fridays. Don't go at 1 p.m. on other days. Take along a good book.

Just don't take a snack and expect to leave the wrappings in the file room garbage. As a result of county budget cuts, the trash is now being picked up just once a week.

Contact Janine Robben at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..