A lack of public defenders in Portland, Oregon has caused Multnomah County judges to dismiss hundreds of felony cases including cases involving robbery, assault, and harassment.
According to the District Attorney’s office, 300 cases have been dismissed in 2022 through December 9 because of the public defender shortage, two-thirds of which were felony cases.
In November, Multnomah County District Attorney Mike Schmidt said in a statement, “Months into this crisis, many are still waiting for their day in court while others have seen their cases dismissed altogether.”
Schmidt, an outspoken progressive, was elected in 2020 while Portland was engulfed in Antifa-backed riots and violence. Schmidt has been critical of police and implemented significantly relaxed bail reform policies during his tenure.
Schmidty said the lack of public defenders “sends a message to crime victims in our community that justice is unavailable and their harm will go unaddressed. It also sends a message to individuals who have committed a crime that there is no accountability while burning through scarce police and prosecutor resources.”
According to a review from the American Bar Association, Oregon only has 31 percent of the public defense attorneys it would need to properly handle all the cases that come through the courts.
According to the Associated Press, 53 percent of the cases thrown out were property crimes, weapons crimes were 16 percent, and personal crimes such as robbery and assault were 12 percent.
A closer breakdown from the DA’s office shows 9 assault cases were tossed out, 6 person robberies and 6 burglaries, and 2 cases of harassment.
In Oregon, the Office of Public Defense Services are not the direct employers of the lawyers that get assigned to defendants who cannot afford an attorney. The state contracts with law firms to complete that work and as of 2022 there are not enough contracts to cover those arrested and charge with crimes.
As crime in Portland has skyrocketed, the supply of public defenders has not met the demand.
Portland, Oregon surpassed its all-time record for murders in November after its 93rd homicide. The previous record was in 2021 with 90. Portland is currently gripped in a homeless crisis like many other Democrat-led cities across the nation.
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