December 15, 2016 - UPDATE: Today, Multnomah County Circuit Court denied Olan Williams a new trial in his challenge of the non-unanimous jury verdict returned in his felony criminal case.
We filed a friend-of-the-court brief in this case challenging the law for violating the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment of the United States Constitution. While the court ultimately denied Williams’ request for a new trial, the ruling goes to great length to explain the racist past of Oregon’s history generally, as well as concluding that race and ethnicity were motivating factors in the passage of Oregon’s non-unanimous jury law and that “the measure was intended, at least in part, to dampen the influence of racial, ethnic, and religious minorities on Oregon juries.”
Lawsuit highlights relentless suffering of transgender prisoner and demands medically-necessary care for all transgender prisoners
October 17, 2016 - The American Civil Liberties Union Foundation of Oregon (ACLU of Oregon) filed a lawsuit today in federal court against the officials at the Oregon Department of Corrections on behalf of a transgender prisoner who is being denied essential medical care. The suit, on behalf of Michelle Wright, a transgender woman who is currently housed at Two Rivers Correctional Facility, argues that it is cruel and unusual to deny medically-necessary care to prisoners.
“The Oregon Department of Corrections is denying our client lifesaving care,” said Mat dos Santos, legal director at the ACLU of Oregon.
Wright, age 25, felt a deep disconnect between the gender she was assigned at birth and her female gender since childhood. Although she identified as transgender, she was unable to begin hormone therapy prior to her incarceration. According to the complaint, Wright has been denied medical care despite submitting nearly 100 requests. Facing repeated denials of care, she has attempted suicide multiple times and, on three occasions, attempted to castrate herself.
“At this point, I’m afraid I will lose her forever,” said an emotional Victoria Wright, mother of the plaintiff. “She should be held accountable for her mistakes, but I’m worried she is being damaged in prison in a way that might not be fixable.”
ACLU Lawsuit Increases Transparency in Police Use of Force Inquiries
September 15, 2016 – The Oregon Supreme Court ruled today that the City of Eugene must turn over records to the American Civil Liberties Union of Oregon in their inquiry into the high profile use of force against Eugene protester Ian Van Ornum. In 2008, Van Ornum was twice tased while peacefully protesting against the use of pesticides in downtown Eugene.
The City of Eugene relied on an exemption to the public records law to deny the release of documents in the case.
In the unanimous decision, the court said that the public has strong interest in police oversight.
“Without mutual trust, the police cannot do their work effectively and the public cannot feel safe,” wrote Oregon Supreme Court Justice Martha Walters. “One way to promote that necessary mutual trust is to make police practices and procedures transparent and to make complaints about police misconduct and the discipline that is or is not meted out open to public inspection.”
The decision reinforces the strong public interest in disclosure of information about the use of force by officers, alleged police misconduct, and the process by which those allegations are reviewed.
Oregon law says that when an investigation does not result in discipline of any public safety officer then the records will not be released except “when the public interest requires disclosure of the information.”
With this decision, the court places significant value in the public interest exceptions in Oregon’s public records laws. This will be very important in future public records requests, particularly requests that relate to video captured by police body cameras or dashboard cameras on patrol cars.
Kimberly McCullough, ACLU of Oregon’s legislative director, said the case was a very significant win for Oregonians.
“Today is a big day for police accountability in Oregon,” said McCullough. “In this time of national concern regarding what is appropriate police conduct, we are proud that Oregon’s answer is now to shed more light on the review process.”
Oregon Supreme Court Narrows Definition of Disabled Worker
October 2006 - In Washburn v. Columbia Forest Products, Inc., 340 Or 469, 134 P.3d 161 (2006), the Oregon Supreme Court was faced with the question under the Oregonians with Disability Act of whether a person’s disability should be assessed with or without regard to measures which mitigate the disability.
V.L.Y. v. Board of Parole, S51000, A108068 - Sex Offender Notification on September 14, 2004, the Oregon Supreme Court heard oral argument and took under advisement V.L.Y. v. Board of Parole, S51000, A108068. The ACLU represented V.L.Y. in the case before the Supreme Court.