HB 2451, introduced in the Oregon legislature on January 14, 2013, will provide all Oregonians with greater protection than currently exists, the right to have every Oregon lawsuit presided over by an impartial judge or panel of judges. The right to impartial judges who do not have a financial stake in the outcome of the case they decide has always been one of our greatest rights. Both as Oregonians and as citizens of the United States. The Declaration of Independence sets forth this specific grievance against the King: He has made Judges dependent on his Will alone, for the tenure of their offices,
and the amount and payment of their salaries.
While, impartial judges do decide most Oregon lawsuits, they do not decide PERS cases. All elected Oregon judges are PERS members the minute they take office under a law that took effect January 1, 1984, thirty-eight years after PERS was created. During the first thirty-eight years of PERS, Oregon elected judges had their own, independent retirement plan. So, when PERS cases were decided, no judge with a financial stake in the outcome of a PERS case would decide the case. When the law forcing judges into PERS was passed, eighty-four of Oregon’s ninety legislators were PERS members.
The law that forced Oregon judges into PERS did not say that judges who were PERS members to decide PERS cases. That was stated by Oregon judges who were PERS members, despite the fact that Oregon had temporary judges who were not all PERS members and, arguably, could have decided PERS cases. That argument was never made to the Oregon PERS judges who decided PERS cases and the judges did not address that possibility on their own. Oregon judges who were PERS members simply held that they were the only ones authorized to decide PERS cases due to their PERS membership.
As a result of the law making all elected Oregon judges PERS members and the subsequent court decisions, all PERS cases are now decided by judges who are PERS members. That law resulted in an unprecedented termination of a fundamental right that all Oregonians previously had, the right to impartial judges in PERS cases. PERS lawsuits decided by PERS judges cost the people of Oregon billions of dollars every year. Those dollars could have gone for public services that would benefit all Oregonians but, instead, just go exclusively to PERS members.
If you do not like the fact that all PERS cases are now decided by PERS judges, let your legislators know about HB 2451. Ask those legislators to tell you if they believe it is fair for PERS members to have an unfair advantage in EVERY PERS lawsuit. If they do favor giving PERS an unfair advantage, ask them to explain to why. If they do not think that PERS members should have an unfair advantage and that everyone should be treated fairly, let them know about HB 2451.
HB 2451 takes no legal rights from anyone. It makes sure that the fundamental legal rights of all Oregonians, upon which our system of justice is base, are respected and enforced for all.