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OPDS Newsletter

Saturday, March 18, is National Public Defense Day. This is a time to appreciate Oregon’s public defense community and to recognize these compassionate and hardworking people, who care deeply about the people and communities they serve.   
I want to personally thank each and every public defense provider. You—lawyer, social worker, paralegal, investigator, or core staff—safeguard liberty. The work you do is immense, and we are all better off because of you. 
This year’s National Public Defense Day marks the 60th anniversary of the United States Supreme Court’s unanimous decision in Gideon v. Wainwright, which guarantees people facing criminal charges have the right to legal representation, whether or not they can afford to hire an attorney. Justice Hugo Black wrote in the majority opinion: “The right of one charged with crime to counsel may not be deemed fundamental and essential to fair trials in some countries, but it is in ours. From the very beginning, our state and national constitutions and laws have laid great emphasis on procedural and substantive safeguards designed to assure fair trials before impartial tribunals in which every defendant stands equal before the law.”  
Six decades after this landmark decision, our mission to ensure all Oregonians have access to quality legal representation is as fundamental and essential as it was then. I recognize that in Oregon the promise of Gideon is falling short right now, and we are working hard every day to once again provide timely access to legal representation to every eligible Oregonian. Our community of public defense providers play a critical role in helping us work toward this goal to ensure all stand equal before the law. Thank you! 
I mentioned a few newsletters back that I’d recently convened my Public Defense Advisory Group, part of our efforts to fully understand the potential on-the-ground impacts of any policy and program changes we consider. These providers and PDSC commissioners hail from across Oregon, and I wanted to introduce you to them:
  • Alyssa Bartholomew, Jackson County (Southern Oregon Public Defender) 
  • Michelle Bartov, Clackamas County (Clackamas Indigent Defense Corporation) 
  • Diana Bettles, Klamath County (Solo Practice) 
  • Peter Buckley, Jackson County (PDSC) 
  • Grant Hartley, Multnomah and Washington Counties (Multnomah Public Defender) 
  • John Lamborn, Grant and Harney Counties (Private Firm) 
  • Robert Manske, Coos County (Southwestern Oregon Public Defender) 
  • Carol McCurry, Douglas County (Umpqua Valley Public Defender) 
  • Jack Morris, Wasco and Hood River Counties (Private Firm) 
  • Karen Stenard, Lane County (Juvenile Consortium) 
  • Max Williams, Washington County (PDSC) 
  • Shannon Wilson, Marion and Clackamas Counties (Public Defender of Marion County) 
  • Kristen Winemiller, Multnomah County (PDSC) 

We are also visiting providers and justice system partners in their local communities as often as we can. This week, members of my team and I spent time in Coos and Douglas Counties. We learned about the local challenges they face recruiting and retaining public defenders and the added challenges present in rural communities. We also met with judges, trial court administrators, and district attorneys, and surveyed visiting attorneys who occasionally take cases in these counties. Everyone was incredibly generous with their time and shared ideas about the successes and challenges their communities face, and ideas for system improvements in their local courts. OPDS learned a lot on our trip, and we look forward to visiting Klamath and Jackson Counties next week. 
On February 23, we previewed the language of the proposed 2023-25 public defense contracts with the Public Defense Services Commission (PDSC). We solicited provider feedback via our website, and the week of March 6, we also held four feedback sessions on the proposed contracts. The feedback was helpful, and most providers appreciated the simplified contract structure. We are currently making some adjustments based on the thoughtful and thorough review of those that participated. We truly appreciate everyone taking the time to help refine the language and provisions. Our next steps are discussed in more detail in Billing & Contracts Update below. 
Thank you for taking the time to read about the work we’re doing at OPDS. Please share this biweekly newsletter with your networks, and encourage colleagues to subscribe directly to get the latest updates on our work.   
OPDS’s efforts to increase public defense services capacity to meet representation needs throughout Oregon continue.  
During the past six months, OPDS has assigned counsel to in-custody unrepresented persons in 602 cases under the Temporary Increased Hourly Rate Programs, with 163 cases assigned to providers contracted for less than full time public defense work, and 408 cases to non-contract hourly attorneys.  
Cases returning to the trial court because of the Ramos and Watkins cases will also add to the number of unrepresented persons statewide and will be eligible for the increased tiered hourly rate structure.

Increased and Tiered Hourly Rate Structure for All Unrepresented Persons 

OPDS continues to seek attorneys who are interested in taking on a case that qualifies for new, temporary rates.  
If you are interested in taking a case that qualifies for these new hourly rates, please email
On February 1, 2023, OPDS implemented increased rates in a tiered structure to address all unrepresented persons whether they are in or out of custody, including increased rates for most types of cases.
On March 16, 2023, the PDSC extended the tiered hourly rate program to attorneys who are contracted to provide full time public defense representation but attest that they can ethically handle more clients than they are contracted for.  The agency recognizes that the caseload limits in the current OPDS contract with providers, while a meaningful step towards more reasonable public defense caseloads, are not a workload standard and do not always align with an individual attorney’s capacity to provide ethical representation to all of their clients.

The unrepresented persons webpage has the updated details for this program.

Phase One of Supervised Civil Attorney Program

The Supervised Civil Attorney Program is designed to connect public defense attorneys with civil bar attorneys to aid in their cases. You can read more details about the program here.

If you are a civil attorney who would like to assist through the Supervised Civil Attorney Program and represent clients or assist current providers with motions, please fill out this form. OPDS will collect this information and follow up individually with interested attorneys.

If you are an attorney with a court-appointed criminal case and are interested in receiving assistance with a case through the Supervised Civil Bar Program, please fill out this form. OPDS will match your case with an available civil bar attorney who is willing to assist you with limited tasks in your case.

For more information, please contact
On March 10, the Full Legislative Committee on Ways and Means passed HB 5045, which rebalanced OPDS’ budget for the remainder of the fiscal year and added additional supplemental funding to address the Watkins/Ramos return cases through the Temporary Increased Hourly Rate program.  
The Tri-Branch Public Defense Workgroup continues to work on a comprehensive public defense system reform bill. There was a meeting this week to review the first part of what will be a three-part draft amendment. The workgroup is committed to drafting a bill that will ensure a fair and safe transition to a more stable public defense system in Oregon. SB 337, which is currently a ‘placeholder’ bill, has been scheduled for a public hearing March 30th in Senate Judiciary.

2023-25 Contracts  

After incorporating the feedback gathered through our outreach efforts over the last few weeks, we will be scheduling a PDSC meeting on March 29 to vote on approval of the contract language.  
Following that vote, we will release the Request for Qualifications (RFQ) for new public defense contracts the first week of April. Please note: If you are an existing public defense contractor, you will not need to respond to the RFQ. We will be sending existing contractors a letter of intent to enter into another contract, which will contain simple instructions on how to notify the agency if you intend to continue contracting with PDSC. 
We will not have information on the financial value of the contracts until our budget becomes clear, which will likely not happen until late May or June. It is highly likely that we will have to schedule a PDSC meeting in late June for final approval of the contracts.   

Accounts Payable Processing Times   

  • As of March 15, processing time is 33 days. The increased processing time is a result of an increased workload due to the Temporary Tiered Hourly Rate program. Historically, about 1% of Oregon’s public defenders submitted hourly billing. Currently, more than 10% of Oregon’s public defenders submit billing with an hourly rate. With the continued expansion of the Temporary Increased Hourly Rate program, the agency anticipates the percentage of hourly rate work to grow. However, the agency has not been able to increase its accounts payable staff to reflect the increased workload.  

  • If you are experiencing billing issues that have been longer than 33 days, please email OPDS AP Invoice Issues at

  • Please do not copy other individual staff from the agency.  

Continued Slowdown in Case Support Services (CSS) Requests Processing Time 

The processing time for Case Support Services (CSS) requests is currently about two weeks behind our target for a request to be processed and for the attorney to receive a decision.  
The CSS team is receiving approximately 150 to 200 requests per day and processing 100 to 150 approvals. Requests for rate changes and new vendors will now be processed by the team on Fridays, due to the research and additional time required to process these requests.  
Please note that you can help us in working through the backlog by doing the following:  
  • Reserve any follow-up emails (i.e. checking in on a submitted CSS request) for only the requests that have become a RUSH since submission. 

  • Be sure that any case for which you are requesting $75/hour for an investigator has been approved by OPDS for the increased hourly rate. We have seen an uptick in requests for $75/hour for investigators, many of which are for cases that do not qualify for the increased hourly rate because the case was never on the OJD Unrepresented Persons Dashboard. 

  • Double check your CSS requests to ensure your case number and client names match and that your signature date is within 3 days of submission. 

Our team is very grateful for your patience and assistance as we work through this unexpected reduction in our already small (four-person) CSS team.
The Public Defense Services Commission (PDSC) met on Thursday, March 16, and heard an update on unrepresented persons and the impact of the temporary Increased Hourly Rate Programs. They also voted to approve a further expansion of the tiered hourly rate program to attorneys who are contracted to do full time public defense. See more details in the Unrepresented Persons Update section and here

Upcoming PDSC Public Meetings

  • Wednesday, March 29, 2023, 10 am –virtual only  
  • Thursday, April 20, 2023, 2 pm  

Agenda and materials will be posted on our website under Commission Agendas & Meeting Schedule.

Virtual attendance available as Microsoft Teams Live Event (link in agenda). You may  stream the meeting live or view the recording at your convenience via the same link once the meeting has concluded.
Our mailing address is:

Office of Public Defense Services
Appellate Division
1175 Court Street NE
Salem, OR 97301

Business Services
198 Commercial Street SE, Suite # 205
Salem, OR 97301

Main Phone: (503) 378-3349

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