Justia Oregon Supreme Court Opinion Summaries

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In consolidated cases, petitioners sought judicial review of the Oregon Attorney General’s certified ballot title for Initiative Petition 40 (2020) (IP 40). If enacted, IP 40 would establish requirements for securing firearms, reporting the loss or theft of firearms, and supervising minors’ use of firearms. It would also establish consequences for violating those requirements, including strict liability for injuries caused by use of the firearms involved in the violations. After review, the Oregon Supreme Court concluded the ballot title’s caption and “yes” result statement did not substantially comply with the applicable statutory requirements. Therefore, the Court referred the ballot title to the Attorney General for modification. View "Hopkins/Starrett v. Rosenblum" on Justia Law

Posted in: Election Law
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At issue in this case is evidence discovered in a purse during an inventory of an impounded vehicle. A Hillsboro police officer observed defendant Tamara Fulmer driving a vehicle with expired registration tags. The officer initiated a stop, and defendant pulled over. The officer approached defendant and informed her of the reason for the stop. Defendant admitted not only that her registration tags were expired, but also that her driver’s license had expired and that she did not have insurance. The officer returned to the patrol vehicle, confirmed the information that defendant had given, and began writing a citation. The officer determined that defendant’s vehicle would need to be towed and impounded, as defendant could not legally drive it without a license or insurance, and it was blocking a bicycle lane. The officer called a second officer to assist. The first officer informed defendant that he would need to do an inventory of defendant's vehicle and told her to step out of the vehicle so the second officer could begin that process. Defendant exited the vehicle with her cell phone and a pack of cigarettes in her hand, but her purse remained on the passenger’s seat. Defendant neither asked to nor was told that she could remove additional items from the car. She stood near the patrol vehicle while the inventory took place. The second officer began the inventory by looking in defendant’s purse. In a wallet inside defendant’s purse, the officer found used syringes and a small amount of methamphetamine. Defendant was charged with unlawful possession of methamphetamine. She moved to suppress the evidence found in her purse, arguing that the officers had unlawfully searched her purse. She acknowledged that, the Oregon Supreme Court previously recognized an inventory exception to the warrant requirement, but she asserted that the exception did not apply because the officers had not told her that she could remove her purse from her car. The trial court denied defendant’s motion to suppress, determining that “the inventory search was valid and it was lawfully followed through [the] policy that’s been implemented by the City of Hillsboro.” The trial court also determined that the officers were not required to ask defendant if she wanted to take her purse with her before conducting the inventory. The Supreme Court concluded after review of the trial court record that the application of the inventory exception in this case violated defendant’s rights under Article I, section 9. The trial court therefore erred in denying her pretrial motion to suppress, and the resulting judgment of conviction had to be reversed. View "Oregon v. Fulmer" on Justia Law

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In this forcible entry and detainer (FED) action to recover possession of a residential dwelling unit, the issue presented for the Oregon Supreme Court's consideration was whether the trial court erred in allowing landlord’s motion to amend its complaint, pursuant to ORCP 23, after the parties attended a first-appearance hearing and tenant filed her answer. In its original complaint, landlord alleged that it was entitled to possession based on a 72-hour notice - which, under ORS 90.394, could be given for nonpayment of rent - and attached that notice to its complaint. Two days before trial, landlord sought leave to amend its complaint to attach a different notice, a 30-day notice, which, under ORS 90.392, could be given “for cause,” including a material violation of the rental agreement. The Supreme Court determined the proposed amendment substantially changed landlord’s claim for relief and prejudiced tenant, and that the trial court abused its discretion in allowing it. It therefore reversed both the contrary decisions of the Court of Appeals and the trial court. View "C.O. Homes, LLC v. Cleveland" on Justia Law

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This interlocutory appeal involves the “unavailability as a witness” requirement under Oregon Evidence Code (OEC) 804(1), for purposes of applying an exception to the hearsay rule in a criminal case. The State served a subpoena on a key witness to testify against defendant Chad Iseli and made other efforts to ensure her attendance at trial, but she did not attend. The State therefore moved to introduce her earlier out-of- court statements under the “forfeiture-by-wrongdoing” exception to the hearsay rule, OEC 804(3)(g). The trial court found that the State had made substantial efforts to secure the witness’s attendance and that she had expressed safety concerns about testifying. It also found, in relation to the forfeiture-by-wrongdoing exception, that defendant had engaged in intentional, wrongful conduct that had caused her absence. The court further determined, however, that the State had not established that the witness was unavailable because it had not sought a material witness warrant or a remedial contempt order. The court therefore denied the state’s motion to admit her earlier statements. The State appealed that ruling, and the Court of Appeals reversed, reasoning that, particularly in light of defendant’s intentional, wrongful conduct, the State had satisfied the “process or other reasonable means” requirement of OEC 804(1)(e), thereby establishing that the witness was unavailable. The Oregon Supreme Court reversed, finding that while the trial court was incorrect to view certain facts as categorically irrelevant to the “unavailability as a witness” determination under OEC 804(1)(e). "Ultimately, though, when we add those facts to the calculus, we again conclude that the trial court’s ultimate ruling - that the state did not satisfy the “other reasonable means” component and, therefore, did not establish that the victim was unavailable - was correct. View "Oregon v. Iseli" on Justia Law

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In this case, after defendants (tenants) were sued for collection of unpaid rent, they alleged a counterclaim for damages under ORS 90.360(2) on the ground that plaintiffs (landlords) had not maintained the premises in a habitable condition. The trial court dismissed that counterclaim, reasoning that tenants had failed to provide landlords with written notice of the alleged violation and had acted with “unclean hands.” The Court of Appeals affirmed on somewhat different grounds, concluding that, in light of the trial court’s findings, tenants had failed to act in good faith for purposes of ORS 90.130 and that their counterclaim was therefore barred. The Oregon Supreme Court reversed, finding that neither ORS 90.360(2) nor ORS 90.370 required written notice as a prerequisite for a tenant’s counterclaim under ORS 90.360(2). The trial court’s contrary view was erroneous. Moreover, the Supreme Court found the record from the hearing demonstrated that the trial court relied heavily on its erroneous understanding that written notice was required when it determined that tenants had not acted in good faith for purposes of ORS 90.130. Because it could not conclude that the trial court would have reached the same conclusion as to good faith even if it had correctly applied ORS 90.360(2), the matter was remanded to the trial court for further proceedings. View "Eddy v. Anderson" on Justia Law

Posted in: Landlord - Tenant
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Petitioner Pedro Martinez was ‘playing with’ a gun, and asked the victim for his wallet. The victim refused. Petitioner then asked the victim to get out of his car, and the victim refused that request, too, saying "you ain’t getting my wallet and you ain’t getting my car." Petitioner said, "Well, then I’m going to have to shoot you." As the victim tried to drive away, petitioner did just that: shooting the victim once in the arm. The victim testified that his car already was moving when petitioner fired; the victim believed it was possible that the car bumped petitioner’s hand, causing him to lose some control of the gun when he pulled the trigger. The victim drove the short distance to his home and called 9-1-1. He was transported to a hospital. A doctor who treated the victim testified that the bullet broke the victim’s arm and fragments traveled to his chest, coming within inches of multiple blood vessels. Petitioner was indicted on several counts, though the only counts relevant here charged petitioner with first-degree robbery and attempted aggravated felony murder. He sought post-conviction relief, contending that his counsel had been constitutionally inadequate by failing to argue that those crimes should be merged. The post-conviction court granted summary judgment against petitioner, concluding that he had not been prejudiced by his counsel’s failure to object, because as a matter of law the sentences would not merge. A majority of the Court of Appeals panel affirmed, On review, the presented to the Oregon Supreme Court was whether petitioner’s convictions should have been merged under ORS 161.067(1). The Court concluded they should have, reversed the trial and appellate courts, and remanded for further proceedings. View "Martinez v. Cain" on Justia Law

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This appeal stemmed from plaintiff Rich Jones’ civil action to recover unpaid wages that defendant Four Corners Rod & Gun Club unlawfully withheld after the parties agreed to trade a lodging benefit for labor. Although Oregon’s wage laws authorized employers to deduct from an employee’s wages “the fair market value of lodging, meals or other facilities or services furnished by the employer for the private benefit of the employee,” those laws also prohibited employers from taking any deduction from wages unless the employer obtains the employee’s advance written authorization and keeps a record of the deductions. Defendant admittedly failed to comply with the requirements for deducting the lodging benefit from plaintiff’s wages. The issue this case presented for the Oregon Supreme Court’s review was whether defendant’s violation of ORS 652.610(3) prevented defendant from asserting an equitable claim for the value of the lodging benefit, either as an affirmative defense to plaintiff’s wage claim or as a lawful counterclaim. The Supreme Court concluded that defendant’s unlawful withholding of wages prevented it from asserting the value of the lodging benefit as an affirmative defense to defeat plaintiff’s wage claim, but did not prevent defendant from asserting an equitable counterclaim for the value of the lodging benefit. View "Jones v. Four Corners Rod & Gun Club" on Justia Law

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In Friends of Columbia Gorge v. Energy Fac. Siting Coun., 365 Or 371, 446 P3d 53 (2019), the Oregon Supreme Court held that the Energy Facility Siting Council had failed to substantially comply with a procedural requirement when it amended rules governing how it processes requests for amendment (RFAs) to site certificates that the council issued. The Court therefore held that the rules were invalid. In response to that decision, the council adopted temporary rules governing the RFA process. Petitioners contended that those temporary rules were also invalid. According to petitioners, the rules were invalid because the council failed to prepare a statement of its findings justifying the use of temporary rules. Petitioners also maintained that the council’s rules exceed the 180-day limit on temporary rules or otherwise improperly operated retroactively. After review, the Supreme Court disagreed with petitioners’ arguments and concluded the temporary rules were valid. View "Friends of Columbia Gorge v. Energy Fac. Siting Coun." on Justia Law

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The state charged defendant Joshua Andrews with two crimes: one count of fourth- degree assault, and one count of harassment. At trial, the state presented evidence that defendant drove to the victim’s place of work, began yelling at him, spat on him, and punched him in the face, knocking out his tooth bridge. The jury acquitted defendant on the assault charge but convicted him of harassment. Post-trial, the state asked the court to impose restitution for the cost of replacing the victim’s tooth bridge. Defendant objected, arguing that the trial court did not have statutory authority to do so. Defendant unsuccessfully argued that restitution was permitted only when a trial court could conclude, from the defendant’s conviction, that the defendant engaged in the criminal act that formed the basis for the award of restitution, and that, in this case, the trial court could not reach that conclusion: the act that formed the basis for the victim’s damages was the punch, and the jury could have convicted defendant of harassment without finding that defendant had punched the victim. Defendant appealed, and the Court of Appeals affirmed. The Oregon Supreme Court allowed defendant’s petition for review, and, because it concluded the trial court could not award restitution under ORS 137.106, it reversed. View "Oregon v. Andrews" on Justia Law

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At issue in this case was the dissolution of a domestic partnership, specifically, how to distribute the appreciation in value of a home in which the parties lived during their time together. The trial court found the parties intended to live as a married couple and share in the appreciation of the home. The Court of Appeals concluded that the trial court did not abuse its discretion in coming to that conclusion. On review, the parties dispute whether the Court of Appeals applied the correct standard of review and whether that court correctly concluded that the parties should share in the appreciation in the home. The Oregon Supreme Court concluded the Court of Appeals applied an incorrect standard of review, but that it ultimately reached the correct decision. View "Staveland and Fisher" on Justia Law

Posted in: Family Law