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Defendant Santiago Vallin was charged with first-degree theft in June 2017. At that time, ORS 137.717 provided a presumptive sentence of 18 months imprisonment for first-degree theft for defendants having two prior convictions for certain specified crimes, to be increased by two months from that baseline for every additional prior conviction of those specified crimes. While defendant’s case was pending, HB 3078 (2017), had been enacted by the legislature by a simple majority, became effective, and as pertinent here, amended ORS 137.717 (2015) to provide a presumptive sentence of 13 months imprisonment for a first-degree theft conviction of a person in defendant’s circumstances. In the plea negotiations in defendant’s case, an issue arose as to which version of ORS 137.717 would apply if defendant were to plead guilty to first degree theft. The state insisted the trial court would be required to sentence defendant in accordance with the 2015 version of the statute because HB 3071 was unconstitutional. In his sentencing memorandum, defendant argued that HB 3078 (2017) had reduced a presumptive sentence that had been adopted by the legislature, not one that had been “approved by the people.” Defendant acknowledged that “the people” had approved an 18-month presumptive sentence when they enacted Measure 57 in 2008, but he argued that the legislature had lawfully reduced and replaced that sentence when, in 2009, it enacted HB 3508 and amended ORS 137.717 by a two-thirds majority in both houses. The trial court rejected defendant’s argument and agreed with the state that HB 3078 (2017) had been enacted in violation of Article IV, section 33. The trial court concluded the sentences that were in place when HB 3078 came before the legislature in 2017 were the original sentences that the voters had approved as Measure 57, and, under Article IV, section 33, they could not be reduced by the simple majority vote that HB 3078 (2017) garnered. Defendant thereafter conditionally entered a guilty plea, and the trial court imposed a stipulated downward departure sentence of 24 months of probation. The Oregon Supreme Court found that under Article IV, section 33, of the Oregon Constitution, the legislature may not reduce a criminal sentence that was “approved by the people” through the initiative or referendum process by a simple majority vote, but must garner a two-thirds majority in both houses. The Court concluded HB 3078 (2017) did not “reduce a criminal sentence approved by the people” within the meaning of Article IV, section 33, and that it could be, and was, validly enacted by a simple majority of the legislature. The Court therefore reversed and remanded defendant's sentence for resentencing. View "Oregon v. Vallin" on Justia Law

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In 2009, DISH Network Corporation (DISH) received an assessment order from the Oregon Department of Revenue showing that its property in Oregon for tax purposes was valued at an amount that exceeded the previous year’s valuation by nearly 100 percent. The increase came about because the department had subjected DISH’s property to central assessment and thus, also, to “unit valuation,” a method of valuing property that purported to capture the added value associated with a large, nationwide business network that, by statute, was available for central, but not local, assessments. Although DISH objected to the change from local to central assessment, the department insisted that central assessment was required because DISH was using its property in a “communication” business. When DISH was forced to concede defeat on that issue based on DIRECTV, Inc. v. Dept. of Rev., 377 P3d 568 (2016), another issue arose: whether the drastic increase in the assessed value of DISH’s property starting in the 2009-10 tax year violated Article XI, section 11 of the Oregon Constitution. The department argued that, because DISH’s property had been newly added to the central assessment rolls in 2009, the property fell into an exception to the three-percent cap on increases in assessed value - for “new property or new improvements to property.” The Tax Court rejected the department’s “new property” theory and held that the department’s assessments of DISH’s property in the tax years after 2008-09 was unconstitutional. The Oregon Supreme Court agreed with the department that the exception applied and therefore reversed the Tax Court’s decision to the contrary. View "DISH Network Corp. v. Dept. of Rev." on Justia Law

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Sixteen years after he had been sexually abused by an Oregon Youth Authority (OYA) employee, plaintiff filed suit; the issue on review was plaintiff’s 42 U.S.C. section 1983 claim against defendant Gary Lawhead, former superintendent of the OYA facility where the abuse had occurred. Plaintiff alleged defendant had violated his federal constitutional rights through deliberate indifference to the risk that the OYA employee would sexually abuse youths housed at the facility. The trial court granted defendant’s motion for summary judgment on plaintiff’s section 1983 claim on the basis that the claim accrued at the time of the abuse in 1998 and, consequently, was untimely. The Court of Appeals reversed, relying on T. R. v. Boy Scouts of America, 181 P3d 758, cert den, 555 US 825 (2008). The Oregon Supreme Court allowed defendant’s petition for review to address when plaintiff’s cause of action under section 1983 accrued. Applying federal law, the Court held that an action under section 1983 accrues when a plaintiff knows or reasonably should know of the injury and the defendant’s role in causing the injury. Therefore, the trial court erred by dismissing plaintiff’s claim in reliance on the principle that a section 1983 claim accrues when the plaintiff knows or has reason to know of the injury alone, which, in this case, it determined was necessarily when the abuse occurred. Accordingly, the Supreme Court affirmed the Court of Appeals, reversed the trial court's judgment, and remanded the case to the trial court to reconsider its summary judgment decision under the correct accrual standard. View "J. M. v. Oregon Youth Authority" on Justia Law

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The Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT) owned driver records, which were considered as assets of the State Highway Fund and subject to use restrictions set out in Article IX, section 3a, of the Oregon Constitution. Pursuant to ORS 366.395, ODOT sold the Department of Administrative Services (DAS) an exclusive license to provide real-time electronic access to those driver records. Plaintiffs challenged both ODOT’s statutory authority to grant the license and the use to which DAS put it. The license permitted DAS to sublicense its rights and obligations to others; DAS sub-licensed its rights to NICUSA, the company that DAS enlisted to build the state internet portal. Through that portal, NICUSA provided electronic access to driver records and, pursuant to the sublicense agreement, charged a fee equal to what DAS paid for the license ($6.63 per record) plus an additional $3.00 per record convenience fee. The former amount/fee ultimately went to ODOT and into the highway fund to be used in accordance with Article IX, section 3a, and was predicted to produce $55 million dollars over the life of the license. The latter amount/fee was retained by NICUSA at least in part to recoup its costs in creating and maintaining the state internet portal. The end result was that disseminators pay $9.63 per record, $6.63 of which goes to ODOT and $3.00 of which NICUSA kept. Plaintiffs, which included nonprofit corporations representing their members’ interests, claimed the licensing agreements harmed them because, among other adverse effects, they had to pay disseminators an increased amount for driver records. Plaintiffs sought a declaration that ODOT did not have statutory authority to sell the license to DAS, and that the licensing agreements violated Article IX, section 3a. The Oregon Supreme Court determined ODOT lawfully transferred the license in question to DAS, and that neither the use to which DAS put the license, nor the value DAS paid for it it "ran afoul" of the Oregon Constitution. View "Oregon Trucking Assns. v. Dept. of Transportation" on Justia Law

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These consolidated cases involved two defendants who were separately charged with unlawfully delivering marijuana. In one case United States Postal Service (USPS) took a package out of a mail hamper and put it on the floor so that a drug-detection dog could sniff it. In the other case, another postal inspector seized the package after a drug-sniffing dog alerted to the package, and the inspector took the package to the addressee’s house and asked for consent to search it. Focusing on the first issue, the trial court ruled that no seizure had occurred because defendants had no constitutionally protected possessory interest in the package while it was in the mail. The Court of Appeals reversed, reasoning that defendants had a constitutionally protected property interest in the package, which the first postal inspector significantly interfered with when she took the package out of the mail hamper. The Oregon Supreme Court concluded the first postal inspector did not seize the package when she put it in a package lineup for the dog to sniff, and that the request for consent in the second package's seizure was reasonable. Because both officials acted consistently with Article I, Section 9, the trial courts correctly denied defendants' motions to suppress. View "Oregon v. Sholedice" on Justia Law

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In criminal cases consolidated for trial, defendant Richard Lacey waived his right to counsel and invoked his right to self-representation after being warned that, if he engaged in disruptive conduct during his jury trial, he would be removed from the courtroom, and the trial would proceed without anyone present to represent him. Despite that warning and numerous others during the trial, defendant engaged in disruptive conduct throughout the trial, and, before closing argument, he informed the trial court that he would not abide by its order prohibiting him from referring to information that had not been admitted into evidence. After confirming that defendant intended to violate its order, the trial court removed defendant from the courtroom for the remainder of the trial day. The jury found defendant guilty of most of the charged crimes. Defendant appealed, asserting that the trial court had violated his rights under the Sixth Amendment by proceeding with the trial in his absence. The Court of Appeals agreed, holding that the trial court had violated defendant’s Sixth Amendment “right to representation” because “it did not secure a waiver of defendant’s right to representation, it did not appoint counsel, and it did not take other measures to protect defendant’s right to representation after it removed him from the courtroom.” After review, the Oregon Supreme Court concluded that, while representing himself, defendant made a knowing and voluntary choice to be removed from the courtroom and leave the defense table empty. The trial court did not violate defendant’s Sixth Amendment rights by accepting that choice. View "Oregon v. Lacey" on Justia Law

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Defendant Christopher Warren was charged with multiple offenses in a single indictment. Defendant demurred to the indictment on the ground that it did not allege the basis for joining the charges. The trial court disallowed the demurrer, the case proceeded to a jury trial, and defendant was convicted. Defendant appealed, and the Court of Appeals held that an indictment that charges a defendant with more than one offense must allege the basis for joining the charges, but that any error in the indictment in this case was harmless. The Oregon Supreme Court agreed with the appellate court and affirmed defendant's conviction. View "Oregon v. Warren" on Justia Law

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While on patrol, Officer Klopfenstein stopped a van because one of its headlights was out. There were three passengers in the minivan. After asking the driver for his identification, the officer asked the driver about the passengers, and the driver explained that he had just met them. Klopfenstein returned to his patrol car to ask dispatch to run a records check on the driver. Klopfenstein noticed that one of the passengers in the back seat was acting as if he were extremely intoxicated. Klopfenstein asked that passenger for identification. The passenger responded that he did not have any identification that his name was Jonathan Shaw. When Klopfenstein asked Shaw to spell his name, Shaw gave multiple, inconsistent spellings of Jonathan. At some point, Klopfenstein directed his attention toward defendant Cassandra Stevens, who was sitting in the back seat next to Shaw. Defendant told him her name and added that she was on parole. A records check confirmed that defendant was on parole. After Klopfenstein implied that he would be speaking with defendant’s parole officer, defendant told him Shaw’s real name - Jimmy. Klopfenstein called defendant’s parole officer and the parole officer told Klopfenstein she recently had found a backpack with pills in it and that she thought that the pills belonged to Shaw. The parole officer explained that defendant had been with Shaw when the pills were found in the backpack and that, if defendant was with Shaw again, “it was [the parole officer’s] opinion that [defendant] was *** likely using drugs again.” A subsequent search and discovery of drugs in defendant's backpack lead to her arrest for possession. The Oregon Supreme Court allowed review in this case to decide whether stopping the driver of the van constituted a seizure of the passengers. The trial court ruled that defendant was not stopped until an officer asked her for consent to search her backpack, and it accordingly denied her motion to suppress evidence discovered during the search. The Court of Appeals upheld the trial court’s ruling but on a different ground: it determined that the stop did not occur until after defendant had consented to a search of her backpack.The Supreme Court held the stop occurred before defendant gave consent and that the officer lacked reasonable suspicion at that point, thereby reversing the Court of Appeals decision and the trial court’s judgment. View "Oregon v. Stevens" on Justia Law

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In juvenile dependency cases consolidated for review, the issue centered on the permanency plans for two children and half-siblings, L and A, under the jurisdiction of the juvenile court. The Department of Human Services (DHS) arranged for the children to be placed in relative foster care with their maternal aunt. The juvenile court held hearing in accordance with statutory timelines after L had been in relative foster care for about 15 months and A for about 12 months. At the hearing, DHS asked the juvenile court to change the permanency plans for the children from reunification to adoption. The juvenile court did so, but the Court of Appeals reversed, in two separate opinions. DHS sought review, arguing the Court of Appeals had erroneously interpreted the statutes pertaining to changing permanency plans for children within the jurisdiction of the juvenile court. The Oregon Supreme Court agreed with DHS that the Court of Appeals incorrectly construed the statutory requirements at issue. Because DHS met its burden to show that the requirements in ORS 419B.476 for changing the permanency plans away from reunification had been met, it was parents’ burden, as the parties seeking to invoke the escape clause, to show that there was a “compelling reason” under ORS 419B.498(2) for DHS not to proceed with petitions to terminate parental rights. The Supreme Court also rejected parents’ arguments that evidence in the record did not support the trial court’s findings in these cases. Accordingly, the decisions of the Court of Appeals were reversed and the judgments of the juvenile court were affirmed. View "Dept. of Human Services v. S. J. M." on Justia Law

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Defendant Dustin Kimbrough wished to have people killed and witnesses scared, so he sought to hire a hitman. For that, he was charged with and found guilty of several counts of attempted solicitation of aggravated murder and attempted solicitation of murder, which he did not challenge on appeal. The question before the Oregon Supreme Court asked whether defendant could also be convicted of attempting to commit the substantive crimes that he wanted the hitman to commit? After reviewing the text and history of Oregon’s attempt statute, the Court concluded that he could not. View "Oregon v. Kimbrough" on Justia Law