Washington County courthouse limits public hours amid budget cuts
Looking for assistance at the Washington County Courthouse? It just got a little bit harder.
Officials with the county's courthouse, located at 145 N.E. 2nd Ave., in downtown Hillsboro, announced on Friday it would be cutting back hours as part of ongoing budget cuts.
The cuts limit when courthouse staff will be available to answer phones or help members of the public. Starting Aug. 6, the courthouse's filing counters will be closed to the public between noon and 1 p.m. each weekday. In addition, county staff will not be on hand to answer phone calls between 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.
The cuts don't affect trials or hearings at the courthouse. The cuts are intended to "help court staff manage cases more efficiently and expeditiously," according to a statement, put out by the court's presiding judge, Charles Bailey, and Ricard Moellmer, the trial court administrator,
The reason for the cuts is simple: As Washington County grows, the Oregon Legislature hasn't done enough to increase funding for the courthouse, Bailey said, which is handling more cases than before.
The county has swelled to more than 600,000 residents — a 50 percent increase from the county's population in the early 2000s. But as demand grows, Bailey said, funding has slipped.
"Despite record revenues, the legislature decided to reduce the Oregon Judicial Department operations budget $16.3 million for the 2017-2019 budget period," the pair wrote. "This recent budget cut has led to the Oregon Judicial Department, including Washington County Courts, being required to keep newly open positions unfilled for months or not fill the positions at all, to reduce services such as treatment courts, facilitators to help people who don't have attorneys, as well as reducing public service hours and delaying hearings and trials."
The Oregon Legislature did add a new judge position to the Washington County courthouse this year — the first new judge seatcreated in the county in more than a decade — but officials at the courthouse say that isn't enough to cover the increased number of cases being handled by the court.
Bailey said he will continue to advocate for additional funding from the Legislature, "in hope of one day being adequately funded so Oregon courts can provide timely judicial services the taxpayers and our communities deserve, and the Oregon Constitution requires."