Articles Posted in Oregon Supreme Court

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Claimant Cozmin Gadalean, a commercial truck driver, was sent on a supervised delivery by and for employer as a pre-employment drive test. He was injured when he fell from employer’s truck. The Workers’ Compensation Board denied claimant coverage, concluding that he did not qualify as a worker at the time of the injury. The Court of Appeals reversed, holding that Oregon’s minimum wage laws would have entitled claimant to be paid for the delivery and that, therefore, he was a worker within the meaning of the workers’ compensation statute. The Oregon Supreme Court concluded the Court of Appeals erred, and affirmed the board’s denial of coverage. View "Gadalean v. SAIF" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs in this case were Clackamas County District Attorney John Foote and two individuals, Mary Elledge and Deborah Mapes-Stice, who identified themselves as both crime victims and voters. Together, plaintiffs brought an action against Oregon, seeking a declaration that HB 3078 (2017), which amended ORS 137.717 (2015) to reduce the presumptive sentences provided therein for certain property crimes, was enacted in violation of Article IV, section 33, of the Oregon Constitution, and therefore was invalid. Article IV, section 33, was adopted by the voters in 1996 as Ballot Measure 10, and provided a two-thirds majority in both houses of the legislature was necessary “to pass a bill that reduces a criminal sentence approved by the people under [Article IV, section 1, of the Oregon Constitution].” Plaintiffs argued the longer presumptive prison sentences set out in ORS 137.717 (2015) had been “approved by the people” in 2008, when Ballot Measure 57 was adopted, and could not lawfully be reduced by the simple majorities that HB 3078 had garnered to amend the statute. The State appealed the trial court's order invalidating HB 3078 as unconstitutional. Among other things, the state contended plaintiffs lacked standing to bring the underlying declaratory judgment action. The Oregon Supreme Court agreed plaintiffs lacked standing, and vacated the declaratory judgment. The matter was remanded with instructions to dismiss the action. View "Foote v. Oregon" on Justia Law

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Intervenor-respondent Riverbend Landfill Co. sought to expand its solid waste landfill in Yamhill County, Oregon on land zoned for exclusive farm use (EFU). Respondent Yamhill County determined for a second time that, with conditions of approval, the landfill expansion would not create a significant change in accepted farm practices or significantly increase the cost of those practices on surrounding agricultural lands, thereby meeting the "farm impacts test." But petitioners Stop the Dump Coalition, Willamette Valley Wineries Association, and Ramsey McPhillips and petitioner-intervenor Friends of Yamhill County (collectively, petitioners) contended Riverbend’s applications failed the farm impacts test. Broadly, the parties disputed what the farm impacts test measured and whether some of the conditions that the county imposed for approval are proper under ORS 215.296(2). On review of the Oregon Supreme Court, petitioners took issue with both the latest order of the Land Use Board of Appeals (LUBA) in Stop the Dump Coalition v. Yamhill County, 74 Or LUBA 1 (2016) (SDC II), and the decision of the Court of Appeals upholding that order in Stop the Dump Coalition v. Yamhill County, 391 P3d 932 (2017) (SDC III). Petitioners challenged some of the county’s conditions of approval, which LUBA and the Court of Appeals approved, and the Court of Appeals’ articulation of how the county must evaluate impacts of the landfill expansion on farm practices and their costs. Ultimately, the Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed in part the decision of the Court of Appeals and affirmed in part, reversed in part, and remanded the final opinion and order of the Land Use Board of Appeals. View "Stop the Dump Coalition v. Yamhill County" on Justia Law

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In 2009, DISH Network Corporation (DISH) received an assessment order from the Oregon Department of Revenue showing that its property in Oregon for tax purposes was valued at an amount that exceeded the previous year’s valuation by nearly 100 percent. The increase came about because the department had subjected DISH’s property to central assessment and thus, also, to “unit valuation,” a method of valuing property that purported to capture the added value associated with a large, nationwide business network that, by statute, was available for central, but not local, assessments. Although DISH objected to the change from local to central assessment, the department insisted that central assessment was required because DISH was using its property in a “communication” business. When DISH was forced to concede defeat on that issue based on DIRECTV, Inc. v. Dept. of Rev., 377 P3d 568 (2016), another issue arose: whether the drastic increase in the assessed value of DISH’s property starting in the 2009-10 tax year violated Article XI, section 11 of the Oregon Constitution. The department argued that, because DISH’s property had been newly added to the central assessment rolls in 2009, the property fell into an exception to the three-percent cap on increases in assessed value - for “new property or new improvements to property.” The Tax Court rejected the department’s “new property” theory and held that the department’s assessments of DISH’s property in the tax years after 2008-09 was unconstitutional. The Oregon Supreme Court agreed with the department that the exception applied and therefore reversed the Tax Court’s decision to the contrary. View "DISH Network Corp. v. Dept. of Rev." on Justia Law

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The Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT) owned driver records, which were considered as assets of the State Highway Fund and subject to use restrictions set out in Article IX, section 3a, of the Oregon Constitution. Pursuant to ORS 366.395, ODOT sold the Department of Administrative Services (DAS) an exclusive license to provide real-time electronic access to those driver records. Plaintiffs challenged both ODOT’s statutory authority to grant the license and the use to which DAS put it. The license permitted DAS to sublicense its rights and obligations to others; DAS sub-licensed its rights to NICUSA, the company that DAS enlisted to build the state internet portal. Through that portal, NICUSA provided electronic access to driver records and, pursuant to the sublicense agreement, charged a fee equal to what DAS paid for the license ($6.63 per record) plus an additional $3.00 per record convenience fee. The former amount/fee ultimately went to ODOT and into the highway fund to be used in accordance with Article IX, section 3a, and was predicted to produce $55 million dollars over the life of the license. The latter amount/fee was retained by NICUSA at least in part to recoup its costs in creating and maintaining the state internet portal. The end result was that disseminators pay $9.63 per record, $6.63 of which goes to ODOT and $3.00 of which NICUSA kept. Plaintiffs, which included nonprofit corporations representing their members’ interests, claimed the licensing agreements harmed them because, among other adverse effects, they had to pay disseminators an increased amount for driver records. Plaintiffs sought a declaration that ODOT did not have statutory authority to sell the license to DAS, and that the licensing agreements violated Article IX, section 3a. The Oregon Supreme Court determined ODOT lawfully transferred the license in question to DAS, and that neither the use to which DAS put the license, nor the value DAS paid for it it "ran afoul" of the Oregon Constitution. View "Oregon Trucking Assns. v. Dept. of Transportation" on Justia Law

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In 2009, Seneca Sustainable Energy LLC (Seneca) began construction of a biomass cogeneration facility on property that it owned outside of Eugene, Oregon. In this direct appeal of the Regular Division of the Tax Court, the Department of Revenue argued the Tax Court erred in concluding that it had jurisdiction to consider a challenge brought by Seneca to the department’s determination of the real market value of Seneca’s electric cogeneration facility and the notation of the real market value on the assessment roll for two tax years, 2012-13 and 2013-14. The department also argued that the Tax Court erred in concluding that the department’s determinations of the property’s real market values for the 2012-13 and 2013-14 tax years were incorrect and in setting the values at significantly lower amounts. Finding no reversible error, the Oregon Supreme Court affirmed the Tax Court’s rulings. View "Seneca Sustainable Energy, LLC v. Dept. of Rev." on Justia Law

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A magistrate court granted a taxpayer part of the relief requested. The magistrate accepted the property values that taxpayer requested for the two most recent tax years but did not accept the values that taxpayer requested for the first four tax years. Taxpayer appealed the magistrate’s decision by filing a timely complaint in the regular division of the tax court. The Department of Revenue (the department) did not appeal or seek any affirmative relief from the magistrate’s decision. Instead, the department moved to dismiss the complaint that taxpayer had filed in the tax court. The tax court granted the department’s motion, dismissed taxpayer’s complaint, and entered a judgment that gave effect to the magistrate’s decision. Taxpayer appealed from the tax court’s judgment to the Oregon Supreme Court, and the department has cross-appealed. The primary question presented for the Supreme Court’s review was whether the tax court erred in giving effect to the magistrate’s decision granting taxpayer’s requested relief for the two most recent tax years. Finding no reversible error, the Supreme Court affirmed the tax court. View "Work v. Dept. of Rev." on Justia Law

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Comcast Corporation challenged the Oregon Tax Court's construction of the statutory formula by which Oregon calculated the portion of its income taxable by Oregon. Based in part on those statutes, the Oregon Department of Revenue calculated that taxpayer had underpaid Oregon taxes for the tax years 2007-2009 and sent notices of deficiency, which Comcast appealed to the Tax Court. The Tax Court agreed with the department’s construction of the income-apportionment statutes and granted the department partial summary judgment on that part of Comcast's appeal. The Tax Court also entered a limited judgment to permit this appeal. After review, the Oregon Supreme Court concluded the Tax Court correctly construed the statutes that governed income-apportionment for interstate broadcasters, and affirmed the limited judgment. View "Comcast Corp. v. Dept. of Rev." on Justia Law

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Capital One Auto Finance, Inc. (taxpayer) filed consolidated Oregon corporate excise tax returns as part of a group that included two corporate affiliates. Taxpayer disputed the Department of Revenue’s contention that it owed additional taxes. Ultimately, the issue in this case was whether taxpayer’s corporate affiliates, which did not have a physical presence in this state, were subject to either Oregon’s corporate excise tax or its corporate income tax for the tax years 2006-2008. Preliminarily, taxpayer also asserted the department lacked the authority to assert for the first time in the Tax Court that the affiliates were subject to corporate income tax. Ruling on cross-motions for summary judgment, the Tax Court concluded that the affiliates were subject to the corporate income tax and entered judgment in favor of the department. The Oregon Supreme Court concluded: (1) the department timely raised the corporate income tax issue; and (2) the corporate affiliates were subject to the corporate income tax based on “income derived from sources within this state.” View "Capital One Auto Finance, Inc. v. Dept. of Rev." on Justia Law

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In this case, the Oregon Supreme Court reviewed a final order of the Department of State Lands (DSL) that granted a permit to the Port of Coos Bay (Port) in connection with the construction of a deep water marine terminal in Coos Bay. The permit allowed the Port to dredge 1.75 million cubic yards of material from the bay, while also imposing a number of conditions to address environmental concerns. Petitioners were environmental advocacy groups who argued the Port’s application did not meet the requirements for issuing a permit set out in ORS 196.825. An Administrative Law Judge held a contested case hearing and rejected petitioners’ arguments. DSL reviewed the conclusions of the ALJ and issued a final order affirming the permit. The Court of Appeals affirmed DSL’s final order. Petitioners contended DSL erred in failing to consider evidence of certain negative effects of the construction and operation of the terminal in the permit application review process. The Oregon Supreme Court held DSL properly considered the criteria set out in ORS 196.825 and did not err in granting the permit. View "Coos Waterkeeper v. Port of Coos Bay" on Justia Law