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2 new laws help victims of domestic violence.

Byline: David Steves The Register-Guard

SALEM - The governor on Wednesday signed into law a pair of domestic violence bills, one that creates new funding for a University of Oregon legal clinic and another that allows leave time for those who need legal help or other assistance.

The first measure, House Bill 2961, creates a $10 filing fee for divorce and dissolution of domestic partnerships. The proceeds, estimated at $350,000, would help pay for the UO-housed legal clinic, as well as anticipated clinics at Oregon's two other law schools. The clinic pairs second- and third-year law students with domestic violence victims, helping victims navigate the legal system as they seek restraining orders and participate in the prosecution of their abusers.

The other measure, Senate Bill 946, expands existing workplace-leave law so that victims of domestic violence and sexual assault can take unpaid time off the job to obtain legal help, police assistance, medical attention and other services.

The Oregon Law Center's Sybil Hebb, who championed the bill, said it would ensure that victims can get help without fear of losing their jobs because of absences.

"We hope this will allow people to take the steps they need to take to be safe," she said. The law center provides legal aid for low-income people.

The $10 fee was pursued because the UO legal clinic is about to lose its biggest source of operating dollars: a federal grant that expires in 2008.

UO law professor and clinic co-founder Merle Weiner said the new revenue source won't cover the clinic's entire budget. But, along with continued donations, it will bring certainty to the program's future.

"Now we know that the clinic will be there," she said, of the program, whose full title is the Domestic Violence Clinic of Lane County Legal Aid & Advocacy Center.

One of Weiner's former students, Jonathan Manton, found himself in the perfect position to champion the bill. After earning his law degree and working for the law school, he returned to work as an aide to state Sen. Floyd Prozanski, D-Eugene.

In addition to his usual duties as Prozanski's top staffer, Manton spent much of the session seeing the bill through from idea to law.

When Prozanski was asked by Kulongoski to say a few words about the bill, he turned the lectern over to Manton, calling him "the real person who pushed this through."

Manton said he made it a personal priority to secure a revenue source for the program after seeing what kind of impact it had, both on students and the domestic violence victims who participated in the program.

About 18,500 Oregon couples divorce each year, paying fees and court costs that range from $195 to $371, depending on which county grants the dissolution. About 36 percent of the couples do not pay court costs because they are indigent.

Oregon joins six other states that impose a fee on divorce filings to pay for domestic violence services.
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Title Annotation:Government; One provides funds for a legal clinic; the other allows for needed time off work
Publication:The Register-Guard (Eugene, OR)
Date:Aug 9, 2007
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