Oregon and Portland-metro Legal Assistance Resources: April 2014 Update

We have updated our Oregon and Portland-metro Legal Assistance Resources guide.

We have expanded its reach beyond the Portland-metro area so new resources may be added – and you are welcome to suggest additions.

Link to the PDF or link to it from our What’s New webpage.

Drafting Your Own Will? A Cautionary Tale

Online ABA Journal article: “Estate dispute caused by ‘E-Z Legal Form’ is a ‘cautionary tale,’ says justice,” by Debra Cassens Weiss.

Ann Aldrich used an “E-Z Legal Form” when she made out her will in 2004, a decision that proved to be a good choice for two nieces who cited the document’s lack of a residuary clause.

In a decision issued last week, the Florida Supreme Court ruled for the nieces, though they weren’t mentioned in the will. The court said money acquired by Aldrich after the will was made out should be distributed under the laws of intestacy, which govern distribution of property for those who die without a will. The reason: The E-Z form did not have a residuary clause providing for the disposition of property not listed in the document….” [Link to full article.]

Happy April’s Fools Day: Lawyers Clients, Fools? One and the Same?

He who is always his own counseller will often have a fool for his client.” [Source: Shapiro, "The Oxford Dictionary of American Legal Quotations," citing Port Folio (Philadelphia, Aug. 1809, at 132.]

Not a day goes by when I don’t:

1) Read about someone who made a BIG mistake thinking s/he knew everything about drafting contracts, wills, and other legal documents.

2) Talk to a lawyer who is getting paid BIG bucks to fix the mistakes made by that “someone” in #1.

You can (or may be able to) represent yourself, but you have to do the work if you want to be more than The Fool. See, for example, this blog post about self-representation generally, landlord-tenant law specifically.

Project SCRUB (Expunging criminal records in Washington County, Oregon)

The Oregon Law Center is a legal aid based program that provides free services to low-income people throughout the state. Project SCRUB provides low-income Washington County residents with legal and financial assistance to expunge their criminal records, helping to remove the barriers that can prevent them from finding jobs and housing. The volunteer pro bono attorney will assist with filling out legal documents and advising clients on the expungement process.

Contact the: Oregon Law Center, (503) 640-4115

(Note: This project has grant funding through June 2014, which may or not be renewed.)

Access to Justice: The Center, the Conference, the Index, the Blog

The Center: National Center for Access to Justice

The Conference: Equal Justice Conference (Portland, Oregon, April 30-May 3, 2014) (there is a Self-Represented Litigation Network Educational Program on Wednesday, April 30 (8:30am-5:30pm).)

The Index: Justice Index

The BlogAccess to Justice Blog (Richard Zorza’s extraordinary compilation of A2J resources and news. And read the Kennedy-Katzenbach statement from 50 years ago on access to justice)

There’s more: See what many states are doing on the A2J front (and I’ll be adding great information about the Michigan Legal Help program to this list).

How Does Oregon Rank in the (Access to) Justice Index

Visit the Justice Index beta site for preliminary findings.

Note: access to justice is different from access to courts – and then there is access to affordable legal assistance.

1) You’ve just been charged with DUII.
2) You are a small business owner, or want to start a small business, and need to know about how, or if, to incorporate.
3) Your son who is in jail needs to know how to pay his child support.
4) You are a self-represented litigant and want to know how to ask a question about a court procedure.
5) You just found out your “husband” was married when he “married” you – after you moved here from another country.
6) Your college kid’s landlord just sued for back rent.
7) Your local law librarian advised you to talk to a lawyer before renting out that room in your house.
8) Your local law librarian recommended you talk to a lawyer before evicting that person who is renting out that room in your house.

There’s more! Lots, and lots, and lots more. But you get my drift.

Oregon Legal Resources and Assistance: Tips for Real People Researchers: Peeling the Onion

Do you need help with housing, children, crime, social security, benefits, debt, a small business, and other Real People legal matters?

Sometimes you just need to start with one organization, or one website. From there, you’ll find another layer of legal resources and legal assistance referrals, and from there even more – and so on, and so on.

Where to start?

Try one of these: Oregon Law Help, the Oregon State Bar, your county law library, your public library, your elected officials (state and federal), 211 service, a local social service agency, etc.

And keep good notes on what you find and where you should try next. Persevere!

Equal Justice Conference (Portland, Oregon, April 30-May 3, 2014)

The American Bar Association’s  Equal Justice Conference (EJC) 2014 will be held in Portland, Oregon.

You may register for a pre-conference session for $75, without having to register for the entire EJC conference!

Among other EJC and pre-conference programs, there is one for Access to Justice (A2J) professionals, public law librarians, and those who are interested public law library or public library legal reference services and A2J (access to justice) issues:

Self-Represented Litigation Network Educational Program, Wednesday, April 30 (8:30am-5:30pm)

EJC links:

1) Equal Justice Conference (ABA) 2014, Portland, Oregon

2) Access to Justice blog post about the Self-Represented Litigation Network Pre-Conference in Portland

If you want to attend the pre-conference program, please complete the registration form and send it to:

Erin Wellin, CMP
Meetings & Committee Specialist, Legal Services Division
American Bar Association; 321 N Clark St.; Chicago, IL 60654
T: 312.988.5756


Oregon public and public law library A2J resources can be found at the Washington County Law Library website, e.g.:

1) Oregon public libraries and A2J resources

2) Public Law Libraries: Selected Readings on Legal Reference, Self-Represented Litigants, Limited Scope Legal Assistance, Law Clinics, Civil Gideon, Lawyers in Libraries, and related Public Law Library Issues

Oregon Legal Research Resources for Tenants and Landlords: The Facts of Life

Oregon Landlord-Tenant Law is a lot more complicated than people imagine. Landlords and tenants should seek current and accurate legal information and, in most cases, get professional legal advice from a licensed Oregon attorney who specializes in landlord-tenant law.

Everyone should do this BEFORE trouble strikes.

It’s a lot more expensive to fix a legal problem than it is to prevent one -just ask any landlord-tenant attorney – or any landlord or tenant who thought leases, evictions, and escrow accounts were subject to Common Sense Rules or the If it’s Online it Must Be OK “Rule” instead of the You Have to Research the Actual Law Rule. That person is now paying a lawyer lots of money to fix a problem that might have been avoided – or gnashing teeth over the Unjustness of the World. (Yes, life is sometimes unfair in your favor, but seldom when it comes to landlord-tenant law.)

If you choose not to talk to a lawyer (even for a brief consultation) or use a county law library to do the requisite legal research, at least do a little homework (but don’t blame me if you lose in court).

Despite what your neighbor, or even your legislators may say, you cannot “google” a legal problem and expect good results, unless you are an experienced legal researcher or an attorney. (And smart attorneys and law librarians consult attorneys.)

What do I mean by “a little homework?” If you spend less than a couple hours at the law library researching the statutes, the cases, updating your research results, and reviewing the secondary sources, you have not done the bare minimum of your landlord-tenant legal research homework. This of course assumes you want to know if you have a good case, or a good lease, and if you want to prevail in whatever sticky situation you find yourself in – or might find yourself in.

So, here’s your Landlord-Tenant Homework, the Minimalist Menu:

1) Oregon State Bar Lawyer Referral Service: website and phone: 503-684-3763

2) Oregon Law Center, Tenant’s Hotline (more info at the Oregon Law Help website): 503-648-7723

3) Community Alliance of Tenants (CAT), Renter’s Rights Hotline: 503-288-0130

4) Legal Aid Services of Oregon (LASO), Oregon Law Help website resources for tenants and landlords

5) Fair Housing Council of Oregon resources for tenants and landlords

6) Stevens-Ness Law Publishing: Oregon landlord-tenant handbook and related landlord-tenant forms

7) Previous OLR posts on Oregon landlord-tenant law.

8) Last, but not least: Imagine What Could Go Wrong!

Legal Research Databases in Oregon County Law Libraries

We’ve updated our guide to legal research, and other, databases in Oregon county law libraries:


(or from this Washington County Law Library webpage – under “O” for OCCLL).

Most databases are free, on-site use only  (vs. remote access), but county law library and State of Oregon Law Library employees share information and research tips with each other via their listserves and telephone.

You can contact ANY county law library in Oregon (or the State of Oregon Law Library) and ask for referrals and legal research assistance:


Oregon county law librarians also work closely with their local public libraries, which have lots of useful databases, including ones with legal information.