Articles Posted in Oregon Supreme Court

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The Oregon Supreme Court issued its decision in this case in January, 2013; that decision reversed the decision of the Court of Appeals and affirmed defendant's judgment of conviction for possession of methamphetamine. A few weeks later, defense counsel filed a petition for reconsideration, asking the court to reconsider and modify or reverse its decision or, at a minimum, to remand the case to the trial court for additional proceedings consistent with the Supreme Court's opinion. In February 2013, defense counsel filed a notice pursuant to ORAP 8.45 informing the court that defendant had died more than a year before (on January 27, 2012), and contended therefore that the case was moot. Defense counsel also moved to vacate the Supreme Courts opinion and the judgment of conviction. Defense counsel argued that, because defendant's death rendered the case moot as of January 2012, the case necessarily was moot at the time this court issued its decision, and the appropriate disposition was to vacate that decision. Defense counsel further asserted that because: (1) the proper disposition of the case was to remand the case back to trial court for further proceedings; and (2) defendant's death meant that he could not take steps in the trial court to undo his conviction, the Supreme Court also should have vacated the judgment of conviction. The state opposed the motion to vacate, arguing that "the public interest in leaving the court's decision undisturbed far outweighs any equitable interests supporting vacatur." Upon review, the Supreme Court vacated its decision and the decision of the Court of Appeals and vacated defendant's judgment of conviction. View "Oregon v. Hemenway" on Justia Law

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The issue presented to the Supreme Court in this case was the appeal of a final order of the Energy Facility Siting Council that approved an amended site certificate for construction of a wind energy facility. Specifically, the issue was whether, in approving the amended site certificate, the council correctly declined to require compliance with a recently adopted county ordinance requiring a two-mile setback between wind turbines and rural residences pursuant to ORS 469.401(2). Upon review, the Supreme Court concluded that the council did not err in not requiring compliance with the ordinance. Furthermore, the Court concluded that the council did not err in denying petitioners' requests for a contested case proceeding. Therefore the council's final order approving the amended site certificate was affirmed. View "Blue Mountain Alliance v. Energy Facility Siting" on Justia Law

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In February 2005, the parties stipulated to a judgment dissolving their marriage. At that time, the parties had been married for seven years and had two minor children, then ages four and six. The judgment provided that the parties would have joint legal custody of their children, with mother having primary physical custody and father having reasonable parenting time. It also required that father pay child support of $1,750 per month, which exceeded by $8 the presumptively correct amount indicated by application of the Oregon Child Support Guidelines Formula (Child Support Formula). The judgment provided that neither party would seek modification of that support obligation. The issue before the Supreme Court was whether that stipulation could be enforced. And after review, the Court concluded that the trial court did not err in enforcing the parties' nonmodification agreement in accordance with Oregon law. View "Matar v. Harake" on Justia Law

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The issue before the Supreme Court in this case concerned the scope of Clackamas County's contractual obligation to provide health insurance benefits to command officer retirees of the County Sheriff's Office. A contract between the county and command officers, including Plaintiff Neil James, required the county to use a particular fund to pay for a certain level of benefits to command officers after they retired. The contract added that the obligation to pay benefits was "contingent upon the availability of sufficient funding in said fund to pay for the same." After plaintiff retired, the cost of insurance premiums increased to the point where the fund was and would for the foreseeable future continue to be insufficient to pay for the benefits required. The county entered into a new contract with certain union employees to provide lesser benefits from a more stable fund, and plaintiff (a retired officer, not a union employee) also was provided those lesser benefits. Plaintiff brought an action against the county, asserting breach of contract. He maintained that the first contract required the county to pay him full health insurance benefits and argued that the contingency provision did not apply because of the creation of the new fund, which had sufficient money to pay for those benefits. The trial court entered judgment in favor of plaintiff, but the Court of Appeals reversed. Upon review, the Supreme Court concluded that the new fund was the product of a contract that was separate and independent from the earlier contract. Because the prior fund was insufficient to provide the agreed level of benefits, the county did not breach its contractual obligation to provide that level of benefits. Accordingly, the Court affirmed the appellate court's decision. View "James v. Clackamas County" on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals certified two questions of Oregon law to the Oregon Supreme Court. They arose from an action for personal injury brought in federal district court against defendant Christopher Boyle and his employer, the City of Beaverton, for injuries that plaintiff Jean Howell suffered in an automobile collision with a police car that defendant Boyle drove. A jury found that plaintiff and Boyle were equally at fault and that plaintiff's damages totaled approximately $1 million. The trial court reduced the award by half, in accordance with the jury's findings of comparative fault. Defendants then moved to reduce the award further, to the $200,000 limit of the then-current Oregon Tort Claims Act. The trial court denied the motion, concluding that the application of the statutory limitation would have violated the remedy clause of Article I, section 10, of the Oregon Constitution. Defendants appealed, and the Ninth Circuit certified the following questions: (1) is plaintiff's negligence action constitutionally protected under the Oregon Constitution's remedy clause irrespective of the jury's finding of comparative negligence?; and (2) if plaintiff's action is protected, is $200,000 an unconstitutional emasculated remedy despite the jury's finding of comparative negligence? The Oregon Supreme Court addressed the second question only, because its answer was dispositive: "[e]ven assuming for the sake of argument that, under the circumstances of this case, plaintiff's negligence action is constitutionally protected by Article I, section 10, the $200,000 limitation on her recovery is constitutionally permissible. Under this court's case law, the constitution requires that any remedy that remains after the imposition of a modern limitation on it be 'substantial.' In this case, the $200,000 judgment that plaintiff received satisfies that constitutional requirement." View "Howell v. Boyle" on Justia Law

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In this personal injury action, defendant Alex Kalugin moved for a defense medical examination pursuant to ORCP 44 A. Plaintiff Paul Lindell, Jr. objected on the ground that he would not submit to such an examination without being allowed to bring a friend, family member, or counsel with him. The trial court declined to impose the discovery condition that Lindell requested. Lindell then petitioned the Supreme Court for a writ of mandamus to compel the trial court to permit the examination only on condition that he be allowed to bring with him a friend, family member, or counsel. The Court issued an alternative writ directing the trial court to permit Lindell to have legal counsel present as an observer at the examination or, in the alternative, to show cause for not doing so. In a letter opinion, the trial court respectfully informed the Supreme Court that it would not modify its order and explained its reasoning for that conclusion. In response, Lindell requested that the Supreme Court enter a peremptory writ of mandamus requiring the trial court to allow a third-party observer. For the reasons that follow, the Supreme Court declined Lindell's request for a peremptory writ and dismiss the alternative writ of mandamus: "we cannot say that the court failed to exercise its discretion or that it exercised its discretion in a manner that was outside the range of choices that the law permits." View "Lindell v. Kalugin" on Justia Law

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The primary question in this case was whether the Oregon Department of Revenue properly classified income resulting from the sale of Crystal Communication's assets as "business income." Crystal operated as a multistate business providing wireless cellular telecommunications services and, in the relevant tax years, sold its assets related to those services. It reported the gain from the asset sale as "nonbusiness income" and allocated that gain to Florida, its state of commercial domicile. On audit, the department reclassified the gain as apportionable "business income." Crystal challenged the reclassification, and the Tax Court granted summary judgment in favor of the department and entered judgment accordingly. Crystal appealed to this court. Finding no error in the classification, the Supreme Court affirmed. View "Crystal Communications, Inc. v. Dept. of Revenue" on Justia Law

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At issue in this case was a trial court's order dismissing as untimely plaintiffs' claims against a public school district. Plaintiffs are seven adult men born between 1957 and 1970. When they were in the fifth grade, a teacher who worked for the district sexually abused them, but they alleged they did not know that their teacher's touching was abusive when it occurred. Upon review of the matter, the Supreme Court concluded that the trial court erred in granting the school district's ORCP 21 motion to dismiss plaintiffs' claims. View "Doe v. Lake Oswego School District" on Justia Law

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CenturyTel operated as a multistate, unitary business that, until 2002, provided both wireless and wireline telecommunications services. In 2002, CenturyTel sold its assets related to its wireless services but continued to provide wireline services. As in "Crystal Communications, Inc. v. Dep't of Revenue," (___ P3d ___ (decided March 7, 2013), CenturyTel reported the gain from the sale of its wireless assets as "nonbusiness income" and allocated that gain to its state of commercial domicile. On audit, the Department of Revenue reclassified the gain as apportionable "business income." CenturyTel challenged the department's reclassification, and the Tax Court, relying on its decision in "Crystal," granted summary judgment in favor of the department. CenturyTel appealed. Consistent with its decision in "Crystal," the Supreme Court affirmed the Tax Court's decision. View "CenturyTel, Inc. v. Dept. of Revenue" on Justia Law

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In this employment case, the issue before the Supreme Court was whether a prospective employee could bring a promissory estoppel claim or a fraudulent misrepresentation claim based on an employer's representations regarding a job that was terminable at will. Plaintiff worked as a salesperson for defendant for nearly eight years before he had a heart attack that required him to seek a less stressful job. In reliance on his manager's promise that plaintiff would be given a new "corporate" job with defendant that would meet his health needs, plaintiff turned down a job with a different employer. Ultimately, defendant did not hire plaintiff for the corporate job, and plaintiff subsequently had to take jobs that paid less than the corporate job or less than the position that he had turned down. Plaintiff sued claiming promissory estoppel, fraudulent misrepresentation, and unlawful employment practices, including discrimination. The trial court granted partial summary judgment for defendant on the promissory estoppel and fraudulent misrepresentation claims, and plaintiff dismissed the unlawful employment practices claim without prejudice. The Court of Appeals affirmed, holding that because the corporate job was terminable at will, plaintiff could not reasonably rely on the promise of employment or recover future lost wages. "[T]he at-will nature of employment does not create a conclusive presumption barring plaintiff from recovering future lost pay where the employee has been unlawfully terminated… or as in this case, where plaintiff was never hired as promised or allowed to start work." The Supreme Court concluded the appellate court erred in determining that as a latter of law, plaintiff could not reasonably rely on defendant's representations and could not recover future lost wages. Both the appellate and trial courts' decisions were reversed, and the case remanded for further proceedings. View "Cocchiara v. Lithia Motors, Inc." on Justia Law