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How to Find Recent Oregon Attorney General Opinions (if you’re a mere mortal)

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Assume for the purpose of this blog post that you want (and need) to find yesterday’s (August 11th) Very Important, Big News AG opinion about Treasurer Ted Wheeler. (Legal researchers are funny that way. We can’t rely just on news stories. Go figure.)

Here’s the Willamette Week story: Attorney General Says Treasurer Ted Wheeler Is Ineligible to Run For Re-Election In 2016*

Here’s the Stateman-Journal story: AG: Wheeler can’t run for reelection in 2016

Now, neither newspaper publishes (as of this moment) or links to the opinion. They may in time. But what if you need the actual opinion now?

Are the newspapers relying on a DOJ release – or do they have the actual opinion? Hard to tell, so let’s visit the DOJ website, because, maybe, it’s 2014 and this is exactly the sort of thing that websites are handy for: communication.

Let’s see if we can find that (yesterday’s) AG Opinion, at the DOJ/AG’s website:

  • Does the DOJ’s homepage help us find the AG opinion? (Nope.)
  • How about if you click on “What Can We Help You Find?” (Nope, not for this question of ours.)
  • What about that list of “Legal Resources” on the right side of that page or the Legal Resources page itself? (There is a link to AG Opinions, but ….)
  • From the Attorney General Opinions webpage? (Searching the word “wheeler” didn’t work. And a search using 2014 brought up only something as recent as June, but when I narrow it to AG Opinions, I get “No results.” Not helpful. And searching Summaries reveals that there aren’t any 2014 opinions here – and there likely weren’t any so maybe nothing is missing. (So why don’t they say, “No opinions have been issued in 2014” so we don’t all wonder – and have to call to make sure?)
  • Maybe if we go directly to the Office of the Attorney General’s webpage itself. (Nope, no luck here.)

Maybe they give opinions out to the Media? So let’s try the 2014 Media Releases page. Nope, nuttin’ honey. The most recent entry was June 6th. Today is the 12th and the opinion was “released” early on the 11th. But this is a public agency, this decision affects everyone, and they have a public website – maybe it’s like some of those Dilbert cartoons. (Like the one (from 12/8/11) where Dilbert wonders if he has to meet up with a “newly discovered stone age tribe that has never used Skype” Like Dilbert, “I’m totally confused.”) Maybe I’m missing something here, so I’ll give them a call.

So, it took me 3 transfers and I got to a super-helpful person (hi Nancy!). She said that the opinion was sent over for posting and that should happen shortly. (It was not for me to nag her, who has no control over such matters, why an important decision like this one wasn’t posted yesterday, immediately after the affected parties were notified, which they were first thing in yesterday morning.)

So keep an eye on Opinion Summaries. The AG Opinion may appear any moment.

And then again,┬áthis is a reminder that┬ámy guide to legal resources Not Online has a growing list of new entries to add and I plan to update the last version (2013) by early September. (And this includes some of the DOJ Public Records Orders, not all of which seem to be online. But maybe that has changed in recent months. I’ll check on that before I write that blog post.)

As for us mere mortals, well, this is a problem not just at the DOJ. There are plenty of public-record court documents that appear on the very expensive court records databases, for purchase if you have the money, and way ahead of them being accessible publicly, even if you visit the courthouse itself. (This will change in time, with the advent of eCourt, but mere mortals are for now outside of that loop, too.) And not all CJ Orders are online either, by the way.

Yes, I clearly ate my Cranky Flakes this morning, but really! Really! Really! I’m totally confused.

*The Willamette Week often includes this disclaimer regarding the current AG: Full disclosure: Rosenblum is married to WW publisher and co-owner Richard Meeker. (Maybe they, and the Statesman Journal, got an early look at a press release or the opinion? Sigh.)