Multnomah County “Freezes” Eviction Proceedings Through 2020
By: WILL GENT
Multnomah County may be exiting Governor Kate Brown’s COVID-19 “freeze,” but eviction proceedings in Oregon’s largest county remain largely on hold until after the New Year.
After Governor Brown issued the statewide freeze, Oregon courts turned to designing and implementing their own restrictions to minimize the spread of the coronavirus. Chief Justice Martha Walters, for example, ordered that motions hearings and trials in eviction proceedings must be conducted remotely. And in Multnomah County, Presiding Judge Stephen Bushong went a step further, temporarily suspending all first appearances in eviction proceedings—regardless of whether they are held in-person, over the phone, or through other remote means.
Specifically, for all eviction matters filed in Multnomah County Circuit Court, the initial hearing is automatically postponed until after January 4, 2021. Trials and other eviction hearings are generally on hold too, as the Court is allowing matters currently scheduled to be heard in 2020 to be rescheduled on or after January 4, 2021. In emergency situations between landlords and tenants, the Court will consider holding first appearances on a more expedited basis.
Practically, Judge Bushong’s order means that eviction proceedings for both commercial and residential tenancies are stopped in their tracks. The first appearance hearing is generally landlords’ and tenants’ first opportunity to be in front of a judge, to attempt to negotiate a resolution that’s immediately enforceable by the Court, or to schedule a trial as needed. With those hearings on ice in Multnomah County, landlord-tenant proceedings will largely be frozen in place for the rest of the calendar year.
This order only applies to cases filed in Multnomah County Circuit Court and does not affect eviction proceedings in Washington, Clackamas, or other Oregon counties—some of which have implemented their own coronavirus restrictions. Of course, other protections for residential tenants remain in place, and the Oregon Legislature is currently considering whether to extend its statewide ban on residential evictions through June 2021. Wary landlords and tenants should continue to monitor these restrictions and Oregon’s response to the pandemic.