Justia Government & Administrative Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Oregon Supreme Court
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The issue on appeal in this case was whether taxpayer, Ooma, Inc., a California company, had sufficient contacts or nexus with Oregon to make it subject to local tax. The Oregon Tax Court concluded that Ooma’s contacts and nexus with Oregon were sufficient to satisfy the Due Process and Commerce Clauses, and granted summary judgment to the Department of Revenue. Finding no reversible error in that judgment, the Oregon Supreme Court affirmed the Tax Court. View "Ooma, Inc. v. Dept. of Rev." on Justia Law

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At issue before the Oregon Supreme Court in this case wa whether the hydroelectric water right for a hydroelectric power plant that has not operated for 26 years was subject to conversion to an in-stream water right, upon a finding that such conversion would not injure other existing water rights. The holder of a hydroelectric water right stopped operating the associated hydroelectric power plant in eastern Oregon (the “project”) in 1995 and the project was decommissioned; afterward, the holder leased the water right to the state for use as an in-stream water right. That lease was periodically renewed over the last 21 years, and the Oregon Water Resources Department (WRD) never commenced the process for converting the hydroelectric water right to an in-stream water right. Whether the water right here should have been subject to conversion depended on the meaning and interaction of two statutes: ORS 543A.305 (the “conversion statute”), and ORS 537.348 (the “lease statute”). Petitioner WaterWatch of Oregon argued that, under the conversion statute, the hydroelectric right was subject to conversion because no water was used under that right for hydroelectric purposes since 1995, and, therefore, use has ceased. WRD and the current holder of that hydroelectric water right, Warm Springs Hydro LLC contended the right was not subject to conversion because, even though the water has not been used for hydroelectric purposes, the water has been used for in-stream purposes during the periodic leases of the water right to the state under the lease statute. Therefore, respondents contended, use did not entirely cease in any given five-year period. The Supreme Court agreed with WaterWatch and held that the hydroelectric water right now held by Warm Springs Hydro was subject to conversion to an in-stream water right under the terms of ORS 543A.305. The Court therefore reversed the Court of Appeals’ decision and the judgment of the circuit court, and remanded to the circuit court for further proceedings. View "WaterWatch of Oregon v. Water Resources Dept." on Justia Law

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Two juvenile dependency cases raised an issue of the scope of a juvenile court’s temporary emergency jurisdiction under ORS 109.751, which was part of Oregon’s enactment of the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act (UCCJEA). Parents were residents of Washington who were living temporarily at a motel in Oregon. The juvenile court asserted temporary emergency jurisdiction over their 15-month-old son after police, investigating the death of his infant brother, found him living in squalid and dangerous conditions in the motel room. The court later entered several dependency judgments concerning that child as well as another child later born to Parents in Washington. Parents challenged the juvenile court’s authority under ORS 109.751 or any other provision of the UCCJEA to issue dependency judgments making their two children wards of the court in Oregon. On Parents’ appeals, the Court of Appeals affirmed the juvenile court, holding that the juvenile court had properly exercised temporary emergency jurisdiction as to both children under ORS 109.751 and did not exceed its temporary emergency jurisdiction when it issued dependency judgments as to the children. Only mother filed a petition for review, which the Oregon Supreme Court allowed. After review, the Supreme Court affirmed the juvenile court’s denial of mother’s motions to dismiss the dependency petitions, because the juvenile court had temporary emergency jurisdiction under the UCCJEA to enter dependency judgments as to the children. However, the juvenile court exceeded the scope of its temporary emergency jurisdiction, and therefore we vacate certain parts of the dependency judgments. As a result, the appellate court was affirmed in part and reversed in part. View "Dept. of Human Services v. J. S." on Justia Law

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Plaintiff Janae Sherman brought child abuse claims against the Oregon Department of Human Services (defendant), alleging that it had negligently failed to protect her from abuse while she was in foster care. Defendant moved to dismiss, claiming it was immune from liability under a provision of the Oregon Tort Claims Act, ORS 30.265(6)(d). Defendant argued that plaintiff’s claims were barred by the provisions of ORS 12.115, a statute of ultimate repose for negligent injury claims. The trial court agreed with defendant, rejecting plaintiff’s argument that ORS 12.117, and not ORS 12.115, applied to child abuse claims and did not bar plaintiff’s claims. The Court of Appeals reversed. The Oregon Supreme Court concluded ORS 12.117 applied to child abuse claims and that ORS 30.265(6)(d) did not provide defendant with immunity. View "Sherman v. Dept. of Human Services" on Justia Law

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Taxpayer Level 3 Communications, LLC (Level 3) challenged the Oregon Tax Court’s determination of the real market value of its tangible and intangible property for the 2014-15, 2015-16, and 2016-17 tax years. Level 3 argued that the Tax Court held that the central assessment statutory scheme permitted taxation of the entire enterprise value of the company, contrary to the wording of applicable statutes that permit taxation only of a centrally assessed corporation’s property. According to Level 3, the Tax Court applied that erroneous holding to incorrectly accept the Department of Revenue’s (the department’s) valuations of Level 3’s property for the relevant tax years. The Oregon Supreme Court concluded Level 3 misconstrued the Tax Court’s decision, and the Tax Court did not err by accepting the department’s valuations. Accordingly, the Tax Court’s judgment was affirmed. View "Level 3 Communications, LLC v. Dept. of Rev." on Justia Law

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In a workers’ compensation case, the issue presented for the Oregon Supreme Court's review centered on the scope of an employer’s obligation under ORS 656.262(7)(c) to reopen a closed claim for processing if a “condition is found compensable after claim closure.” The closed claim at issue here was claimant Randy Simi's accepted right rotator cuff tear, and the conditions giving rise to the dispute were supraspinatus and infraspinatus tendon tears, which claimant asked employer to accept as “new or omitted” conditions. Employer issued a denial specifying that the conditions were not compensable, but, without withdrawing the denial, employer later took the position that the tendon tears were “encompassed” within the originally accepted rotator cuff tear. That change of position caused an administrative law judge (ALJ) to determine that the tendon conditions were compensable and to set aside employer’s denial. According to claimant, that ALJ order triggered employer’s obligation under ORS 656.262(7)(c) to reopen the claim. Employer contended, however, that the legislature did not require reopening if the compensable condition at issue was “encompassed within” the already-accepted conditions, even if the employer also had denied that the condition was compensable. A majority of the Workers’ Compensation Board and a majority of the Court of Appeals panel agreed with employer, and the Supreme Court allowed review to consider this disputed question of statutory interpretation. Based on its examination of the statutory text and context, the Supreme Court concluded the legislature intended employers to reopen compensable claims for processing when a compensability denial was set aside after claim closure, including under the circumstances of this case. Accordingly, the Court of Appeals' decision was reversed. View "Simi v. LTI Inc. - Lynden Inc." on Justia Law

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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