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Oregon Chief Justice Retiring Amid Public Defender Crisis

Oregon Supreme Court Chief Justice Martha Walters is retiring at the end of the year amid controversy over the state’s public defender shortage, reports KOIN. Gov. Kate Brown announced that her office is working to fill another seat on the court ahead of Walters’ “planned retirement.” On Aug. 15, Walters told the state’s public defense commission she was removing all nine members as the state struggles to deal with an ongoing shortage of public defenders. The letter was sent more than a month after Walters told commissioners they had an obligation to provide lawyers for people who have a constitutional right to representation. “Systemic change is necessary to fulfill that mission, and it is my responsibility to appoint a Commission that can effectively lead this change,” Walters wrote. “Unfortunately, it is now clear that it is time to reconstitute the current Commission.” T

The Public Defense Services Commission voted last week 4-4, with one member absent, against removing the executive director of the Office of Public Defense Services last week. Civil rights attorneys have filed a second lawsuit over the public defense system, which has left hundreds of people facing criminal charges without the court-appointed attorneys that they’re entitled to under the U.S. Constitution, OPB reports. As of Wednesday, 831 people in Oregon were facing criminal charges without attorneys, according to the Oregon Judicial Department. Of those, 45 people were in custody without an attorney.


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