Oregon Attorney General Hardy Myers, Oregon Supreme Court Chief Justice Wallace P. Carson, Department of Veterans' Affairs Director Jim Willis and Charles Williamson, President of the Oregon State Bar (OSB), today announced a new program aimed at addressing the legal concerns of Oregon soldiers stationed overseas and their families. The program, which will be administered by the OSB, provides opportunities for Oregon attorneys to receive specialized training and offer pro bono services to active duty service members and their families.
Congress has, dating back to 1918, established regulations that provide specific legal protections to service men and women called into active duty. Most recently modified in 1991 following the military activity in Iraq (Desert Storm/Shield), the Soldiers' and Sailors' Civil Relief Act (SSCRA) provides a number of unique legal protections including:
Reduced interest rate on mortgage payments;
Reduced interest rate on credit card and other pre-mobilization debt;
Protection from eviction if the rent is $1,200 or less;
Delay of all civil court actions, such as bankruptcy, foreclosure, divorce proceedings or personal injury actions;
Protection against storage lien foreclosure;
Ability to terminate pre-mobilization leases; and
Ability to reopen default judgments.
As of November 1, 2003, the Oregon National Guard has nearly 2,500 men and women deployed in locations inside and outside the state. Many military personnel and their families are aware of the SSCRA; however, they do not have the legal expertise or financial resources available to take advantage of the Act's important provisions. The Oregon National Guard has one Judge Advocate General.
"The bravery of our service men and women and their families is tested every day in many ways," Myers said. "Finding and paying for legal services should not be one of them."
"Congratulations to the Oregon State Bar and the Attorney General's Office for joining forces to provide legal services to Oregon military people called to active duty and their families," said Chief Justice Carson. "It's the right thing to do."
"I am confident that, between the State Bar and the Oregon legal community, our active duty soldiers will have available the tools necessary to guarantee they receive every protection due to them under state and federal law," Williamson said in describing the new program.
"The action we are announcing today demonstrates the same spirit of volunteerism on the part of the Oregon State Bar that is being demonstrated by the men and women of the Oregon National Guard," Veterans' Affairs Director Jim Willis said. "I commend this generous service to our state and to our nation and for these reasons; I continue to be proud to be an Oregonian."
The OSB program will provide assistance in several key ways. First, working with the Office of the Judge Advocate General and the Department of Justice Consumer Protection Section, the program will offer a series of one to two hour training sessions for attorneys interested in providing specialized services to active duty military personnel and their families. The program will offer education on the specific legal issues addressed by SSCRA and any applicable provisions in the state's consumer protection laws.
Second, OSB will maintain a list of pro bono and reduced fee attorneys available to assist Oregon's mobilized service members. The list will be available to both the National Guard's JAG Corp and to military personnel on an individualized basis.
Finally, the Oregon Department of Justice will, through its website and written materials, make available to military personnel fact sheets regarding SSCRA, Oregon Consumer Protection laws, and general information on the rights of families with a member in active duty.
Members of the National Guard and their families can get more information by contacting the Office of the Judge Advocate General or the Family Program at the Oregon Military Department or by contacting the Oregon State Bar Lawyer Referral Service at (503) 684-3763. Consumer protection issues should be directed to the Oregon Department of Justice, Attorney General's consumer hotline at (503) 378-4320 (Salem area only), (503) 229-5576 (Portland area only) or toll-free at 1-877-877-9392. Justice is online at www.doj.state.or.us.
Kevin Neely, Justice, (503) 378-6002
Kay Pulju, Oregon State Bar, (503) 620-0222