Articles Posted in Legal Self-help Community

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Cite checking goes by many names, including Shepardizing, KeyCite, and authority checking, among others. At a basic level it is checking a case one plans to use to make sure it’s still okay. Rulings from cases can become invalid over time if a more recent case from the same or a higher court changes the rule, or if the legislature passed a statute that impacted the case. In order to find such events, legal publishers have created tools (called citators) to track such changes.

One of the original tools was Shepard’s (now a LexisNexis product). The online LexisNexis version allows a user to find documents that cite the case they are looking at. It also allows a user to see if any of those have overturned the case of interest, or otherwise challenged part of its ruling. In Shepard’s there are visual indicators to suggest a case is still good (green), called into question (yellow), or part of it has been overturned (red). Westlaw has a similar tool called KeyCite, and Fastcase uses Authority Check.

It is important to note that any of these tools can only indicate that there might be something. The user will have to read the newer case that may affect the original case to see what that impact actually is, and how it relates to the user’s situation.

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OJD iForms is an easy way for self-represented litigants to produce court documents in a variety of case types including Family Law, Landlord/Tenant, and Small Claims. According to the OJD brochure, iForms “generates a correctly completed form that you can either eFile, deliver by hand, or mail to the court.”

The process is a simple one, called Guide and File. With Guide and File, the user logs in to the site, chooses the form they want to file and answers a series of interview questions, after which iForms generates a form.

There are some interviews within Guide and File that have Spanish translations. The OJD website cautions that court documents must be filed in English, or the court may reject your filing.

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A patron recently asked what something meant. They were pointing at a series of numbers and abbreviations at the end of a statute. It looked like this “[1957 c.448 §1; 1981 c.88 §2; 1983 c.330 §1; 1993 c.741 §110; 1993 c.796 §1; 2001 c.403 §1]” (ORS 776.015). I told them that is the history of the law.

When the legislature passes a law, it starts as a bill. That bill has a number, like HB 2001 or SB 101. That tells us if it’s a House Bill (HB) or Senate Bill (SB). Those bills that are approved by both houses and signed by the Governor become a session law. Those session laws are compiled after each legislative session. Those compilations are titled Oregon Laws.

The Oregon Revised Statutes are a compilation of all the session laws passed by the legislature that are currently in effect. To make it easier to find a law, they are organized by subject. But each statute has a list of the session laws that have impacted it, in brackets. That is the text our patron was asking about.

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We often get asked about family law and divorce. There are a lot of variations – married or unmarried couples, with or without children. This is one topic the court has forms for. The trick can be finding the right form.

The Washington County Circuit Court’s forms page has several “Family Law” forms. Dissolution is the term they use for divorce, while legal separation leaves the parties married. There are also forms for unmarried parents. If you find forms that look right for you, read the instructions to be sure. There are other family law forms as well, for things like modification or custody enforcement.

A resource for information about family law in Oregon is OregonLawHelp – Family. This site from Legal Aid discusses a variety of topics including divorce, custody, child or spousal support, etc.

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How did we answer that? Can I have a lawyer in Small Claims Court

I had someone come in a few days ago asking about suing someone in Small Claims Court and wanted to know if they could have a lawyer with them. They also wanted to know what was special about Small Claims Court.

Small Claims is a part of civil trial court where the amount claimed is $10,000 or less. Additionally, lawyers are not allowed, on either side, to participate in small claims hearings without the judge’s permission. People can talk to a lawyer at any time to help with the claim and to prepare for the hearing.

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How did we answer that? Public Records and Finding a Will

We received a public records request through the County’s online public records portal. The question was whether the County had a relative’s will. There are two questions here: what is a public records request for, and how can I find a relative’s will.

A public records request is any attempt to get access to a record of a government or public entity. In Oregon, state law provides a broad right of access to records generated by or for public entities. The Attorney General has a Public Records and Meetings Law Manual. That explains Oregon’s laws in greater detail. Many public entities have a portal where you can submit a public records request. If not, you should be able to contact the entity. Some records may already be easily available. For example, city or county codes or ordinances, or public meeting minutes, may already be on the organization’s website.

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How did we answer that? Service of process

A patron came in needing to serve someone with a civil lawsuit. However, they didn’t know the address or any other contact information. What other options did they have?

First, “service” or “service of process” is the legal term for delivering legal filings or documents to someone. The requirements for service are designed to make sure the person knows they are involved in the case and what is expected of them.

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Do you have an Employee Assistance Program (EAP) at work? Then you might have access to free legal help that you didn’t even know about!

Many employers offer their employees an EAP as an extra benefit. Many EAPs offer some legal help as part of the package. It could be as simple as articles on legal topics to free legal consultations to discounts on attorney fees.

Some EAPs offer articles on various subjects such as criminal law, immigration, and consumer law. They may also offer forms for specific states and might include various Power of Attorney forms and Wills.

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The recent wildfires in Oregon, and tragic fire in Maui, are salient reminders that such disasters can affect any of us. They also have legal implications after the fact. Here are some resources in Oregon for those affected by natural disasters, and for those who want to prepare for such possibilities.

Preparation for Disasters

Preparedness Resources, Oregon Disaster Legal Services

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The Oregon State Bar recently launched Free Legal Answers in partnership with the American Bar Association that uses volunteer Oregon attorneys to answer legal questions for free for qualifying patrons.

The site can help get answers to questions on Oregon topics such as family law, eviction, and consumer law. If you are interested in getting a question answered the website will guide you through the process. After the disclaimers on the first page, you will be taken to a page that gives more details on who qualifies and what is done with your information. This site is geared to help low-income patrons so be prepared to provide income information and to answer other questions. You can submit your question if you qualify.

There is a limit of 3 different legal questions per year and you must meet the qualifications each time you use the websites.

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