Articles Posted in Government & Administrative Law

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In 2009, Seneca Sustainable Energy LLC (Seneca) began construction of a biomass cogeneration facility on property that it owned outside of Eugene, Oregon. In this direct appeal of the Regular Division of the Tax Court, the Department of Revenue argued the Tax Court erred in concluding that it had jurisdiction to consider a challenge brought by Seneca to the department’s determination of the real market value of Seneca’s electric cogeneration facility and the notation of the real market value on the assessment roll for two tax years, 2012-13 and 2013-14. The department also argued that the Tax Court erred in concluding that the department’s determinations of the property’s real market values for the 2012-13 and 2013-14 tax years were incorrect and in setting the values at significantly lower amounts. Finding no reversible error, the Oregon Supreme Court affirmed the Tax Court’s rulings. View "Seneca Sustainable Energy, LLC v. Dept. of Rev." on Justia Law

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A magistrate court granted a taxpayer part of the relief requested. The magistrate accepted the property values that taxpayer requested for the two most recent tax years but did not accept the values that taxpayer requested for the first four tax years. Taxpayer appealed the magistrate’s decision by filing a timely complaint in the regular division of the tax court. The Department of Revenue (the department) did not appeal or seek any affirmative relief from the magistrate’s decision. Instead, the department moved to dismiss the complaint that taxpayer had filed in the tax court. The tax court granted the department’s motion, dismissed taxpayer’s complaint, and entered a judgment that gave effect to the magistrate’s decision. Taxpayer appealed from the tax court’s judgment to the Oregon Supreme Court, and the department has cross-appealed. The primary question presented for the Supreme Court’s review was whether the tax court erred in giving effect to the magistrate’s decision granting taxpayer’s requested relief for the two most recent tax years. Finding no reversible error, the Supreme Court affirmed the tax court. View "Work v. Dept. of Rev." on Justia Law

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Comcast Corporation challenged the Oregon Tax Court's construction of the statutory formula by which Oregon calculated the portion of its income taxable by Oregon. Based in part on those statutes, the Oregon Department of Revenue calculated that taxpayer had underpaid Oregon taxes for the tax years 2007-2009 and sent notices of deficiency, which Comcast appealed to the Tax Court. The Tax Court agreed with the department’s construction of the income-apportionment statutes and granted the department partial summary judgment on that part of Comcast's appeal. The Tax Court also entered a limited judgment to permit this appeal. After review, the Oregon Supreme Court concluded the Tax Court correctly construed the statutes that governed income-apportionment for interstate broadcasters, and affirmed the limited judgment. View "Comcast Corp. v. Dept. of Rev." on Justia Law

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Capital One Auto Finance, Inc. (taxpayer) filed consolidated Oregon corporate excise tax returns as part of a group that included two corporate affiliates. Taxpayer disputed the Department of Revenue’s contention that it owed additional taxes. Ultimately, the issue in this case was whether taxpayer’s corporate affiliates, which did not have a physical presence in this state, were subject to either Oregon’s corporate excise tax or its corporate income tax for the tax years 2006-2008. Preliminarily, taxpayer also asserted the department lacked the authority to assert for the first time in the Tax Court that the affiliates were subject to corporate income tax. Ruling on cross-motions for summary judgment, the Tax Court concluded that the affiliates were subject to the corporate income tax and entered judgment in favor of the department. The Oregon Supreme Court concluded: (1) the department timely raised the corporate income tax issue; and (2) the corporate affiliates were subject to the corporate income tax based on “income derived from sources within this state.” View "Capital One Auto Finance, Inc. v. Dept. of Rev." on Justia Law

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In this case, the Oregon Supreme Court reviewed a final order of the Department of State Lands (DSL) that granted a permit to the Port of Coos Bay (Port) in connection with the construction of a deep water marine terminal in Coos Bay. The permit allowed the Port to dredge 1.75 million cubic yards of material from the bay, while also imposing a number of conditions to address environmental concerns. Petitioners were environmental advocacy groups who argued the Port’s application did not meet the requirements for issuing a permit set out in ORS 196.825. An Administrative Law Judge held a contested case hearing and rejected petitioners’ arguments. DSL reviewed the conclusions of the ALJ and issued a final order affirming the permit. The Court of Appeals affirmed DSL’s final order. Petitioners contended DSL erred in failing to consider evidence of certain negative effects of the construction and operation of the terminal in the permit application review process. The Oregon Supreme Court held DSL properly considered the criteria set out in ORS 196.825 and did not err in granting the permit. View "Coos Waterkeeper v. Port of Coos Bay" on Justia Law

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In consolidated cases, petitioners sought review of the Oregon Attorney General’s certified ballot title for Initiative Petition (IP) 43 (2018), contending that various aspects did not comply with requirements set out in ORS 250.035(2). IP 43 proposed a statutory enactment that, with exceptions including a limited registration scheme, would prohibit the unlawful possession or transfer of an “assault weapon” or a “large capacity magazine,” as those terms are defined in the proposed measure. After defining the weapons and magazines within its scope, IP 43 created a new crime, “unlawful possession or transfer of an assault weapon or large capacity magazine,” for any person who “manufactures, imports, possesses, purchases, sells or transfers any assault weapon or large capacity magazine,” with exceptions. After review, the Oregon Supreme Court referred the ballot title for IP 43 back to the Attorney General for modification of the caption, the “yes” and “no” result statements, and the summary. View "Beyer v. Rosenblum" on Justia Law

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The Oregon Supreme Court previously denied employer Shearer's Foods' petition for review in this workers’ compensation case, but addressed claimant William Hoffnagle's petition for an award of attorney fees for time that his counsel spent in response to employer’s unsuccessful petition for review. Employer objected that the Supreme Court lacked authority to award fees and also objects to the amount of requested fee. Although the Supreme Court often resolved attorney fee petitions by order rather than written opinion, employer’s objection to the Supreme Court's authority to award fees presented a legal issue that was appropriately resolved by opinion. Employer insisted the Oregon legislature had not authorized an award of fees for work that a claimant’s attorney performs in response to an unsuccessful petition for review; employer did not dispute that, after a series of amendments, ORS 656.386 specified a claimant who prevails against a denial was entitled to an award of attorney fees for work performed at every other stage of the case, including in the Supreme Court, if the Supreme Court addressed the merits of the case. "Employer offers no reason why the legislature would have intentionally created that one carve-out to what is otherwise a comprehensive authorization of fees when a claimant relies on counsel to finally prevail against the denial of a claim. Indeed, such a carve- out would be incompatible with what we have described as 'a broad statement of a legislative policy' reflected in ORS 656.386, 'that prevailing claimants’ attorneys shall receive reasonable compensation for their representation.'" The petition for attorney fees was allowed. Claimant was awarded $2,200 as attorney fees on review. View "Shearer's Foods v. Hoffnagle" on Justia Law

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Initiative Petition (IP) 28, if enacted, would modify Article I, section 8, of the Oregon Constitution to permit either a legislative body or the people exercising their initiative power to regulate campaign contributions and expenditures. In this case’s first trip to the Oregon Supreme Court, the ballot title for IP 28 the Attorney General for modification. The Attorney General filed a modified ballot title, and the two sets of petitioners who challenged the original ballot title challenged the modified title. Among other things, petitioners challenged the ballot title’s unqualified use of the word “regulate.” They noted, and we agreed, that “the word ‘regulate,’ when used in the context of regulating expressive activity, can encompass a range of different types of regulations.” Petitioners objected to the modified ballot title, arguing among other things that it failed to comply with the Supreme Court’s opinion because it did not signal that “regulate” was undefined. The Supreme Court agreed that the changes the Attorney General made in the caption and “yes” result statement were not sufficient. “We appreciate the difficulty that the Attorney General faces in trying to accurately describe the nuances of complex measures in a limited amount of words. However, we reiterate what we previously said: the caption and the ‘yes’ result statement should state that the word regulate is undefined.” The modified ballot title was referred to the Attorney General for modification. View "Markley/Lutz v. Rosenblum" on Justia Law

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Petitioner ACN Opportunity, LLC (ACN) sold satellite television, telephone, internet, and home security services, as well as some goods related to those services, through a network of direct-to-consumer sellers that it calls “independent business owners” (IBOs). The Employment Department determined that ACN was an employer and thus was required to pay unemployment insurance tax on earnings that ACN paid to the IBOs for their sales work. An administrative law judge (ALJ) affirmed that determination, concluding that the IBOs did not fall within the exemption from employment under ORS 657.087(2) and were not independent contractors under ORS 670.600. ACN appealed the department’s final order, and the Court of Appeals affirmed. The Oregon Supreme Court accepted review of this case primarily to address the statutory interpretation questions that this case presented. First, the Court concluded the IBOs did not qualify as independent contractors, because ACN failed to establish that the IBOs were customarily engaged in an independently established business. In reaching that conclusion, (1) the Court construed “maintains a business location” in ORS 670.600(3)(a) as the Court of Appeals did, and (2) the Supreme Court agreed with the Court of Appeals that the IBOs lacked the required authority to hire others to provide services, as provided in ORS 670.600(3)(e). Finally, the Supreme Court rejected ACN’s reading of the in-home sales exemption from employment in ORS 657.087(2) and concluded the IBOs do not fall within that exemption. As a result, the Court of Appeals’ decision and the final order of the ALJ were affirmed. View "ACN Opportunity, LLC v. Employment Dept." on Justia Law

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Two sets of petitioners challenged the Oregon Attorney General’s certified ballot title for Initiative Petition 33 (2018) (IP 33). If adopted, IP 33 would require that “government employee unions” annually report certain information to the Secretary of State, primarily how dues would be spent on union administration. Chief petitioners Schworak and Mitchell challenged the summary, while petitioners Lutz and Schwartz challenged all parts of the certified ballot title. After reviewing the petitioners’ arguments, the Oregon Supreme Court concluded that the proposed caption, the “no” result statement, and the summary did not substantially comply and must be modified. The “yes” result statement did substantially comply and did not require modification. View "Lutzv. Rosenblum" on Justia Law