An excerpt from OSB Bulletin June 2020, “Coping With COVID-19 Legal Community Responds to ‘Conditions We’ve Never Seen Before’”
An attorney who follows a similar ethic is Amanda J. Marshall, who handles juvenile dependency and delinquency cases and civil commitments in Oregon City for Clackamas County. She works with Clackamas Indigent Defense Corp., a state-contracted consortium of independent criminal defense lawyers.
In normal times, “the entire court” is held in hospitals for civil commitment cases, she explains. “After the virus struck, we tried to figure out how to do hearings with restrictions, be compliant with hospital rules and keep safe. Civil commitments are one of the few types of cases still going during the coronavirus.” When Marshall and the other attorney in the county who accepts civil commitment cases proposed that hearings be moved to remote video, the presiding judge approved it the next day. However, Marshall must be in the same hospital room with the client during the hearing and use a laptop to connect with the court’s video system.
Marshall’s civil commitment clients haven’t committed a crime but are deemed to be both suffering from a behavioral health issue and a danger to themselves or others. She doesn’t believe hearings held by phone are sufficient to protect their constitutional rights, so she says she’s willing to risk her health to be with the client in person. A doctor also is usually present in the hospital room, “so the more people you get in a room, the harder it is to keep social distancing,” she acknowledges.
Marshall admits she “thought really hard about” the personal health risks, but resigned herself to them. “I definitely agonized over whether I wanted to offer and to do video in hospitals,” she says, “but I felt no other way to do it would be fair to clients. Civil commitments are my passion.”
Amanda Marshall is a member of the Mental Health Alliance Work Group, a project of the Mental Health Association of Portland.