Centers

Oregon Law Commission

Dobbins

Jeffrey C. Dobbins
Executive Director of the Oregon Law Commission

The Oregon Law Commission was created in 1997 by the Legislative Assembly to conduct a continuous program of law reform. There are many methods for reforming Oregon laws, including simplifying, modernizing, and consolidating statutory provisions. In addition, the Commission proposes new substantive and procedural provisions to improve and fill gaps in Oregon law.

  1. How was the Oregon Law Commission formed?
  2. What does the Commission do?
  3. Who makes up the Commission?
  4. How does the Commission select issues for study and development of legislation?
  5. How does the work of the Commission compare to other groups who may have ideas about changing Oregon laws?
  6. What is the role of Willamette University?

1. How was the Oregon Law Commission formed?

The 1997 Legislative Assembly adopted legislation creating the Oregon Law Commission (ORS 173.315-357). Legislative appropriations supporting the Commission's work began July 1, 2000.

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2. What does the Commission do?

The Commission assists the Legislature in keeping the law up to date. By statute, the Commission will "conduct a continuous substantive law revision program…" (ORS 173.315-357). The Commission assists the legislature in keeping the law up to date by:

  • Identifying and selecting law reform projects
  • Researching the area of law at issue, including other states' laws to see how they deal with similar problems
  • Communicating with and educating those who may be affected by proposed reforms
  • Drafting proposed legislation, comments and reports for legislative consideration

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3. Who makes up the Commission?

In creating the Oregon Law Commission, the Legislature recognized the need for a knowledgeable and respected body of individuals to undertake law revision projects. Commission members must be impartial in their approach to law reform and willing to make a long-term commitment. The Commissioners include four members appointed by the Senate President and Speaker of the House (at least one sitting Senator and Representative), the Chief Justice of the Oregon Supreme Court, the Chief Judge of the Court of Appeals, a circuit court judge, the Attorney General, a Governor's appointee, the deans or representatives from each law school in Oregon and three representatives from the Oregon State Bar. In addition to the fifteen Commissioners, currently over two hundred volunteers serve on the Commission's Work Groups.

Once an issue has been selected by the Commission for study and development, a Work Group is established. Work Groups are made up of Commissioners, volunteers selected by the Commission based on their professional areas of expertise, and volunteers representing community interests particularly affected by the law in question. The expectation is that the Commission will produce the best possible reform solution by drawing on a wide range of experience and interests.

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4. How does the Commission select issues for study and development of legislation?

The purpose of the Oregon Law Commission's Program Committee is to review the laws that have been identified as needing reform, and then make recommendations to the Commission regarding which laws should be studied and developed by the Commission. Several factors are considered when choosing a law reform project. Priority is given to private law issues that affect large numbers of Oregonians and public law issues that are not within the scope of an existing state agency. 

The Commission also considers:

  • The resource demands of a particular issue
  • The length of time required for study and development of proposed legislation
  • The probability of approval of the proposed legislation by the Legislature and the Governor.

To submit issues for Program Committee consideration, please use this form as a guideline and contact the Office of the Executive Director.

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5. How does the work of the Commission compare to other groups who may have ideas about changing Oregon laws?

The Commission identifies and considers needs that are not likely to be advanced by traditional interest groups.

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6. What is the role of Willamette University?

Willamette University has entered into a public-private partnership through the Office of Legislative Counsel. This allows the Commission to recommend law reform, revision and improvement to the Legislature while providing opportunities for student and faculty to be involved in supporting the Commission's work. The Commission is housed at the Willamette University College of Law.

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