Justia Government & Administrative Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Oregon Supreme Court
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In January 2020, the Energy Facility Siting Council adopted permanent rules addressing the process for amending site certificates and other procedural aspects of the council’s work. Petitioners challenged three of the council’s new rules on two grounds, contending the rules exceeded the council’s statutory authority. According to petitioners, two of the rules improperly limited party participation in contested case proceedings, and the third rule improperly authorized the expansion of site certificate boundaries without a site certificate amendment. The council disputed those arguments. The Oregon Supreme Court concurred with petitioners’ arguments and declared the three rules at issue invalid. View "Friends of Columbia Gorge v. Energy Fac. Siting Coun." on Justia Law

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Plaintiff James De Young was a city councilor and resident of the City of Damascus, Oregon. Defendants were Kate Brown, in her official capacity as Governor, and the State of Oregon. In De Young I, the Court of Appeals considered the validity of an effort to disincorporate the City of Damascus: in a 2013 election, the residents of the city had voted on a referral from the city council to disincorporate the city. Although a majority of those participating in the election voted in favor of disincorporating, the number fell short of the absolute majority for disincorporation required by law. In 2015, the Oregon legislature passed House Bill (HB) 3085, which referred to the decision whether to disincorporate, and specifically provided that a majority of those voting, rather than an absolute majority of the city’s electors, would be sufficient to disincorporate. Prior to the 2016 election, plaintiff sought to enjoin the scheduled disincorporation vote, alleging HB 3085 violated the city charter, state statutes, and the Oregon Constitution. The trial court denied plaintiff’s request to enjoin the election, and the city residents voted to disincorporate. Following the election, the city paid its debts, transferred its assets to Clackamas County, surrendered its charter, terminated or transferred its employees, and, essentially, ceased to exist. Plaintiff continued his lawsuit, seeking a declaration that the vote had violated various statutory and constitutional requirements and, therefore, the city had not been validly disincorporated. The trial court granted summary judgment in favor of the State, declaring “Measure 93” valid. The Court of Appeals ultimately agreed with plaintiff on his statutory argument, holding that ORS 221.610 and ORS 221.621 (2013) provided the only means by which a city could disincorporate and that, because Measure 93 had not complied with those statutes, it was invalid. Shortly after the Court of Appeals decision was issued, the legislature passed Senate Bill (SB) 226 (2019) “to cure any defect in the procedures, and to ratify the results” of the 2016 disincorporation vote. Following the Court of Appeals’ decision in De Young I but prior to the issuance of the Oregon Supreme Court’s decision in City of Damascus, plaintiff petitioned for an award of attorney fees and costs in De Young I. Applying the “substantial benefit” theory, the Court of Appeals allowed plaintiff’s petition for attorney fees, and remanded for a determination of fees and costs incurred in the circuit court. The State appealed. The Oregon Supreme Court concluded the Court of Appeals did not err in awarding plaintiff fees under the substantial benefit theory. View "De Young v. Brown" on Justia Law

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At Tax Court, the parties disagreed about what types of equipment fall within the definition of "logging equipment" exempt from ad valorem property taxation under ORS 307.27. Specifically, they disagreed about what types of equipment used for logging road work - logging road construction, maintenance, reconstruction, improvement, closure, or obliteration - fell within the definition. Plaintiff Bert Brundige, LLC argued that all types of equipment used for logging road work fell within the definition. Defendant, the Oregon Department of Revenue, argued that excavators were the only type of equipment used for logging road work that fell within the definition. The Tax Court agreed with defendant and entered a judgment in its favor. Plaintiff appealed. Finding no reversible error, the Oregon Supreme Court affirmed. View "Bert Brundige, LLC v. Dept. of Rev." on Justia Law

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The Speaker of the Oregon House of Representatives, and the President of the Oregon State Senate, on behalf of the Oregon Legislative Assembly, informed the Oregon Supreme Court that the federal government would not meet its statutory deadline to produce federal decennial census data and, therefore, that neither the Legislative Assembly nor the Oregon Secretary of State (Secretary) would be able to meet the deadlines for decennial reapportionment of state legislative districts set out in Article IV, section 6, of the Oregon Constitution. Relators asked the Supreme Court to exercise its authority under Article VII (Amended), section 2, of the Oregon Constitution and issue a writ of mandamus requiring the Secretary to fulfill her constitutionally specified duties, and to do so on dates ordered by the court. Relators served their petition for writ of mandamus on the Secretary, and she appeared in opposition. The Court elected to exercise that authority to compel compliance with Article IV, section 6, according to a revised schedule set out in an appendix to its opinion in this case. The Court thus issued a peremptory writ to direct the Secretary to abide by that schedule. View "Oregon ex rel Kotek v. Fagan" on Justia Law

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Relating to the Oregon Supreme Court's holding in Oregon v. Chapman, 367 Or 388 (2020), petitioner similarly contended that the Court of Appeals wrongly dismissed her petition for judicial review of an order of the Land Use Board of Appeals as untimely when she had mailed the petition by ordinary first-class mail on the last day of the appeals period. Petitioner was a party to a proceeding before the Land Use Board of Appeals (LUBA). LUBA delivered its final order in the matter on June 21, 2019, and petitioner sought to challenge it. Under ORS 197.850(3)(a), petitioner could obtain judicial review of the final order by filing a petition in the Court of Appeals “within 21 days following the date the board delivered or mailed the order upon which the petition is based.” Twenty- one days from June 21, 2019, was July 12, 2019, a Friday. Although the lawyer had intended that the petitions be sent by certified mail, return receipt requested, as stated in the certificate of filing and service that was enclosed, the legal assistant instead sent them by first-class mail and purchased a certificate of mailing for each one. The petition for judicial review was delivered to the Appellate Court Administrator on Monday, July 15, the date estimated on the USPS receipt. Shortly thereafter, the Appellate Commissioner issued an order dismissing the petition as untimely, explaining that it had been received by the court on July 15, 2019 - more than 21 days from the date that the LUBA order had been served. Applying the rule established in Chapman, the Supreme Court concluded ORS 19.260(1)(a)(B) applied here, and that as a consequence, petitioner’s petition for judicial review was timely filed and should not have been dismissed. View "Gould v. Deschutes County" on Justia Law

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The appeal before the Oregon Supreme Court in this case was an attorney fee dispute arising out of an administrative rules challenge. Petitioners successfully challenged rules adopted by the Energy Facility Siting Council that amended the process for reviewing requests for amendment (RFAs) to site certificates. Petitioners sought $299,325.64 in attorney fees under ORS 183.497. The council asked the Supreme Court the court to award no fees. After review, the Supreme Court awarded petitioners $31,633 in attorney fees. "In the end, the most relevant statutory factor here in resolving the parties’ dispute is '[t]he time and labor required in the proceeding, the novelty and difficulty of the questions involved in the proceeding and the skill needed to properly perform the legal services.' . . . it does require attorney time and effort to defeat even meritless arguments, like the council’s argument on this issue. Having carefully reviewed petitioners’ filing, and based on other fee petitions recently filed in this court and our experience with appellate briefing and argument as judges and lawyers, we conclude that it is reasonable to compensate petitioners for 70 hours of work for briefing the claim on judicial review and preparing a fee petition for work on that claim." View "Friends of Columbia Gorge v. Energy Fac. Siting Coun." on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs, two young Oregonians, concerned about the effects of climate change and their guardians, filed suit against the Governor and the State of Oregon (collectively, the State), contending the State was required to act as a trustee under the public trust doctrine to protect various natural resources in Oregon from substantial impairment due to greenhouse gas emissions and resultant climate change and ocean acidification. Among other things, plaintiffs asked the circuit court to specify the natural resources protected by the public trust doctrine and to declare that the State had a fiduciary duty, which it breached, to prevent substantial impairment of those resources caused by emissions of greenhouse gases. Plaintiffs also asked for an injunction ordering the State to: (1) prepare an annual accounting of Oregon’s carbon dioxide emissions; and (2) implement a carbon reduction plan protecting the natural resources, which the court would supervise to ensure enforcement. The circuit court granted the State’s motion for summary judgment and denied plaintiffs’ motion for partial summary judgment, concluding the public trust doctrine did not encompass most of the natural resources that plaintiffs identified, and did not require the State to take the protective measures that plaintiffs sought. In 2015, the circuit court entered a general judgment dismissing the action, and the Court of Appeals vacated the judgment and remanded for the circuit court to enter a judgment, consistent the Court of Appeals opinion, declaring the parties’ rights. Plaintiffs appealed, arguing that as a matter of common law, the public trust doctrine was not fixed and, that it must evolve to address the undisputed circumstances presented, namely, that climate change was damaging Oregon’s natural resources. They argued the doctrine was not limited to the natural resources that the circuit court identified and, the doctrine should cover other natural resources beyond those that have been traditionally protected. The Oregon Supreme Court held the public trust doctrine currently encompassed navigable waters and the submerged and submersible lands underlying those waters. "Although the public trust is capable of expanding to include more natural resources, we do not extend the doctrine to encompass other natural resources at this time." The Supreme Court also declined to adopt plaintiffs’ position that, under the doctrine, the State had the same fiduciary duties that a trustee of a common-law private trust would have, such as a duty to prevent substantial impairment of trust resources. Accordingly, the Court affirmed the Court of Appeals, which vacated the judgment of the circuit court. The matter was remanded the circuit court to enter a judgment consistent with Supreme Court's judgment. View "Chernaik v. Brown" on Justia Law

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In Senate Bill (SB) 226 (2019), enacted as Oregon Laws 2019, chapter 545, sections 1 to 5, the Oregon Legislature sought to retroactively cure defects in a 2016 local election in which voters approved disincorporating the City of Damascus. Anticipating controversy as to the validity and effectiveness of SB 226 in curing the problem with the election, the legislature included a provision for direct and expedited review by the Oregon Supreme Court upon a timely petition filed by any person who was “interested in or affected or aggrieved” by the statute. Petitioners, who included at least one person who was “interested in or affected or aggrieved,” challenged SB 226 on various statutory and constitutional grounds in a timely filed petition. Having considered their arguments and the state’s responses, the Supreme Court concluded SB 226 was valid, and that it accomplished what the legislature intended, giving effect to the 2016 vote by the city’s residents to disincorporate. View "City of Damascus v. Oregon" on Justia Law

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The Oregon legislature made various changes to the Public Employees Retirement System (PERS) by enacting amendments set out in SB 1049, Or Laws 2019, ch 355. Petitioners were PERS members challenging two of those amendments: (1) the redirection of a member's PERS contributions from the member’s individual account program to a newly created employee pension stability account, used to help fund the defined-benefit component of the member’s retirement plan; and (2) a cap on the salary used to calculate a member's benefits. Petitioners primarily argued the amendments impaired their contractual rights and therefore violated the state Contract Clause, Article I, section 21, of the Oregon Constitution. Respondents were the state, the Public Employees Retirement Board (the board), and various state and local public employers. The Oregon Supreme Court disagreed with petitioners' contentions, finding challenged amendments did not operate retrospectively to decrease the retirement benefits attributable to work that the member performed before the effective date of the amendments. And, although the amendments operated prospectively to change the offer for future retirement benefits, the preamendment statutes did not include a promise that the retirement benefits would not be changed prospectively. The Supreme Court resolved petitioners’ other claims on similar grounds and denied their requests for relief. View "James v. Oregon" on Justia Law

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After claimant Danny Arvidson received an award of permanent total disability, insurer Liberty Northwest Insurance Corporation requested a hearing before an administrative law judge (ALJ) to review the award. The ALJ dismissed insurer’s hearing request as time-barred. The question on review before the Oregon Supreme Court was whether that dismissal entitled claimant to attorney fees under ORS 656.382(2), which provided that, if an insurer initiates review of a compensation award and the reviewing body “finds that ... all or part of the compensation awarded ... should not be reduced or disallowed,” the insurer shall pay the claimant’s attorney a “reasonable attorney fee.” The ALJ determined that the statute applied to the dismissal of insurer’s claim and awarded fees to claimant. The Workers’ Compensation Board reached a different conclusion and reversed that decision. The Court of Appeals affirmed without opinion. The Oregon Supreme Court reversed, finding the ALJ correctly determined that his dismissal of insurer’s request for hearing entitled claimant to attorney fees. The board erred in concluding otherwise. View "Arvidson v. Liberty Northwest Ins. Corp." on Justia Law