The Art of Accomplishment Case Studies

Impact Litigation

We worked with the Oregon ACLU to protect the constitutional rights of criminal defendants to a jury trial, the assistance of counsel, and proof beyond a reasonable doubt. During the Occupy Portland movement, police and prosecutors adopted a strategy of arresting protestors for misdemeanors, booking them, posting their mugshots online, and then, at arraignment, downgrading the charges to violations. An Oregon statute authorized this procedure, which allowed the state to clear the streets and parks (because of the criminal charges at arrest) and yet avoid the cost and risk of criminal trials (because the constitutional protections afforded criminal defendants do not apply to violation charges). We argued the protestors’ case in the Oregon Supreme Court, which unanimously held the statute unconstitutional and required that, because the protestors had been arrested for crimes, they be afforded all the constitutional rights of criminal defendants, even though the state had downgraded the charges. State v. Benoit, 354 Or 302 (2013).