Justia Government & Administrative Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Oregon Supreme Court
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Plaintiff Gregory Chaimov made a public records request in July 2018, seeking copies of completed request forms used by state agencies to propose legislation for the 2019 legislative session. Individual state agencies had completed approved blank forms and then submitted them to the Oregon Department of Legislative Services (DAS) for the Governor to decide whether to request that the Office of Legislative Counsel prepare draft bills. The issue presented for the Oregon Supreme Court's review was whether completed request forms from the Office of Legislative Counsel were subject to disclosure under Oregon’s Public Records Law. DAS contended the requested forms fell within the attorney-client privilege under OEC 503 and were thus exempted from disclosure under ORS 192.355 (9)(a). The trial court granted summary judgment for plaintiff, holding that the request forms were not exempt and ordering their disclosure. The Court of Appeals reversed, concluding that they were subject to the attorney-client privilege. On review, the Oregon Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the Court of Appeals and reversed the judgment of the trial court. View "Chaimov v. Dept. of Admin. Services" on Justia Law

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At issue in this case was whether the suspension of petitioner’s driver’s license for refusing a breath test was valid when, in addition to providing petitioner with the statutorily required information regarding rights and consequences, the arresting officer also told petitioner that she would seek a search warrant for a blood draw if petitioner refused the test. The Department of Transportation, Driver and Motor Vehicle Services Division (DMV) suspended petitioner’s driving privileges, but, after petitioner sought judicial review from the circuit court, the circuit court set aside that suspension, a decision that the Court of Appeals later affirmed. The Oregon Supreme Court concluded that DMV properly suspended petitioner’s driving privileges, therefore reversing the Court of Appeals’ and the circuit court’s judgments. View "Murdoch v. DMV" on Justia Law

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The United States District Court for the District of Oregon certified two questions of law to the Oregon Supreme Court. Plaintiff, through a conservator, brought this action after he suffered catastrophic brain damage at the hands of his mother’s boyfriend. Plaintiff alleged that those injuries were caused by the failure of defendants— Jefferson County, Jefferson County Deputy Sheriff Anderson, and Warm Springs Police Department Officer Aryanfard— to respond to an earlier report of child abuse in the manner that Oregon law required. Specifically, plaintiff alleged he had suffered abuse from the boyfriend a month earlier, that medical personnel had reported those injuries to defendants, and that defendants had negligently failed to take certain actions required by Oregon statutes that governed the reporting of child abuse. Plaintiff also alleged a claim under Oregon’s Vulnerable Person Act, ORS 124.100-124.140, which created a statutory private right of action for enhanced damages against a person who has caused, or “permitt[ed] another person to engage in,” financial or physical abuse of a vulnerable person. Before any litigation of plaintiff’s factual allegations, the parties identified two unresolved questions about the meaning of the Oregon statutes on which plaintiff had based his claims, and the district court certified two questions: (1) whether a claim for Abuse of a Vulnerable Person under ORS § 124.100 et seq., was available against public bodies; and (2) whether a violation of Oregon’s mandatory child abuse reporting law serve as a basis for statutory liability. With respect to Oregon’s Vulnerable Person Act, the Supreme Court concluded that a claim under that act was available against a public body, through the Oregon Tort Claims Act (OTCA), when the claim is based on the acts or omissions of officers, employees, or agents of the public body acting within the scope of their employment or duties. With respect to the "statutory liability," the Court concluded that the Oregon legislature did not intend to create a statutory private right of action to address violations of the duties that the child-abuse-reporting statutes plausibly may have imposed on defendants in this case: duties that apply to law enforcement agencies that have received, and personnel who are investigating, an existing report of child abuse. View "E. J. T. v. Jefferson County" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff Thomas Lowell provided piano tuning services to defendant Medford School District and assisted in producing concerts performed in defendant’s facilities. While providing production assistance for a particular concert, plain- tiff noticed an echo near the stage. He complained to the school theater technician, Stephanie Malone, and, later, feeling that Malone had not adequately responded, he followed up with her. Malone reported to her supervisor that plaintiff appeared to be intoxicated, that he “smelled of alcohol,” and that “this was not the first time.” The supervisor repeated Malone’s statements to a district support services assistant. The assistant sent emails summarizing Malone’s statements to three other district employees, including the supervisor of purchasing. The assistant expressed concerns that appearing on district property under the influence of alcohol violated district policy and the terms of plaintiff’s piano tuning contract. Plaintiff brought this defamation action against Malone, the supervisor and assistant, later substituting the School district for the individual defendants. Defendant answered, asserting multiple affirmative defenses, including the one at issue here: that public employees are entitled to an absolute privilege for defamatory statements made in the course and scope of their employment. The trial court granted defendant's motion for summary judgment on that basis. The Oregon Supreme Court reversed, finding that defendant as a public employer, did not have an affirmative defense of absolute privilege that entitled it to summary judgment. View "Lowell v. Medford School Dist. 549C" on Justia Law

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Petitioner Bruce Querbach sought to overturn a final order of the Oregon Department of Human Services (DHS) which determined that reports to DHS that petitioner had abused two children were “founded.” The circuit court, reviewing the order as an order in other than a contested case, assumed that the “reasonable cause to believe” standard in that rule was a “probable cause” standard. After holding a trial to develop the record for review, as required by Norden v. Water Resources Dept., 996 P2d 958 (2000), the circuit court concluded that only two of DHS’s four “founded” determinations could be sustained under that standard. On petitioner’s appeal and DHS’s cross-appeal, the Court of Appeals rejected the circuit court’s application of a “probable cause” standard and, instead employing the “reasonable suspicion” standard that it had used in an earlier, similar case, concluded that not just two, but three of DHS’s “founded” determinations had to be sustained. Appealing to the Oregon Supreme Court, petitioner argued that “probable cause” was the correct standard for determining that a report of abuse is founded and that none of DHS’s “founded” determinations hold up when the record on review was considered under that standard. Petitioner also argued that, given that the circuit court found that the DHS investigation and analysis into the reported abuse was incomplete and flawed in various respects, the “founded” determinations had to be set aside. The Supreme Court rejected those arguments and affirmed the Court of Appeals’ conclusion that three of the four “founded” dispositions were supported by substantial evidence. View "Querbach v. Dept. of Human Services" on Justia Law

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This case centered on the loss of use or function of claimant’s right knee, specifically, reduced range of motion and decreased stability in that knee, that was determined to be entirely related to causes other than claimant’s compensable workplace injury. In addition, claimant had loss of use or function of that same knee, surgical value and chronic condition loss, that was related to the workplace injury. In claimant’s view, she was entitled to the full measure of impairment for all new findings of loss: the reduced range of motion, the decreased stability, the surgical value, and the chronic condition. On judicial review, the Court of Appeals agreed with claimant, holding that “claimant’s impairment ‘as a whole’ included her whole-person impairment, of which the work injury is a material contributing cause, as well as her impairment due to loss of range of motion and stability.” SAIF disagreed and sought review from the Oregon Supreme Court, arguing that findings of loss due entirely to causes other than the compensable injury did not satisfy the statutory definition of “impairment” and, accordingly, should be excluded from an injured worker’s permanent partial disability award. The Supreme Court agreed with SAIF: claimant was not entitled to compensation for the reduced range of motion and decreased stability findings of loss. Accordingly, the decision of the Court of Appeals was reversed and the order of the Workers’ Compensation Board affirmed. View "Robinette v. SAIF" on Justia Law

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Two groups of petitioners challenged the ballot title that the Oregon Attorney General certified for Initiative Petition 41 (2022) (IP 41). IP 41 would add a new section 16 to Article IX of the Oregon Constitution, which would specify that a “public body may not assess a toll” on any part of an Oregon “highway” unless approved by the voters of nearby counties. After review, the Oregon Supreme Court concluded that petitioners identified two ways in which the ballot title failed to substantially comply with the statutory requirements. Accordingly, the Court referred the ballot title to the Attorney General for modification. View "Salsgiver/Iannarone v. Rosenblum" on Justia Law

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Two sets of electors who were dissatisfied with the Attorney General’s ballot title for Initiative Petition 34 (2022) (IP 34) petitioned the Oregon Supreme Court for review. IP 34 was directed at changing Oregon’s process for reapportioning legislative and congressional districts after each decennial census. Both petitions argued the ballot title did not substantially comply with the requirements of ORS 250.035. The Oregon Supreme Court agreed with some of the arguments raised in the petitions and, therefore, referred the ballot title to the Attorney General for modification. View "Mason/Turrill v. Rosenblum" on Justia Law

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Defendant Mark Bartlett requested the City of Portland to release three city attorney opinions and one legal memorandum. The parties agreed that the documents were public records, were within the scope of the attorney-client privilege, and were more than 25 years old. The city declined to release the documents, arguing that they were exempt from the public records law because of the attorney-client privilege. The specific question presented for the Oregon Supreme Court’s consideration in this case was whether the four documents that were prepared more than 25 years ago by the Portland City Attorney for the mayor and two city commissioners and that were subject to the attorney-client privilege had to be disclosed under ORS 192.390. The Court concluded those documents had to be disclosed. View "City of Portland v. Bartlett" on Justia Law

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The issue this case presented for the Oregon Supreme Court's review centered on whether a truck driver (claimant) who sustained injuries while driving a truck that he leased directly from a trucking company, with restrictions that prohibited him from driving the truck for the use of any other company, was a “subject worker” within the meaning of ORS 656.027 such that the trucking company was required to provide workers’ compensation insurance coverage for claimant’s injuries. SAIF and Robert Murray, the owner of Bob Murray Trucking (BMT), a for-hire carrier, sought review of the Court of Appeals’ opinion affirming the final order of the Workers’ Compensation Board: that claimant was a subject worker of BMT under the workers’ compensation laws and did not qualify for the exemption to “subject worker” status contained in ORS 656.027(15)(c). To this the Supreme Court agreed and affirmed the decision of the Court of Appeals and the Workers’ Compensation Board’s final order. View "SAIF v. Ward" on Justia Law