by: Hope Del Carlo
Recently, Justin Baxter and Henry Kantor, two of the founding board members of the new non-profit organization Oregon Consumer Justice (OCJ), attended the Consumer Law Section’s monthly executive committee meeting to report on OCJ’s creation and progress. Baxter, an esteemed consumer advocate in the field of Fair Credit Reporting Act litigation, and Kantor, a retired Multnomah County Circuit Court judge, along with Emily Reiman, a respected non-profit housing advocate, formed OCJ in August 2016.
OCJ began as the result of an Oregon class action lawsuit against BP, the petroleum giant. Scharfstein v. BP West Coast Products LLC, Multnomah County Circuit Court Case No. 1112-17046. A jury found that BP violated the Oregon Unlawful Trade Practices Act by charging illegal debit card fees to consumers. Following an unsuccessful challenge to the validity of OAR 137-020-0150, 284 Or App 723 (2017) and an unsuccessful appeal, 292 Or App 60 (2018), the case was ultimately settled, and BP is in the process of paying damages to consumers. More than 330,000 class members were not found or failed to make a claim.
The Oregon Rules of Civil Procedure, ORCP 32O, require that at least half of the unclaimed funds be paid or delivered to the Oregon State Bar to fund the Legal Services Program, while the rest be awarded to “any entity for purposes that the court determines are directly related to the class action or directly beneficial to the interests of class members.” Thus, in this case, the court ordered the creation of OCJ, Oregon’s first nonprofit organization with the specific mission to advance consumer justice, to receive 50% of the cy pres funds.
OCJ plans to create a multi-pronged approach to advancing consumer protection, such as direct consumer representation in the state and federal courts, legislative and regulatory advocacy, research, and education for both consumers and attorneys.
OCJ is currently seeking members to serve on its board. If you’re interested in applying, please email OCJ stating your interest in board membership at [email protected]
You can find more information about OCJ at its website, http://www.oregonconsumerjustice.org.