If you want to keep law resources, contact your legislator
The Oregon Legislature is again in session with an agenda involving the transfer of public dollars into the pockets of big corporations and away from basic public services providing jobs and services to the citizens of Columbia County.
One example are the cuts to the court system in Columbia County. Budget cuts have resulted in layoffs and now the courts are only open four days a week and by phone six-and-a-half hours per day, four days a week.
Processing of cases is delayed, cases take longer and controversies and problems go unresolved longer. The people laid off are our neighbors.
These cuts are on top of major cuts to Legal Aid, which sharply reduces the access of lower-income county residents to the courts, making them even more vulnerable in a world where the wealthy and big corporations have $1,000-per-hour attorneys and easy access to courts and legal resources.
Lower-income residents have to rely on substantially defunded Legal Aid working with an excellent, but limited, set of local volunteer attorneys, and local educational resources to help them through the process.
One vital element in this is the availability of the Columbia County Law Library (in St. Helens a block away from the courthouse on 1st Street) as a resource for Legal Aid, local attorneys and Columbia County citizens who want to educate themselves on the law and how to use the legal system.
This library has been a resource in our county for generations and is currently being reorganized to provide an up-to-date collection of legal publications in a variety of areas of the law for use by Columbia County citizens, Legal Aid and local attorneys.
That's the good news. The bad news is that the Legislature, in addition to further budget cuts to the courts, is considering wiping out county law libraries.
The most often heard argument is that 'it's all online' so we don't need libraries. This is nonsense. While it is true that most of the legal materials in the library are online somewhere, access is only allowed online through specific subscriptions, and these are very expensive.
Libraries were invented as a form of co-op so that we all pay a small amount (in filing fees for court cases) for a central collection that we can all use when we need it, as opposed to each of us having to pay for a separate collection.
So if you would like to keep both our courts and the Columbia County Law Library as ongoing resources for all of us when we need them, you might want to convey this to both Rep. Brad Witt (1-503-986-1130) and Sen. Betsy Johnson (1-503-986-1716) as these budget cuts are currently being considered.
- Mike Sheehan, Scappoose