Latest Posts

  1. Domicile known. Deaths in “low-barrier” housing add to questions about homeless policy.


    Bud Clark Commons housed 259 previously homeless people between January 1, 2015 and December 31, 2018.  Thirty-eight of them died there.  That’s nearly 15%.  Police dispatch records reveal 872 calls for service to its address: 15 for some of the deaths plus for numerous disturbances, some “with weapons,” thefts, assaults and many other reasons between January 2015 and July 2018.  Is Bud Clark Commons a feel-good model that taxpayers should replicate?  Or is it time to steal best practices used by other cities?

    The Housing Authority of Portland, doing business as  “Home Forward,” manages Bud Clark Commons. It provides 130 apartments, including for people suffering from addiction.  “Low-barrier” housing or shelters means we expect little from guests, and they are free to continue suffering from addiction.  Housing first is the best approach for helping people because treatment is more likely to work if people have stable housing.  However, the type and location of housing is very important.  Bud Clark Commons is within walking distance of drug-selling predators in Portland’s last open drug market.  Residents may walk a couple of blocks, get their drugs, come home and die in their own apartments.  The public records did not indicate how many of the the 38 deaths were from overdoses or conditions exacerbated by drugs.

    In the mid-20th century, housing authorities built projects in which they placed together low-income and welfare-dependent people.  We learned “the projects” are not the most fertile places for success.  The opposite is true.  Yet, here we are in 2019 continuing to provide mass shelters or housing where we group together service-dependent and drug-dependent people.  Successful cities find and create better housing options.

    In 2017, Multnomah County reported 4,177 homeless people on its point-in-time census.  Multnomah County also reported 79 deaths of homeless people in its report entitled “Domicile Unknown.”  That’s about 1.9%, which is about twice the death rate for Portland.

    Chair Kafoury and homeless advocates use the annual “Domicile Unknown” report to argue we must build more shelters or projects.  Every citizen knows we have problems.  The report merely inflames the debate, distracting from the real question of whether the approach pursued by Chair Kafoury and Mayor Wheeler is the best one.

    It cost us $253,000 per studio apartment to build Bud Clark Commons in 2011.  I do not know much it costs to operate.  Other jurisdictions found success reducing the numbers of unsheltered people by starting with audits:  Are we getting good results for the dollars spent?  Then, they re-direct money to more effective strategies.  Meanwhile, we in Oregon uncritically do more of the same, resulting in our dismal rankings among states plus the District of Columbia.  Oregon ranks 51 out of 51 for sheltering families with children, 49 of 51 for veterans, 47 of 51 for unaccompanied youth, and 50/51 homeless, cumulatively.

    Our leaders need to do more than appear at ground-breaking photo / video-ops and brag about spending more money every time they expand a service-dependent ghetto or seed a new one.  They should audit existing programs, listen to neighbors and adopt best practices in a transparent process.

    Jeff Merrick

  2. Willamette Week article better than a lawsuit by me.

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    On October 15, 2018, I asked the Press for help alerting any other victims of Lori Deveny.  People had contacted me to sue Ms. Deveny because I market myself to sue other lawyers.  They told me she was still stringing them along with promises they would get their money, one day, as if she were still authorized to practice law.  If anyone else were still waiting for money from Ms. Deveny, they needed to know her current status with the bar, I believed.  I thought a lawsuit could be newsworthy and might alert others.

    I considered lawsuits alleging fraud, conversion, breach of fiduciary duty, legal malpractice or other claims.  But, I did not feel it was in the best interests of the people who contacted me to file suit.  Nevertheless, I believed I needed to something in case other people believed she was still acting as their lawyer.   I contacted the Oregon State Bar, and I got the impression they felt they were doing all they could – which I did not believe was enough.  So, I contacted Nigel Jaquiss to see if the Willamette Week might be interested in the story.

    Today, Ms. Del Savio and Willamette Week published their story on her.  Thank you to Anna Del Savio, Nigel Jaquiss and the editors.

    Jeff Merrick, Oregon Litigation Attorney
    ©2018 by Merrick Law, LLC. and Jeff Merrick. The above is not intended as legal advice. It is for general information purposes only. Reading it or attempting to contact me does not mean I am your attorney. I only represent people after we sign a written contract.
  3. Suggestions for Oregon Public Records Reform


    This post offers some thoughts on how to improve Oregon Public Records Law.

    Adding Penalties for Intentional and Wrongful Conduct.

    When public bodies comply with public records law in good faith, disclosure of public information can be prompt and efficient.  Sometimes, however, the response to public records depends upon whether the public official perceives the requester as friend or foe.  There is no civil or criminal penalty to public officials who intentionally and wrongfully delaying or denying public records request, as other states.  Instead, taxpayers suffer the penalty for such misconduct because taxpayers must pay lawyers to defend the action and pay the legal fees of the requester’s attorneys.  One suggestion is to provide for penalties for the actual person(s) who intentionally and wrongfully delay or deny disclosing public records

    Last year, I provided the following suggestions to the Oregon Public Records Advisory Council.


    Dear Members of the Public Records Advisory Council,

    Thank you for referring me to the Governor.

    As you work toward fulfilling the promise of the 2017 reforms, I wanted to share a couple of thoughts before closing my file.

    Work with Judicial Department on Court Procedures.

    Among your committee’s responsibilities is to identify inefficiencies and inconsistences in the application of public records law and to make recommendations on changes in law, policy or practice that could facilitate rapid dissemination of public records.  Low-hanging fruit for both of the above involve some work with the Judicial Department on procedures for handling court cases.

    Delay in resolving disputes can defeat the purpose of a public records request.  One example is the case of ILWU v. Port of Portland, 285 Or App 222 (2017) in which there was a nearly 5-year delay between request and decision.  In my own lawsuit pending against the city of Portland, I requested certain records seven months ago, and there is still no decision on the merits of the City’s exemption claims.   Jeff Merrick v. City of Portland, Multnomah Co. Case No. 17 CV 32008.  [Update:  I won on the merits, and I am appealing the attorney fee decision.]

    The PRAC should develop a working group to include members from the Judicial Department to consider: (1) urging trial courts to assign a single judge to handle public records lawsuits to develop expertise, avoid inconsistencies, and to speed the process and (2) an expedited appeal process in the Court of Appeals for some or all public records appeals.

    Consider not requiring public bodies to sue citizens to appeal DA decision.

    Currently, if a District Attorney decides against the public body, the public body must sue the requester.  Portland Public School’s lawsuit against Kimberly Sordyl gained national attention.  Perhaps you can develop a procedure where the public body may name the District Attorney as the defendant when a citizen is the requester (e.g., PPS vs. Rod Underhill ex. rel. Kimberly Sordyl), with the option for the citizen to substitute if she or he so desires.

    Require denial letters to identify the decisionmaker.

    People should know who decided to withhold records.  A simple line in every denial letter would suffice.  For example, “Decisionmaker:  the undersigned” or “Decisionmaker:  City Manager Jones” or “Decisionmaker:  Mayor Smith.”

    Review HB 3037 (2015).

    You may remember the circumstances giving rise to HB 3037.  When a person affiliated with an anti-union organization sought contact information of home health care workers, the public body stalled until the Legislative Assembly could rush through a bill to exempt the information.  Introduced on February 18, 2015, it became effective on April 9, 2015 when Governor Brown signed it.

    Section 4 may have created unintended consequences.  At least one public body is attempting to use it to, in effect, overturn decades of court precedents that the legislative history never mentioned or acknowledged.


    I created an Oregon Public Records Law resource at  It provides a primer for requesters and for anyone who wants a succinct summary of why and how Oregon’s law evolved over the past four years.

    Thank you, again, for your confidence in me, and good luck with the difficult work ahead of you.

    Jeff Merrick, Oregon Litigation Attorney

    ©2018 by Merrick Law, LLC and Jeff Merrick. The above is not intended as legal advice. It is for general information purposes only. Reading it or attempting to contact me does not mean I am your attorney. I only represent people after we sign a written contract.

  4. Proposed Rule Implements “Transparency by Design.”

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    Today, Secretary of State Richardson filed a proposed rule to make more accessible public information on how his agency spends money.  The financial transparency rule will disclose expenditures monthly.

    This is another step toward “transparency by design,” which refers to making public information public, without anyone needing to request public records and waste resources to respond to requests.  The public may comment on the rule, and I urge people to do so.

    Oregon adopted many changes intended to improve public records law over the past few years.  (I summarized those changes here).   They included creating a State Chief Information Officer, a Chief Data Officer, The Public Records Advisory Council, and the Public Records Advocate.  Nevertheless, public bodies and elected officials still must decide how transparent they want to be.  They can fight requests, they can keep secrets, or they can make public information publicly available.

    I congratulate the Secretary of State for “walking the walk” and moving toward more – and more timely – transparency.

    Jeff Merrick

    (c) Jeff Merrick and Merrick Law, LLC

  5. Replicating Failed Policy of Mass Shelters Perpetuates Human Suffering and Kills Neighborhoods.

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    1. Homelessness: Oregon is the Model of Failure.
    2. What is our current policy making process.
    3. What do successful jurisdictions do differently?
    4. What does the past teach us about what works and what does not work?

    A. Concentrating service-dependent people creates ghettos that are unhealthful for the people served and for the neighborhood.
    B. Mass shelters provide fertile ground for the spread of contagious disease.
    C. Work programs work.
    D. Open LEADERSHIP founded upon data and performance is critical to success
    E. Housing First, NOT Mass Shelters

    5. What can mere citizens do?

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  6. “Leaders” continue to dodge good ideas from concerned citizens.

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    On July 31, I was pleased to participate in the meeting of citizens concerned about the proposed low-barrier homeless shelter across the street from a schoolhouse on SE Foster.  Although South East Allied Communities invited public officials, no public official attended or sent a representative.

    Officials continue their approach of not wanting public input that might offer insights not raised behind closed doors by the usual suspects or at steering committee meetings of people hand-picked by officials.  Continued inbreeding only spawns more of the same policy that has caused Oregon to rank 49 of 51 (states plus District of Columbia) in sheltering homeless.

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  7. Lying stealing attorneys: Disbar, Sue and Arrest Them



    Last month, the Oregon State Bar charged a Portland, Oregon attorney with misconduct arising from settlement dollars that belonged to her clients.  Really bad conduct, including settling a personal injury case for $100,000 but not telling the client.  Instead, the attorney told her client she settled for $40,000.  Under that scenario, the client would receive roughly $26,000 instead of $67,000 of the actual settlement of $100,000.

    Then, I wonder if the attorney earned full value for the case.  Did she need to settle fast for money SHE needed and fail work the case hard enough?  Should the case have settled for $200,000 instead of $100,000?  Could the client have received 2/3 rds of a $200,000 settlement, instead?

    The Portland attorney was Lori Deveny, who gave up her law license instead of fighting the charges.  I know her.  I’d seen her at professional meetings.  I’d sent her Christmas cards in the 2000s.  I was surprised.

    Today, a New York attorney was arrested for stealing from his clients.  His past included being the President of the Brooklyn Bar Association.

    So, as a client, who do you trust?

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  8. Six Multi-Million Dollar Employment Law Resolutions Last Quarter Announced by EEOC

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    EEOC announced six multi-million dollar employment law settlements or verdicts last quarter, including a jury award of $5.1 million because an employer pushed a self-help “religion” on its employees.  Here’s the count down.

    #6:  University pays $2.66 million and will increase women’s salaries in pay discrimination case.

    EEOC charged the University of Denver paid a class of female full professors at Sturm College of Law lower salaries than it paid similarly situated male professors.  The average disparity was almost $20,000 per year.

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  9. Public Body Must Reveal Information from its Attorney’s Bill

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    Public Records Law requires public body disclosure of more detail from attorney’s billing statements, ruled the Kentucky Attorney General.

    The request came from the editor of the College Heights Herald to Western Kentucky University seeking billing and payment records between the University and a law firm. WKU produced a heavily blacked-out version of the billing statement.

    WKU argued redactions were appropriate to preserve the information protected by the attorney-client and work-product privileges.

    The attorney general’s opinion sets forth the following points:

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