Oregon Courts Face Significant Backlogs in Expungement Cases

December 28, 2023

Multnomah County, Oregon, is having difficulty processing applications for expungement on time, thus leading to a backlog. Part of the problem is the county’s use of manual processes when processing the expungements. The issues stem from Senate Bill 397, which took effect on January 1, 2022. 

It allowed those with eligible criminal records to apply for expungement. However, the bill made many individuals qualified to expunge their records. This change significantly increased the number of applications the county had to process. According to the county, it went from approximately 50 a month to over 800. This increase led to a 15,000-case backlog.

In the past, when someone applied for an expungement, the district attorney’s office would review the paperwork. The office would verify the individual’s identity, whether the person completed the sentence, and whether they qualified for relief. The office would also check whether the person had other charges eligible for expungement. However, reviewing all the information required considerable time, creating a backlog.

Now, the circuit court performs more of this work. The district attorney’s office sends a list detailing which charges have no objections to expungement. As such, the circuit court typically processes 300 to 400 expungement orders each week. One judge can review roughly 50 cases daily, though only because they must process them manually. The judge must thoroughly review the entire case to ensure they can legally sign off on the expungement.

The court will add a judge and begin emailing electronically certified copies of expungement orders to some agencies. The court would also email the law enforcement agency that initiated the charges and corrections departments as needed. This process ensures that all appropriate parties have the necessary information to expunge charges from records. 

Other areas in the country are also struggling to deal with expunging cases, such as Jackson County in Michigan. This county accepted a $64,000 grant from the State Court Administrator’s Office. The office and county hoped it would help clear a backlog of expungement cases caused by the Automatic Clean Slate law that passed in 2020. 

New Jersey has also had problems processing expungements. New Jersey struggled with a backlog of 50,000 cases. As a result, many people had to wait years for the expungement process to seal their records.

Expungements improve individuals’ ability to acquire better jobs and housing. As described above, the process can take years due to various reasons. Employers can help mitigate the struggle by considering the relevance of certain offenses to available positions. One way to establish a second chance hiring process is by working with a trusted background screening partner. The right provider will use their experience to ensure companies can make informed decisions.

Background checks are made easy with JDP. Ask any questions you may have and learn more by contacting a sales rep today.