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Presiding judge calls arraignment courtroom a critical component of the criminal justice system

COURTESY MCSO - A recent picture of the Justice Center in downtown Portland.Multnomah County official say the ongoing attacks on the downtown Justice Center are disrupting the court system.

The center, which has been besieged nightly for about a month, holds county courtrooms and related offices, along with the county jail and the Portland Police Bureau's Central Precinct.

Because of the damage sustained since it was broken into and partly set on fire on May 29, the top two floors of the Justice Center are now boarded up and public entry is restricted during business hours. Overnight assaults have escalated in recent days and include people throwing rocks, bottles and commercial-grade fireworks at law enforcement officers outside the facility.

Eight people were arrested late Saturday and early Sunday during confrontations with police in the area that included an attempt to barricade the precinct doors. Graffiti included "Kill all cops" and "All cops are burnable."

"The arraignment courtrooms in the Justice Center are critical components of our criminal justice system. When the police arrest and take a suspect into custody, that person is entitled to be informed of the charges and have a lawyer appointed to protect their rights and advocate for their release from custody. The court depends on having safe, available courtrooms in the Justice Center to serve the needs of the public and conduct these proceedings. The destruction to the Justice Center is preventing the public access to justice that the court very much wants to provide." Presiding Multnomah County Circuit Court Judge Stephen K. Bushong said in a pess release issued Friday, June 25.

"Continuous and safe operations at the Justice Center and the area around it are essential so our public safety system and community can respond to the demands for justice and change that I and others continue to advocate for," Multnomah County District Attorney Rod Underhill said in the same release.

"I am grateful for and proud of the professionalism of our Recognizance Unit staff who come to work every day at the Justice Center. They understand the importance of their role within the criminal justice system which includes ensuring pretrial rights of defendants, as well as public safety. They continue to perform their duties under precarious circumstances as do so many others who work or need to conduct business at the Justice Center: those bringing domestic violence proceedings, defense attorneys and advocates. The right to due process unfolds at the Justice Center. The violence that happens night after night not only takes an immense physical, mental and emotional toll — it overshadows the vital work that needs to happen," Multnomah County Department of Community Justice Director Erika Preuitt.

The release was issued by the Multnomah County Sheriff's Office.

"The Justice Center is a place of critical services, housing for adults in custody and the staff that supports them. This includes our partners at the Department of Community Justice and health care professionals in the Multnomah County Health Department. I join these partners in highlighting the critical impacts that nightly rioting, arson, and violence has on our members and the adults in custody," Multnomah County Sheriff Mike Reese said in the release.

"More than ever, it's important to maintain our partnership with the City of Portland to protect the individuals who provide services inside the Justice Center and those who are housed there from acts of violence. Along with my criminal justice partners we encourage the Portland Police Bureau to actively maintain the safety of our community and our downtown neighborhood where we see ongoing rioting."

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