July 01, 2022

Oregon Supreme Court ruling is a Win for CJRC

The Oregon Supreme Court ruled that private medical entities operating in jails must follow state public accommodations laws.

  • Oregon Justice Building, home of the state’s Supreme Court and Court of Appeals in Salem
    iStockphoto

In early June, the Oregon Supreme Court ruled that private medical providers in jails are subject to state public accommodation laws, which prohibit discrimination based on a number of protected class statuses, such as race, color, religion, sex, sexual orientation, national origin, disability, marital status, or age (above 18). The ruling was a major victory for the Criminal Justice Reform Clinic (CJRC), who helped advocate for it.

The Ninth Circuit, which has jurisdiction over Alaska, Arizona, California, Guam, Hawaii, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, the Northern Mariana Islands, Oregon, and Washington, asked the Oregon Supreme Court to determine if private entities are subject to state public accommodation laws to help resolve the plaintiff’s appeal in a class action lawsuit which originated in Oregon. In the federal case, people who use American Sign Language (ASL) sought relief when a private medical provider failed to use an ASL interpreter resulting in harmful healthcare decisions for their ASL patients.

CJRC combined forces with the MacArthur Justice Center, Disability Rights Oregon and the ACLU of Oregon to file an amicus curiae brief explaining to the Oregon Supreme Court why it should rule that private medical providers in jails must comply with Oregon law that prohibits discrimination in places of public accommodation. In the brief, CJRC also highlighted the often deadly consequences of for-profit medical care in jails and prisons with several in-depth and graphic descriptions of people who were not cared for appropriately in the for-profit system.

Professor Aliza Kaplan, Director of CJRC, emphasized the importance of the ruling, stating “people who are incarcerated, like all Oregonians, deserve the right to be treated equally and fairly when receiving healthcare. This ruling is a critical step towards holding private healthcare companies accountable. I applaud the Oregon Supreme Court for recognizing that these companies are not above the law.”