Articles Posted in Oregon Supreme Court

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The Oregon Supreme Court considered three separate petitions that challenged the Oregon Attorney General’s ballot title for Initiative Petition 5 (2020). IP 5 would repeal and replace a provision in the Oregon Constitution, Article IV, section 6, that addressed reapportionment of the state’s legislative districts, after each decennial census, the take into account changes in the changes in the distribution of the state’s population. The Supreme Court determined the ballot title did not substantially comply with ORS 250.035(2), and referred the ballot title back to the Attorney General for modification. View "Fletchall v. Rosenblum" on Justia Law

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Initially, respondent John Wigle worked for petitioner Eugene Water and Electric Board (EWEB) as a temporary worker through a temporary staffing agency. EWEB later hired Wigle as a regular employee. When Wigle retired from EWEB, a disputed ensued over when Wigle had become eligible for retirement benefits from the Public Employees Retirement System. The Public Employees Retirement Board concluded that even though Wigle worked through the temp agency, he was eligible for retirement benefits because he had worked for EWEB for six months. The Court of Appeals affirmed the Board’s order, rejecting EWEB’s contention that Wigle only because eligible for benefits once he became an regular employee. The Oregon Supreme Court determined the Oregon Legislature did not intend for employees who was placed on the government’s payroll would be eligible for benefits, “not someone who, in hindsight, was determined to have a common-law employment relationship with the public employer.” The Supreme Court reversed the appellate court’s order and remanded to the Board for further proceedings. View "Eugene Water and Electric Board v. PERB" on Justia Law

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Claimant Elvia Garcia-Solis was injured in a work-related accident. Farmers Insurance Company and Yeaun Corporation (collectively, “Insurer”) accepted a workers’ compensation claim and certain specified medical conditions associated with the accident. Because claimant also showed psychological symptoms, her doctor recommended a psychological referral to diagnose her for possible post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Insurer argued, and the Court of Appeals agreed, that the cost of the psychological referral was not covered by workers’ compensation because claimant had failed to prove that it was related to any of the medical conditions that insurer had accepted. The Oregon Supreme Court reversed both the Court of Appeals and the Workers’ Compensation Board: “’injury’ means work accident is context-specific to exactly two uses in the first and second sentences of ORS 656.245(1)(a). It does not apply to the second use in the first sentence of ORS 656.245(1)(a). We do not decide or suggest that it applies to any other statute in the workers’ compensation system.” View "Garcia-Solis v. Farmers Ins. Co." on Justia Law

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Claimant Catherine Sheldon injured her shoulder after falling in the lobby of the office building where she worked. Claimant contended she suffered a compensable injury that arose out of employment because her fall was unexplained and occurred at work. Employer, US Bank, contended the injury was not unexplained because claimant failed to eliminate idiopathic factors related to her personal medical conditions that might have caused her fall. The Workers’ Compensation Board (the board) concluded claimant failed to establish that her fall was unexplained. The Court of Appeals held that the board applied the wrong standard, vacated the board’s decision, and remanded the case to the board to apply the standard in the manner directed by that court. Although the Oregon Supreme Court disagreed with the standard expressed by the Court of Appeals, it nevertheless reached the same result, therefore affirming the Court of Appeals, vacating the board’s decision, and remanding the case to the board. View "Sheldon v. US Bank" on Justia Law

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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