PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — In a letter on Monday to the state’s public defense commission, Oregon Supreme Court Chief Justice Martha Walters announced she is removing all nine members by noon on Tuesday amid a wider public defender shortage faced by local courts.
Monday’s letter, which was first reported by The Oregonian, comes more than a month after Chief Justice Walters urged the commission to find solutions for the public defender shortage crisis. In the July letter, Walters said the commission is obligated to provide people with the 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 in Monday’s letter delivered via email to the commissioners. “Unfortunately, it is now clear that it is time to reconsitute the current Commission.”
The Public Defense Services Commission voted 4-4, as one member was gone, against removing the executive director of the Office of Public Defense Services last week, Oregon Public Broadcasting reports.
“I never anticipated exercising this authority, but this issue is too important, and the need for change is too urgent, to delay,” Walters continued in her letter. “We must accelerate our work and collaborate with the executive and legislative branches and the public defense community to create a better system for public defense providers and fulfill our responsibilities to the people of Oregon.”
Walters has the power to appoint members to the state’s public defense commission.