Oregon Uses Volunteer Pro Tem Judges for Some Civil Cases
Farr, Mary Ellen Page, Judicature
While pro tem, or temporary judges have become a feature in some states in an attempt to more efficientiy utilize judicial resources, the value of their use must be weighed against die potentially negative impression they create of the courts and dieir work.
Oregon has used unpaid volunteer pro tem judges to decide civil and domestic relations matters at the trial court level for about 20 years. Volunteer judges are typically attorneys in private practice, and are appointed by the state supreme court, which is permitted under the Oregon Constitution to appoint members of the bar as judges pro tempore with all the judicial powers and duties of a regularly elected judge. (Pro tem judges also include paid full time and part time judges.)
Under Oregon's statutes, the supreme court may appoint paid or unpaid pro tem judges whenever it determines that the appointment is "reasonably necessary and will promote die more efficient administration of justice" so long as the pro tem judges meet the same basic qualifications of judges: residency in tile state and membership in the bar for at least the three years preceding the appointment. Committees of die local bar associations, sometimes with the input of the county's presiding court, recommend applicants to serve as prò tem judges to the supreme court, which has the final approval of pro tem judges. There are approximately 100 approved pro tem judges, and the list is available from the court. (Not all courts avail tiiemselves of the services of volunteer pro tenis). The presiding courts then determine whether and how to use die services of volunteer pro tem judges.
Where they are used, volunteers hear a variety of civil and domestic relations matters. In one county, they hear all civil matters scheduled for one-half hour or less. …