Oregon Parole Board: “Don’t Have to Explain Nothing to Nobody”

By Prison Legal News

For at least the fifth time, a state court has ordered the Oregon Board of Parole and Post-Prison Supervision (Board) to provide more than boilerplate reasons for its decisions. There is little reason to believe, however, that the Board has any intention of complying.

Oregon law requires the Board to “state in writing the detailed bases of its decisions.” The Board is exempt, however, from a statutory requirement to make findings of fact and conclusions of law.

The Oregon Court of Appeals reversed a Board decision in 1997, holding that despite the statutory exemption, the Board was required to “make findings of fact and provide an explanation as to why its findings lead to the conclusions that it reaches.” See: Martin v. Board of Parole, 147 Ore. App. 37, 934 P.2d 626 (Or. Ct. App. 1997). The Oregon Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the Board must provide “some kind of an explanation connecting the facts of the case (which would include the facts found, if any) and the result reached.” See: Martin v. Board of Parole, 327 Ore. 147, 957 P.2d 1210 (Or. 1998). This is commonly referred to as “the substantial-reason requirement.”

In 1999, the Board asked the Oregon legislature to overrule Martin. The proposed law change expressly relieved the Board of a duty to “explain how [its] order is supported by the facts and the evidence in the record.”

The Oregon judiciary, however, did not appreciate such overt disrespect for its authority. James Nass, appellate legal counsel for the Oregon Supreme Court and Court of Appeals, opposed the Board’s proposed legislation, SB 401.

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