Justia Government & Administrative Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Oregon Supreme Court
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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

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Relator was a prospective candidate for Oregon governor. After he filed his declaration of candidacy with the Secretary of State, the secretary asked relator for additional information to substantiate that he will “have been three years next preceding his election, a resident within this State,” as required to serve as governor by Article V, section 2, of the Oregon Constitution. Relator submitted additional materials in support of his claim that he met the constitutional eligibility requirement. Upon reviewing those materials, the secretary determined that, although relator had previously been a resident of Oregon, he had been a resident of New York since at least 2000 and he had not reestablished Oregon residency by November 2019. The secretary therefore concluded that relator did not meet the constitutional requirement, and informed him his name would not be placed on the ballot in the primary election. The next day, relator filed a petition for writ of mandamus with the Oregon Supreme Court, asking the Court to direct the secretary to reverse her determination and to instruct county officials to place relator’s name on the ballot. The issues this case presented for the Supreme Court's review were: (1) the meaning of “resident within this State,” as those words are used in Article V, section 2, of the Oregon Constitution; and (2) whether the secretary was required to conclude that relator met that legal standard. The Court concluded that “resident within,” when viewed against the legal context that surrounded the Oregon Constitution’s 1857 ratification, was best understood to refer to the legal concept of “domicile,” which required “the fact of a fixed habitation or abode in a particular place, and an intention to remain there permanently or indefinitely[.] Under that legal concept, a person can have only a single residence at a time." Further, the Court held the secretary was not required to conclude that relator was domiciled in Oregon between November 2019 and December 2020. Although relator challenged the constitutionality of the durational residency requirement in Article V, section 2, that question was not properly considered through a mandamus proceeding. The Court therefore dismissed the alternative writ and denied relator’s petition. View "Oregon ex rel Kristof v. Fagan" on Justia Law

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The question in this case was whether the Secretary of State was required to count the signatures on an initiative petition of voters whose registration was deemed “inactive.” Plaintiffs were supporters of Initiative Petition 50 (2016) (IP 50) who sought to qualify that initiative for the 2016 ballot. After the secretary subtracted the signatures of voters with inactive registration, the petition did not have enough signatures to be placed on the ballot. Plaintiffs brought this action challenging the secretary’s exclusion of those signatures. Plaintiffs argued that voters with inactive registration could sign initiative petitions because, even if their registration was inactive, they were still registered, and therefore remain “qualified voters” within the meaning of Article IV, section 1. The secretary responded that those voters could not sign initiative petitions because voters with inactive registration were not “registered * * * in the manner provided by law,” and they therefore were not “qualified voters” within the meaning of Article IV, section 1. The Oregon Supreme Court concluded, like the secretary, that because voters whose registrations were inactive were not eligible to vote, they were not “qualified voters” within the meaning of Article IV, section 1. Accordingly, the Court held that their signatures on initiative petitions could not be counted, and that the secretary properly excluded them when determining the number of signatures submitted in support of IP 50. View "Whitehead v. Fagan" on Justia Law

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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