Federal appeals court temporarily blocks Oregon judge’s public defense order

By Conrad Wilson (OPB)
Nov. 15, 2023 10:53 p.m.

The ruling would have required Oregon sheriffs to release people from jail if they haven’t been assigned a lawyer within seven days.

FILE: A woman enters the Oregon Department of Justice building in Salem, Ore., May 28, 2020.

FILE: A woman enters the Oregon Department of Justice building in Salem, Ore., May 28, 2020.

Andrew Selsky / AP

A federal appeals court put a hold Wednesday on an order aimed at addressing Oregon’s public defense crisis.

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Earlier this month, Oregon’s U.S. District Court Judge Michael McShane granted a preliminary injunction that would force Oregon sheriffs to release people from jail after seven days if they haven’t been assigned a public defender.

McShane’s injunction was set to take effect on Nov. 23, but the stay issued by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals will block it.

For the last two years, Oregon has failed to provide public defenders for anyone it has charged with crimes. Courts have interpreted this as a violation of the U.S. Constitution, saying that the state is required to provide a lawyer to anyone charged with a crime who cannot afford one.

The Oregon Department of Justice appealed McShane’s ruling to the 9th Circuit, which has not yet determined when or whether to hold a hearing.

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