Oregon Health Analyst Obstructed Court’s Authority on Substance Abuse Treatment: Judge

Kos Temenes
By Kos Temenes
June 1, 2023USshare
Oregon Health Analyst Obstructed Court’s Authority on Substance Abuse Treatment: Judge
Part of a marble statue representing Themis, the Goddess of Justice at Brittany parliament, headquarters of Rennes appeal court in Rennes, western France, on Feb. 8, 2011. (Damien Meyer/AFP via Getty Images)

The Oregon Health Authority (OHA) and one of its policy analysts have been held in contempt for interfering with a court’s authority over monitoring substance abuse treatment requirements for traffic offenders.

In the ruling, Washington County Circuit Judge Brandon M. Thompson asserts that the agency, along with its driving-under-the influence-of-intoxicants coordinator, Marisha Elkins deliberately undermined the court’s efforts to monitor defendants’ compliance with the legislation, according to Oregon Live.

The 20-page ruling, which came on May 26, states that Elkins obstructed the lawful authority of the court to obtain urinalysis results and treatment details.

According to the judge’s ruling, the obstruction had been proven without any reasonable doubt. Elkins could potentially risk five days in jail and a $10,000 fine for each future obstruction, Oregon Live reported.

“This court orders OHA and Ms. Elkins to cease and desist with any and all efforts to interfere and obstruct this court’s authority,” Thompson wrote.

Elkins, as well as three other health authority spokespersons, did not immediately respond to a request for comment by NTD.

The dispute between the public health agency and the Washington County Circuit Court is long-standing. It concerns the issue of whether the courts have to be informed of defendants’ compliance with mandated substance abuse treatment in impaired driving cases.

According to the ruling, Elkins is said to have made changes to the form that treatment providers present to the courts. The change, which was initiated in 2019, omits the section requiring treatment providers to outline a defendant’s progress.

It is undetermined what ramifications there are on a state level. There were around 1,200 Washington County felony and misdemeanor impaired driving cases in 2022. About 10,000 were filed in Oregon.

Data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show nearly 1,200 people died at the hands of impaired drivers in Oregon between 2009 and 2018.

First offenders are usually ordered to diversion programs, avoiding a conviction if they abide by the treatment requirements stipulated by the court. The process involves defendants signing a form, allowing the court to access details relating to their compliance with relevant treatment.

The ruling identifies that Elkins’s role involves mediating for the courts and treatment providers as well as local agencies.

Elkins was previously questioned about the changes made to the form, as well as any required disclosure information by providers to the court, in a hearing presided over by Thompson in December. It also included the question of whether disclosure of such information to the courts requires the defendants’ authorization.

Elkins’s testimony was reportedly deemed evasive or misleading by Thompson, in an attempt to conceal her actions, according to Oregon Live, likening some of her responses to the Oliver North scandal in the lran-Contra hearings during the Reagan administration in the 1980s.

Legal representation for Elkins was provided by Oregon’s Department of Justice. An Oregon DOJ spokesperson did not respond to a request for comment by NTD.

Elkins further acknowledged during the hearing in December that she had also been accused of interfering with providing treatment details to the Clackamas County Circuit Court.

According to Thompson’s ruling, the court is entitled to full knowledge about any defendant’s progress—or lack of it—in their treatment.

Elkins was found to have repeatedly lied under oath during the hearing. She denied having provided any legal advice despite this having been clear, according to Thompson, such as when she told treatment providers to only divulge information relating to “enrolment and completion.”

“Ms. Elkins is not only providing legal advice, but it is advice to not follow the law,” the judge wrote.

Thompson also stated in his ruling that the Oregon DOJ was aware of Elkins’s “inaccurate” legal advice, despite her not being a lawyer. Thompson referred to the Oregon DOJ’s actions as “terribly troubling.”

Further testimony about Elkins’s spreading of misinformation came from Washington County alcohol-and-drug-screening specialist Deanna Kemper, who is responsible for relaying information about a defendant’s compliance with treatment. Kemper stated that Elkins has disseminated misinformation both directly and indirectly.

According to Kemper’s testimony, Elkins told her that those who voluntary enter treatment should be treated differently to those who are ordered to so by the courts, according to Oregon Live.

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