Justia Oregon Supreme Court Opinion Summaries

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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
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Consolidated cases concerned two defendants who were convicted of driving under the influence of intoxicants (DUII), a crime ordinarily a misdemeanor but that, in each case, was elevated to a felony based on the defendant’s two prior convictions from other jurisdictions. The common question these cases presented for the Oregon Supreme Court’s review was whether the foreign laws under which defendants were convicted were “statutory counterparts” to ORS 813.010, the statute criminalizing DUII in Oregon. After analyzing the relevant statutes, the Supreme Court concluded the appropriate inquiry required “close element matching,” between ORS 813.010 and the foreign offense, an approach that the Court has previously employed in giving legal effect to convictions from other jurisdictions. Applying that standard to defendants’ foreign convictions, the Court concluded that none of the convictions at issue in this were under a statutory counterpart to ORS 813.010. View "Oregon v. Guzman" on Justia Law

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Defendant and the victim had two children together. Defendant and the victim were formerly in a relationship, but they broke up before the victim moved into the house where the unlawful entry at the center of this case took place. Although the victim previously had allowed defendant to visit their children at her house, defendant had never lived there, and the victim had made it clear to defendant that he was no longer welcome. On the day in question, defendant came to the house and told the victim that he wanted to shower and talk. She refused to let him inside and made sure to lock all the doors and windows before she left for work, fearing that defendant would try to come in while she was away. After the victim left, defendant broke into the house and destroyed a number of the victim’s possessions, including a new television and several lamps. He intentionally cut his arm with a knife, bleeding on various pieces of her living room furniture. Defendant sent the victim text messages with pictures of his bleeding arm as well as messages blaming her for problems in his life. Based on those pictures, the victim realized defendant was in her house. The police were called and arrested defendant. Defendant was eventually charged with, among other things, first-degree burglary constituting domestic violence and second-degree criminal mischief. The question before the Oregon Supreme Court was whether a person commits the crime of first-degree burglary when the person enters a dwelling unlawfully without the intent to commit an additional crime and then develops that intent while unlawfully present in the dwelling. The Supreme Court held that forming the intent to commit an additional crime while unlawfully present after an initial unlawful entry constitutes first-degree burglary under ORS 164.225. View "Oregon v. Henderson" on Justia Law

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The post-conviction court granted petitioner Keith Ogle relief on the ground that, in the underlying criminal case, petitioner’s defense counsel failed to provide adequate and effective representation because he failed to employ an investigator, and that failure prejudiced petitioner. The Court of Appeals reversed, holding that the post-conviction court had erred because it granted petitioner relief on ground that petitioner had not alleged in his post-conviction petition. In doing so, the Oregon Supreme Court determined the Court of Appeals relied on a post-conviction statute, ORS 138.550(3), and cases interpreting that statute, for the proposition that any ground for relief that was not alleged in a petition was deemed waived. The Supreme Court determined the Court of Appeals erred in relying on ORS 138.550(3). "That provision is a res judicata provision. It governs the effect of a post-conviction proceeding on a subsequent post-conviction proceeding. It does not preclude a post-conviction court from addressing an unpleaded ground for relief within a single post-conviction case. Whether a court can address an unpleaded ground for relief is governed by the Oregon Rules of Civil Procedure, and ORCP 23 B allows a court to address an unpleaded ground if it has been tried by express or implied consent." The parties disputed: (1) whether petitioner’s post-conviction petition encompassed the basis on which the post-conviction court granted relief; and (2) if it did not, whether the post-conviction court could grant relief on that basis anyway because the parties litigated it. "Even if the petition did not encompass the basis on which the post-conviction court granted relief, the court could consider that basis because the parties had litigated it." View "Ogle v. Nooth" on Justia Law