The View From Here

Stronger Together

by Lane Borg, OCDLA President

From the June-July 2014 issue of The Oregon Defense Attorney.

It seems hard to believe that my two-year tenure as president of this great organization is almost at an end. Personally, I would count this opportunity to serve OCDLA as one of the highlights of my professional life. It has been an honor, of course, but the best thing has been to get to work closely with the staff and fellow board members. It is inspiring to see the passion of each of these people and the dedication and commitment they bring to this organization.

We have faced and dealt with some important and challenging issues during my two years, and we should be proud of the gains we have made.

Our stature in the Capitol has increased. We have had success not just with the Brady Bill of 2013, but also in the increased respect by many legislators. It would be easy to point to the recent 2014 Speedy Trial Bill and see it as a loss. However, when you consider where we started after the 2013 session (speedy trial was dead) and consider that in the 2014 special session, out of respect for us, our lobbyist, and our legislative presence, the planned death by sunset clause was averted and Senator Prozanski from Eugene demanded that stakeholders come to the table and work out a deal. I am convinced this was done in part out of respect for us and our organizational presence in the building.

We have also, during this last two years, moved into our own building. The building campaign has been successful—more funds need to be raised, but the essential model is in place. This process has demonstrated another important growth step for our organization. We need a fund-raiser position. For the past several years we benefited from having Riley Jones in this position. First the funding came from a gift to OCDLA, then part of the building campaign budget, and this last year a part of the regular budget. It has not been without controversy, but the proven reality is that it has netted more money than the position costs. We need to keep this position as we move forward and explore ways that it will help solidify OCDLA’s future.

This last year the public defense side of our organization has struggled with a particular challenge that threatened the very premise of OCDLA. The addition of legislatively targeted money was perceived as devaluing some assigned defense providers and favoring public defenders. The board tackled the issue, and I was pleased with the results yielded from the board-created Pay Parity Committee. That committee worked hard, met often, and aired what diplomats often call full and frank discussions. The product, “Pay Parity Committee Findings, Conclusions and Recommendations” to be presented to the PDSC on May 15, is a comprehensive discussion of the issues facing all public defense providers, reaffirms the concept that we need equal pay for equal work, and most importantly reminds us that we are stronger together than we are apart. I have the utmost respect and affection for the members who served on this committee. It may be the most important work done this year for the organization.

The last full board meeting that I presided over for my term as president was both interesting and productive. We selected Steve Wax as the 2014 recipient of the Ken Morrow Award to be presented at the December 2014 Winter Conference. We had to discuss the usual organizational planning issues of dues (a small adjustment was made) and budgets, as well as organizational deliverables such as CLEs, publications, listserves and websites. It was great to see a robust debate over fundamental issues of why we even exist as an organization, what our values are, and finally where we should be headed. For example, as we move into an ever increasing digital environment we are faced with some fundamental questions of how we deliver our research content and how members can best use the product of what is largely volunteer analysis of cases, laws and important developments relevant to criminal defense. The LOD has been enormously successful, but it can be more. For instance, should we increase dues and make the content, manuals and charts available at no additional charge to members? Or, at its core what is the cost and benefit of our lobbying efforts (we selected a fiscal lobbyist at this meeting, too—see story on page 5)? Basically how do we deliver the best product and service but still make it affordable? While you may not agree with every decision made, you should feel confident that all views are represented and debated. In short, the organization is in good hands. We truly are much stronger together than apart.

It has been a privilege and an honor to serve as your OCDLA President.