Justia Government & Administrative Law Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in Oregon Supreme Court
Knopp v. Griffin-Valade
In 2022, Oregon voters approved Ballot Measure 113, amending the state constitution to disqualify any state legislator who accumulates 10 or more unexcused absences during a legislative session from holding office "for the term following the election after the member’s current term is completed." The Secretary of State interpreted this to mean that the disqualification applies to a legislator’s immediate next term. However, a group of legislators challenged this interpretation, arguing that the disqualification should apply one term later.The Supreme Court of the State of Oregon held that the measure's disqualification applies to the legislator’s immediate next term of office. The Court found that the text of the amendment was capable of supporting the Secretary's interpretation. This interpretation was also supported by the ballot title and the voters’ pamphlet, which repeatedly described the disqualification as occurring immediately following the legislator’s current term. The Court concluded that voters would have understood the amendment in light of these materials. Therefore, the Court upheld the Secretary's rules implementing the amendment. View "Knopp v. Griffin-Valade" on Justia Law
State v. Wilcox
The case involves the defendant, Jason Thomas Wilcox, who was taken into police custody for public intoxication under ORS 430.399, a noncriminal statute. During this process, the police seized and inventoried his backpack, discovering a butterfly knife. As Wilcox had a prior felony conviction, he was charged and convicted for being a felon in possession of a restricted weapon under ORS 166.270(2). Wilcox appealed, arguing that the seizure of his backpack was unlawful under Article I, section 9, of the Oregon Constitution. The Court of Appeals agreed, finding that the seizure was unlawful, and based its decision on a previous case, State v. Edwards.The Supreme Court of the State of Oregon vacated the decision of the Court of Appeals and remanded the case for further proceedings. The Supreme Court found that the Court of Appeals had erred in its analysis because it treated the seizure as a criminal one rather than an administrative one. The Court pointed out that when a person or their property is seized under ORS 430.399, the seizure is administrative, not criminal, and such seizures must comply with a different set of constitutional standards. The Court also clarified that the state’s interference with a person’s possessory or ownership interests constitutes a seizure, regardless of whether the person objects to the interference.The Supreme Court held that the seizure of the backpack was indeed a seizure. However, it did not decide whether the seizure was lawful, instead remanding the case to the Court of Appeals to determine whether ORS 430.399, or some other source of authority, authorized the seizure of defendant’s backpack and if so, whether that seizure was effectuated in accordance with the requirements of State v. Atkinson, which set the framework for assessing the constitutionality of an administrative search or seizure. View "State v. Wilcox" on Justia Law
PNW Metal Recycling, Inc. v. DEQ
In the case of PNW Metal Recycling, Inc., et al. v. Oregon Department of Environmental Quality, the Oregon Supreme Court held that the Department of Environmental Quality's (DEQ) internal decision to adopt a new interpretation of a statute did not constitute a "rule" under the Oregon Administrative Procedures Act (APA).The case emerged when the DEQ changed its interpretation of the "auto-dismantler exception" in the solid waste management regulations. Previously, facilities dismantling and recycling used vehicles were not required to obtain a permit for solid waste disposal, even if they also disposed of non-vehicle solid waste. However, in 2018, the DEQ informed the petitioners that it had revised its interpretation of the relevant statutes, and the facilities would now be required to obtain permits.The petitioners, who operate such facilities, challenged this change, arguing that the DEQ's new position constituted a "rule", meaning it should have been adopted following the APA rulemaking procedures. The Court of Appeals agreed with the petitioners and held the DEQ's decision invalid.However, the Oregon Supreme Court vacated the decision of the Court of Appeals and dismissed the judicial review. The court reasoned that an agency's internal decision to adopt a new statutory interpretation is not, by itself, a "rule" under the APA. Instead, a "rule" is a more formal, generally applicable agency directive, standard, regulation, or statement that implements, interprets, or prescribes law or policy.The court highlighted that the APA provides different avenues for agencies to announce policy, not all of which require formal rulemaking. Specifically, an agency can announce a general policy applicable to a case and future similar cases during a contested case proceeding, without going through formal rulemaking procedures. The court concluded that the DEQ's revised interpretation of the auto-dismantler exception and its stated intention to require the petitioners to obtain a permit were precursors to an enforcement action that may lead to a contested case proceeding, not a rule. The decision of the Court of Appeals was vacated, and the judicial review was dismissed. View "PNW Metal Recycling, Inc. v. DEQ" on Justia Law
D. E. Shaw Renewable Investments, LLC v. Dept. of Rev.
At issue in this appeal was whether the Oregon Department of Revenue erred in declining to reduce the assessed value of taxpayer’s property for tax years 2018-2019 and 2019-2020. After persuading the Department that the valuation methodology it used to assess the property in 2020-2021 was flawed, the taxpayer asked the Department to use the corrected methodology to re-assess the two previous tax years. The Department denied the request, finding the statute the taxpayer used as grounds, ORS 306.115, did not authorize the Department to change its value opinion for the earlier tax years because another statute, ORS 308.624(4), expressly precluded the Department from making that change. The Oregon Tax Court agreed with the Department, and the taxpayer appealed, contending the Department and Tax Court misinterpreted the applicable statutes. The Oregon Supreme Court found no misinterpretation and affirmed. View "D. E. Shaw Renewable Investments, LLC v. Dept. of Rev." on Justia Law
Woodland v. Dept. of Rev.
Taxpayer Walter Woodland appealed the Oregon Department of Revenue’s assessment of $116 in interest for unpaid estimated taxes in 2019. During the pendency of that appeal, the department invalidated the assessment and agreed that taxpayer did not owe that interest. The Regular Division of the Oregon Tax Court accordingly dismissed taxpayer’s appeal as moot. The Oregon Supreme Court affirmed. View "Woodland v. Dept. of Rev." on Justia Law
Bundy v. NuStar GP LLC, et al.
At issue in this case was whether the Oregon legislature intended to create an exception to ORS 656.018, the so-called “exclusive remedy” provision of the Workers’ Compensation Law, for injured workers whose claims have been deemed noncompensable on “major contributing cause” grounds. While employed by defendant Shore Terminals, LLC as a terminal operator, plaintiff Danny Bundy was assigned to stay and monitor the air quality from malfunctioning machinery without being given safety equipment, and he was exposed to dangerous levels of diesel, gasoline and ethanol fumes. After that incident, defendant initially accepted a workers’ compensation claim for "non-disabling exposure to gasoline vapors." Later, plaintiff asked defendant to accept and pay compensation for additional conditions arising out of the same incident, including "somatization disorder" and "undifferentiated somatoform disorder." Defendant specified that it was treating each of plaintiff’s subsequent requests as a "consequential condition claim" and was denying those claims on the basis that plaintiff’s work exposure was not the major contributing cause of the subsequent conditions. Plaintiff challenged those denials through the workers’ compensation system, but he was unable to establish that the work incident was the major contributing cause of his somatoform disorders. The Workers’ Compensation Board ultimately issued a final order determining that the disorders were not compensable conditions because plaintiff failed to establish that his work-related incident was the major contributing cause. Plaintiff acknowledged that the Workers’ Compensation Law generally immunized covered employers against civil liability for injuries arising out of a worker’s employment. Plaintiff argued, however, that his case fell within a statutory exception to that rule and that the trial court and Court of Appeals, both of which ruled in defendant’s favor on that legal question, erred in concluding otherwise. The Oregon Supreme Court concluded that plaintiff’s statutory argument failed, and that the trial court and Court of Appeals therefore did not err. View "Bundy v. NuStar GP LLC, et al." on Justia Law
State ex rel Rosenblum v. Living Essentials, LLC
The Oregon Attorney General brought this action against defendants, Living Essentials, LLC and Innovation Ventures, LLC, alleging that they had made representations about their products that violated two different provisions of the Oregon Unlawful Trade Practices Act (UTPA). The trial court ruled for defendants, explaining that the relevant provisions of the UTPA required the State to prove that the misrepresentations were “material to consumer purchasing decisions,” and that the State had not done so. The Court of Appeals affirmed that decision. The Oregon Supreme Court granted the State’s petition for review to consider whether the lower courts correctly construed the statute. After such review, the Supreme Court concluded, contrary to the trial court and the Court of Appeals, that the UTPA provisions at issue contained no “material to consumer purchasing decisions” requirement. The Supreme Court also rejected defendants’ argument that, without such a requirement, the provisions facially violated the free speech provisions of the State and federal constitutions. Accordingly, the Supreme Court reversed the decision of the Court of Appeals and remanded to that court for further proceedings. View "State ex rel Rosenblum v. Living Essentials, LLC" on Justia Law
SAIF v. Coria
Claimant Hipolito Coria sought review of the Court of Appeals’ decision reversing a penalty that the Workers’ Compensation Board imposed on respondent SAIF for unreasonable claims processing. The board imposed the penalty pursuant to ORS 656.262(11)(a), which provides, in part, that, if an “insurer . . . unreasonably refuses to pay compensation,” the insurer “shall be liable for an additional amount up to 25 percent of the amounts then due,” plus penalty-related attorney fees. On review, the parties disagreed about the board’s reason for imposing the penalty. They also disagreed about many of the procedural and substantive legal requirements for imposing penalties pursuant to ORS 656.262(11)(a). The Oregon Supreme Court concluded the board’s imposition of the penalty was not supported by substantial reason because the board’s order failed to “articulate a rational connection between the facts and the legal conclusions it draws from them.” Consequently, the Court reversed and remanded the case to the board to explain its reasoning; necessarily, the Court did not reach the parties’ arguments about the legal requirements for imposing penalties pursuant to ORS 656.262(11)(a). View "SAIF v. Coria" on Justia Law
Stop B2H Coalition v. Dept. of Energy
Petitioners sought the Oregon Supreme Court's review of an order of the Energy Facility Siting Council (EFSC) that approved an Idaho Power Company (Idaho Power) application for a site certificate to construct a high-voltage electrical transmission line from Boardman, Oregon, to Hemingway, Idaho. Petitioner STOP B2H Coalition (Stop B2H) contended that EFSC erred by : (1) denying Stop B2H’s request for full party status in the contested case proceedings; (2) granting an exception or variance to noise level requirements; (3) modifying the governing rule to limit the noise assessment to landowners within one-half mile of the transmission line; and (4) misapplying EFSC’s rules on the visual impacts from the transmission line. Petitioner Michael McAllister contended EFSC erred by failing to require Idaho Power to include in its application an “environmentally preferable” location for a segment of the transmission line in Union County. Petitioner Irene Gilbert contended EFSC erred by: (1) denying Gilbert’s request for full party status; (2) failing to document the impacts on historic properties and mitigation measures; (3) delegating future approval of mitigation plans to the Oregon Department of Energy (ODOE); (4) relying on federal standards to determine mitigation requirements for historic properties; and (5) modifying a mandatory site certificate condition without rulemaking. Applying the governing standard of review, the Supreme Court affirmed EFSC’s final order approving the site certificate for this transmission line. View "Stop B2H Coalition v. Dept. of Energy" on Justia Law
Wilhelms v. Rosenblum
In consolidated ballot-title review cases, three sets of electors-- petitioner Wilhelms, petitioners Wise, Mason, and Selvaggio (Wise petitioners), and petitioners Delk, Gladstone, and Kafoury (Delk petitioners)—challenged the Oregon Attorney General’s certified ballot title for Initiative Petition 9 (2024) (IP 9). If adopted, IP 9 would effect various changes to Oregon’s campaign-finance and elections-related laws. Currently, federal and state law required some reporting of campaign contributions and certain disclosures in political advertising. However, state law imposed no limits on campaign contributions. Among other things, IP 9 would limit the amounts of contributions that individuals could make to candidate committees and that candidate committees could accept from individuals and other candidate committees, it would add disclosure requirements for political advertisements (including requiring that advertisements disclose the four largest sources of funding), and it would establish a new enforcement system for elections-related violations (including violations of the new campaign-finance requirements). After review of the challenges, the Oregon Supreme Court concluded that several of petitioners’ arguments that the ballot title did not substantially comply with ORS 250.035(2) were well taken; the Court therefore referred the ballot title to the Attorney General for modification. View "Wilhelms v. Rosenblum" on Justia Law