Justia Oregon Supreme Court Opinion Summaries

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Defendant Adrian Ulery was charged with two counts of first-degree sexual abuse, and he exercised his right to trial by jury. He did not object to the jury being instructed that it could return a nonunanimous guilty verdict; his list of requested jury instructions included the uniform criminal jury instruction for a verdict in a felony case, an instruction that, consistent with Oregon law, informed the jury that ten votes to convict, from a jury of twelve, were sufficient for a guilty verdict. The jury convicted defendant of both counts. At defendant’s request, the jury was polled, revealing that both verdicts were nonunanimous. The trial court, without objection from defendant, received the verdicts. Defendant appealed, assigning error to the jury having been instructed that it could return a nonunani- mous verdict and to the receipt of nonunanimous verdicts. Defendant acknowledged that he had not preserved the issue in the trial court, but he requested plain error review. In Ramos v. Louisiana, 140 S Ct 1390 (2020), the United States Supreme Court held that, contrary to longstanding practice in Oregon, the United States Constitution required “[a] jury must reach a unanimous verdict in order to convict.” After Ramos issued, the state, through a letter to the Oregon Supreme Court and a notice filed in this case, conceded that, because defendant’s convictions were based on nonunanimous verdicts, they could not be sustained in light of the Supreme Court’s holding in Ramos. The state also conceded that the issue would qualify as plain error under ORAP 5.45(1) and advised the Oregon Court that, if it were to exercise its discretion to correct the unpreserved error, the Court should reverse defendant’s convictions and remand for a new trial. The Oregon Supreme Court accepted the state’s concession, exercised its discretion to review the error, and reversed defendant’s convictions. View "Oregon v. Ulery" on Justia Law

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Defendant Olan Williams was charged with two counts of first-degree sodomy. The jury was instructed that it could return a nonunanimous guilty verdict. Defendant did not object. The jury acquitted defendant of one count and convicted him of the other. The trial court polled the jury, revealing that the guilty verdict was nonunanimous. The trial court received both verdicts without objection by defendant. After defendant was sentenced, he moved for a new trial, challenging Oregon’s nonunanimous jury law, as applied to him, on Equal Protection Clause grounds. In Ramos v. Louisiana, 140 S Ct 1390 (2020), the United States Supreme Court held that, contrary to longstanding practice in Oregon, the United States Constitution required “[a] jury must reach a unanimous verdict in order to convict.” Many Oregon convictions based on nonunanimous verdicts were on appeal in a variety of procedural postures. In this case, the state conceded that, notwithstanding problems with defendant’s presentation of the issue to the trial court and to the Court of Appeals, the Oregon Supreme Court should have reversed defendant’s conviction, so long as it exercised its discretion to consider the error. The Oregon Supreme Court exercised its discretion to consider the error and accepted the state’s concession. The petition for review was allowed, limited to the issue of the appropriate disposition of this case in light of Ramos v. Louisiana. The decision of the Court of Appeals was reversed. The judgment of the circuit court was also reversed, and the case was remanded to the circuit court for further proceedings. View "Oregon v. Williams" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff Benjamin McCormick brought this action against the State of Oregon for injuries he sustained while recreating in Lake Billy Chinook. The State moved for summary judgment, asserting that it was entitled to recreational immunity under ORS 105.682. In response, plaintiff contended that the state did not “directly or indirectly permit” the public to use the lake for recreational purposes. Specifically, he contended that, under both the public trust doctrine and the public use doctrine, the public already had a right to use the lake for recreational purposes and, therefore, the State did not “permit” that use. The trial court granted the State summary judgment, but the Court of Appeals reversed. On review, the Oregon Supreme Court reversed the Court of Appeals decision. For the purposes of the recreational immunity statute, the Supreme Court held an owner could “permit” public recreational use of its land, even if it could not completely prohibit that use. More specifically, an owner could “permit” public recreational use of its land if, among other alternatives, it made that use possible by creating access to and developing the land for that use. View "McCormick v. Oregon Parks & Recreation Dept." on Justia Law

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After a grand jury issued an indictment charging defendant Hanad Ali Haji with multiple offenses, the district attorney determined that the indictment could be challenged by demurrer because the basis for joining those offenses was not expressly alleged. Instead of seeking another indictment from the grand jury, the district attorney obtained leave from the trial court to amend the indictment by adding allegations specifying the statutory basis for joinder, without adding factual allegations about the crimes. Defendant was convicted on some of the charges at trial, and the Court of Appeals affirmed. The issue this case presented for the Oregon Supreme Court's review centered on whether the district attorney could add allegations specifying the statutory basis for joinder of multiple offenses to an indictment instead of resubmitting the case to the grand jury. The Supreme Court determined that neither the statute permitting joinder of multiple offenses in a single indictment nor Article VII (Amended), section 5(6), of the Oregon Constitution precluded a district attorney, with approval of the trial court, from amending an indictment to add allegations specifying the statutory basis for joinder of multiple offenses. The Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the Court of Appeals, based in part on different reasoning, and affirmed the judgment of the circuit court. View "Oregon v. Haji" on Justia Law

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This case arose from Portfolio Recovery’s action to recover a credit card debt from respondent Jason Sanders under a common-law claim for an "account stated." The parties filed competing motions for summary judgment - Portfolio contending that it was entitled to summary judgment on the merits of its account-stated claim, and Sanders contending that he was entitled to summary judgment on his affirmative defense that the claim was governed by, and barred by, the statute of limitations of Virginia, a state with connections to the underlying credit card agreement. The Court of Appeals held that neither party was entitled to summary judgment, and both parties sought review. This case presented two issues for the Oregon Supreme Court's resolution: (1) whether an account-stated claim was established as a matter of law when a credit card customer failed to object to the amount listed as the "new balance" on a credit card statement; and (2) how Oregon's choice-of-law principles revolve a conflict between competing state statutes of limitations when the relevant substantive law of the two states is the same. The Court concurred with the appellate court's finding that neither party was entitled to prevail on summary judgment, and affirmed that ruling. View "Portfolio Recovery Associates, LLC v. Sanders" on Justia Law

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The original plaintiffs in this action were nine Oregon counties that sought declaratory relief, alleging that the Oregon paid sick leave law required them to spend money on a program without sufficient state reimbursement, as required by Article XI, section 15 of the state Constitution, and that they consequently were not required to comply with that statute. Defendants, the governor and the Commissioner of the Bureau of Labor and Industries, responded that the constitutional provision did not apply to the paid sick leave law because that law was not a “program” within the meaning of Article XI, section 15(1), and, additionally, that not all nine plaintiff counties met the cost threshold required to make Article XI, section 15(3), applicable to them. The Oregon Supreme Court concluded that the paid sick leave law did not require local governments to implement a “program” under that provision and, therefore, that the counties were not exempt from that statute. View "Linn County v. Brown" on Justia Law

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In the November 2016 election, Multnomah County voters approved Measure 26-184, an amendment to the Multnomah County Home Rule Charter containing campaign finance provisions. Multnomah County then adopted new ordinances, Multnomah County Code (MCC) sections 5.200-203, mirroring and implementing those charter provisions. At issue before the Oregon Supreme Court was the validity of those ordinances under the free speech provisions of both the Oregon and United States Constitutions - Article I, section 8, and the First Amendment. The Court reached four conclusions: (1) the county’s contribution limits did not, on their face, violate Article I, section 8, of the Oregon Constitution; (2) the case had to be remanded for factual findings and to consider, in the first instance, whether the contribution limits violated the First Amendment; (3) the county’s expenditure limits were invalid under both constitutional provisions; and (4) the parties’ dispute with respect to the disclosure provisions was moot. View "Multnomah County v. Mehrwein" on Justia Law

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The Oregon Department of State Lands (DSL) issued a permit, pursuant to ORS 196.825, for Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. (“Walmart”) to fill and remove some wetlands on private property in order to build a new store in The Dalles. Citizens for Responsible Development in The Dalles (Citizens) opposed the project and appealed the fill permit, arguing that DSL lacked authority to issue the permit because DSL did not find that there was a “public need” for the project. The Court of Appeals agreed with Citizens that DSL erred in issuing the permit “[b]ecause DSL found that it was inconclusive whether the project would address a public need.” The Oregon Supreme Court granted certiorari to construe ORS 196.825, and thereafter affirmed the Court of Appeals: the matter was remanded to DSL. "[A]lthough we disagree with its premise that ORS 196.825 conditions the issuance of every permit on a finding that the proposed project will serve a 'public need,' . . . Because DSL found that all categories of public benefit from the project were 'inconclusive' but failed to find that the project would not 'interfere' with the state’s 'paramount policy,' the record does not support its determination that the project will not 'unreasonably interfere.'” View "Citizens for Resp. Devel. in The Dalles v. Walmart" on Justia Law

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In consolidated ballot title review cases, petitioner Hurst and petitioners Van Dusen and Steele challenged the Oregon Attorney General’s certified ballot title for Initiative Petition 50 (2020) (IP 50). If adopted, IP 50 would amend ORS 468A.205, which set aspirational greenhouse gas emissions reduction goals, including the goal of achieving greenhouse gas levels that were at least 75% below 1990 levels by the year 2050. ORS 468A.205(1)(c). The current statute also expressly provided that it did not create any additional regulatory authority for any agency of the executive department. IP 50 would amend ORS 468A.205 to mandate staged reductions in greenhouse gas emissions from fossil fuel and industrial sources (including achieving greenhouse gas emissions levels that are “at least 100 percent below 1990 levels” by 2050); to require the Environmental Quality Commission (EQC) to adopt rules to ensure compliance with the new greenhouse gas emissions limits; and to require the Department of Environmental Quality to enforce the rules that the EQC adopts. The Oregon Supreme Court concluded that certain of petitioner Hurst’s arguments that the ballot title did not substantially comply with ORS 250.035(2) were well taken, and thus the Court referred the ballot title to the Attorney General for modification. View "Hurst/Van Dusen v. Rosenblum" on Justia Law

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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

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