PENDLETON - Umatilla County District Attorney Chris Brauer sat at his desk and flipped through a list of crimes he may not be able to prosecute come March 1.

The list was nine pages long, and had more than 400 entries.

The state's cash-strapped courts system won't docket minor cases in an attempt to make sure there's enough money to handle the worst crimes, such as murders.

The low-priority cases wouldn't be handled for at least four months in the Oregon Department of Justice's plan, and it's not known whether they would be handled at all.

"It's a crisis in our courts system," said Chief Justice Wallace P. Carson, of the Oregon Supreme Court.

Crimes that could fall by the wayside include boating under the influence of intoxicants, second-degree theft, mail theft, trespassing, depositing trash in a waterway, prostitution, pointing a firearm at another, illegally selling or buying guns, animal abuse, neglect, fighting and interference with a police officer.

"How are we going to hold people who commit crimes responsible and accountable if we're not even going to docket cases in the court system?" Brauer asked. "How can we tolerate that? What message is this sending to those criminally minded individuals who could offend?"

Brauer anticipates criminals becoming bolder and more brazen.

State courts also are looking at layoffs, a 10-percent reduction in remaining workers hours and pay, and court closures Fridays. The courts also won't hear civil claims under $5,000.

"Absent any infusion of additional funds, which does not look likely for this biennium, the various parts of the program will start March 1," Carson said.

Carson hopes the Legislature will restore the court system to its proper shape, but he's worried about the next biennium.

"The things we're doing, we just can't do in the long term," Carson said.

Some funding could have been restored to the Oregon Department of Justice through Measure 28, but that failed in Tuesday's election.

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