Justia Oregon Supreme Court Opinion Summaries

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Defendant David Skillicorn, III was charged with first-degree criminal mischief, among other crimes. The state’s theory regarding the charge was that, after a disagreement with his girlfriend, defendant intentionally drove a truck into her car. Defendant admitted he hit the car, but claimed he had done so accidentally. Specifically, he claimed the truck had malfunctioned and that he lost control of it. To rebut that claim, the state sought to introduce evidence that, after a prior disagreement with his girlfriend, defendant had driven recklessly. Over defendant’s objection, the trial court admitted the evidence. The state used the evidence to argue that, when defendant “gets angry, he acts out,” and that, therefore, the jury should find that, on the night of the charged crimes, defendant had acted out by intentionally damaging his girlfriend’s car. The jury convicted defendant of first-degree criminal mischief and other crimes. Defendant appealed, arguing the trial court's admission of the evidence of his prior driving was not admissible "to prove the character of a person in order to show that the person acted in conformity therewith." The state argued that the evidence was admissible under the “doctrine of chances,” as applied in Oregon v. Johns, 725 P2d 312 (1986). The Court of Appeals observed that the evidence appeared to be propensity evidence, which was prohibited by OEC 404(3), but concluded that it was admissible under Johns. The Oregon Supreme Court concurred with the appeals court that the evidence was propensity evidence, but that it was inadmissible. Judgment was reversed and the matter remanded for further proceedings. View "Oregon v. Skillicorn" on Justia Law

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The issue this case presented for the Oregon Supreme Court's review centered on whether ORS 652.200(2) and ORCP 54 E(3) could be construed in a way that “will give effect” to both, in the words of the Oregon Legislature’s longstanding requirement for construing statutes. Plaintiff was employed by defendant for several years. Defendant terminated plaintiff’s employment, and, several months later, plaintiff filed the underlying action alleging defendant failed to pay wages that were due at termination. The case was assigned to mandatory court-annexed arbitration, and defendant made an offer of judgment under ORCP 54 E, which plaintiff rejected. The arbitrator ultimately found that defendant had failed to timely pay some of the wages that plaintiff claimed and that the failure was willful, entitling plaintiff to a statutory penalty. In addition, the arbitrator awarded plaintiff an attorney fee under ORS 652.200(2) and costs, but he applied ORCP 54 E(3) to limit those awards to fees and costs that plaintiff had incurred before defendant’s offer of judgment, because that offer of judgment exceeded the amount that plaintiff had ultimately recovered on his claims. Plaintiff filed exceptions to the arbitrator’s application of ORCP 54 E(3) to limit the award of fees and costs, but the award was affirmed by operation of law when the court failed to enter a decision within 20 days. In a divided en banc opinion, the Court of Appeals held that ORCP 54 E(3) could be applied to wage claims without negating the effect of ORS 652.200(2) and thus, both could be given effect. The Supreme Court concurred with the appellate dissent, finding that and need to limit the attorney fees of an employee who unreasonably rejects a good faith offer or tender could be addressed on a case-by-case basis under ORS 20.075(2), but the “reasonable” attorney fee required by ORS 652.200(2) could not be categorically limited through ORCP 54 E(3). Judgment was reversed and the matter returned to the circuit court for further proceedings. View "Mathis v. St. Helens Auto Center, Inc." 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 issue presented for the Oregon Supreme Court's review in this case was whether ordinary first-class mail is, or can be, a “class of delivery calculated to achieve delivery within three calendar days.” Defendant was convicted on driving while suspended and for failing to register her vehicle. Wishing to appeal that judgment and acting without legal representation, defendant sent a notice of appeal to the Appellate Court Administrator by first-class mail. Defendant certified that the “method of filing” she had used for her notice was “United States Postal Service, ordinary first class mail.” A postage validation imprint (PVI) label on the envelope showed that petitioner had submitted her notice of appeal to the United States Post Office (USPS) for mailing on Monday, July 9, 2018, the last day of the applicable appeals period. The Appellate Court Administrator received defendant’s notice of appeal two days later, on Wednesday, July 11, 2018. The notice was forwarded to the Appellate Commissioner, who concluded that it was untimely and issued an order dismissing defendant’s appeal on that ground. The Court of Appeals majority concluded that first-class mail could, in no circumstances, be such a class of delivery and therefore, a notice of appeal that had been dispatched by first-class mail on the last day of the appeals period and received by the court two days later was untimely - requiring dismissal of the underlying appeal. The Supreme Court rejected the appellate majority’s analysis and conclusion, and also rejected an alternative theory for dismissing the appeal that was raised in a concurring opinion - a supposed failure to comply with proof-of-mailing-date requirements in ORS 19.260(1)(a)(B) and (1)(b). Accordingly, the Court of Appeals’ dismissal of the appeal was reversed and the matter remanded to that court for further proceedings. View "Oregon v. Chapman" on Justia Law

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The issue before the Oregon Supreme Court in this matter was whether defendant Peter Ciraulo's conviction should be reversed in light of Ramos v. Louisiana, 140 S Ct 1390 (2020), which held that only a unanimous jury can find a defendant guilty of a serious crime. Defendant was charged with first-degree forgery, possession of a forged instrument, and third-degree theft. Defendant was tried before a twelve-person jury, in a trial that occurred before the Supreme Court’s decision in Ramos. Before trial, defendant requested that the jury be instructed that it needed to be unanimous in order to return a conviction. The trial court denied defendant’s request, stating: “[U]ntil the Court of Appeals tells me otherwise, I’ll continue to comply with the law that requires the ten-person verdict in felony cases.” After deliberation, the jury found defendant guilty of all three counts. After receiving the verdict form, the trial court asked the presiding juror whether the jury’s decision had been unanimous, and the presiding juror confirmed that it had been. The trial court asked defendant whether there was any need to poll the jury further, and defense counsel responded that there was not. To the Oregon Supreme Court, defendant argued that Ramos required his convictions be reversed: (1) the nonunanimous jury instruction was a structural error, which always required reversal; and (2) even if the error is subject to a harmlessness analysis, the poll of the jury is insufficient to establish that the jury instruction was harmless beyond a reasonable doubt. The Supreme Court concluded that, although the jury instruction permitting nonunanimous verdicts was erroneous, the error was harmless beyond a reasonable doubt as to all of the verdicts in this case. Judgment was affirmed. View "Oregon v. Ciraulo" on Justia Law

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The issue before the Oregon Supreme Court in this matter was whether defendant Zackery Chorney-Phillips' conviction should be reversed in light of Ramos v. Louisiana, 140 S Ct 1390 (2020), which held that only a unanimous jury can find a defendant guilty of a serious crime. Defendant was charged with first- and second-degree custodial interference and was found guilty on both counts by a twelve-person jury. At trial, which occurred before the Supreme Court’s Ramos decision, the court instructed the jury that “[t]en or more jurors must agree on your verdict,” and defendant did not object to that jury instruction. After the jury returned its verdict, on a form that contained no indication of how individual jurors voted, the trial court polled the jury at defendant’s request. All jurors indicated they concurred with the verdict. For purposes of sentencing, the court merged the jury’s two guilty verdicts into one conviction for first-degree custodial interference, and then entered judgment. Defendant appealed, arguing the nonunanimous jury instruction was a structural error, which always required reversal. In addition, defendant argued the erroneous instruction required reversal under the federal harmless error standard because the poll of the jury was insufficient to establish the jury instruction was harmless beyond a reasonable doubt. The State did not dispute the instruction was given in error, but it argued the error was harmless because each of defendant’s convictions was based on a unanimous verdict. The State also argued defendant’s acceptance of the jury poll prevented him from challenging the adequacy of the jury poll on appeal. The Oregon Supreme Court ultimately determined it was not appropriate to exercise its discretion to review defendant's unpreserved assignment of error as plain error; judgment was therefore affirmed. View "Oregon v. Chorney-Phillips" on Justia Law

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The issue before the Oregon Supreme Court in this matter was whether defendant Charles Kincheloe's conviction should be reversed in light of Ramos v. Louisiana, 140 S Ct 1390 (2020), which held that only a unanimous jury can find a defendant guilty of a serious crime. Defendant was charged with several offenses, including first-degree rape, first-degree sodomy, and fourth-degree assault. Defendant’s case was tried to a twelve-person jury in 2018, prior to Ramos. While formulating jury instructions, the trial court asked defendant whether he wished to object to the instruction that the jury could return a nonunanimous verdict, stating, “All the defense attorneys are doing that now.” Defense counsel responded, “That’s fine.” There was no further discussion of the issue. The jury was instructed that “10 or more jurors must agree on the verdict.” The jury found defendant guilty as charged. Defendant requested that the trial court poll the jury. The poll revealed that the jury had unanimously convicted defendant of the sodomy and assault charges but that it had divided eleven to one on the rape count. Defendant appealed, assigning error to the nonunanimous jury instruction and to the receipt of the nonunanimous verdict. Defendant conceded that he had not preserved that assignment of error, and he asked the Court of Appeals to conduct plain error review. In his briefing to the Oregon Supreme Court, defendant argued that his exchange with the trial court was sufficient to preserve an objection to the nonunanimous jury instruction. The state conceded that defendant’s single conviction based on a nonunanimous verdict had to be reversed, but it argued the instructional error was harmless with respect to the two convictions based on unanimous verdicts. Even assuming that defendant preserved an objection to the jury instruction, the Oregon Supreme Court concluded that error was harmless as to the two convictions based on unanimous verdicts. Defendant's convictions were therefore affirmed without the Court addressing whether defendant adequately preserved an objection to the nonunanimous jury instruction. View "Oregon v. Kincheloe" on Justia Law

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The issue before the Oregon Supreme Court in this matter was whether defendant Michael Dilallo's conviction should be reversed in light of Ramos v. Louisiana, 140 S Ct 1390 (2020), which held that only a unanimous jury can find a defendant guilty of a serious crime. Defendant was charged with delivery of methamphetamine and conspiracy to commit delivery of methamphetamine. He entered a plea of not guilty. Both charges were tried to a twelve-person jury in 2018, before the Ramos decision. At trial, consistent with Article I, section 11, of the Oregon Constitution, the jury was instructed that it could convict him without reaching unanimity. Defendant did not object to that jury instruction, and the record did not reveal whether the jury’s guilty verdicts were unanimous. Defendant argued that, although he did not preserve an objection to the erroneous jury instruction, the Oregon Supreme Court should exercise its discretion to review the trial court's error. Because of the absence of a jury poll, the Oregon Court concluded it was not appropriate to consider defendant’s unpreserved assignment of error; therefore defendant’s judgment of conviction was affirmed. View "Oregon v. Dilallo" on Justia Law

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The issue before the Oregon Supreme Court in this matter was whether defendant Isidro Flores Ramos' conviction should be reversed in light of Ramos v. Louisiana, 140 S Ct 1390 (2020), which held that only a unanimous jury can find a defendant guilty of a serious crime. Defendant broke into a home and sexually assaulted a nine-year-old girl. Defendant was charged with first-degree unlawful sexual penetration, first-degree sexual abuse, attempted first-degree rape, first-degree burglary, and coercion. Before trial, he filed a motion requesting that the jury be instructed that it needed to be unanimous to convict. The trial court denied that motion. The jury returned guilty verdicts on each of the five counts. The trial court polled the jury; the poll indicated the jury had reached a unanimous guilty verdict on all counts except for the attempted first-degree rape count. On that count, only ten jurors voted to convict. Defendant did not object to the manner in which the trial court polled the jury, and defense counsel indicated that he was satisfied by the poll. Defendant appealed. As relevant here, he assigned error to both the use of the nonunanimous jury instruction and the receipt of the nonunanimous verdict—assignments of error that he had preserved in the trial court. He argued that those errors required reversal of all his convictions. In a decision before the federal Supreme Court's Ramos decision, the Oregon Court of Appeals affirmed without opinion. Because the jury returned four unanimous verdicts, the Oregon Supreme Court determined those convictions could stand; however, pursuant to Ramos, the fifth, nonunanimous conviction was reversed. View "Oregon v. Flores Ramos" 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