Articles Posted in Oregon Supreme Court

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Defendant Rodney Banks was arrested for driving under the influence of intoxicants (DUII) and, when asked, refused to take a breath test, which would have revealed the percentage of alcohol in his blood. The Oregon Supreme Court concluded Article I, section 9, of the Oregon Constitution prohibited the state from using defendant’s refusal as evidence when it prosecuted him for that crime. Therefore, the Court reversed the contrary decision of the Court of Appeals, and that of the circuit court. View "Oregon v. Banks" on Justia Law

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A jury sentenced defendant David Taylor to death after he was convicted of aggravated murder, kidnapping, and other crimes against Celestino Gutierrez, as well as multiple offenses arising out of two bank robberies. In this automatic and direct review of his convictions and sentence, defendant primarily made two arguments contrary to controlling precedent without offering persuasive reasons to depart from that precedent, or arguments that otherwise lack merit. However, some of defendant’s assignments of error raised significant issues that the Oregon Supreme Court had yet to expressly address, including: whether the state must expressly allege its theory for joining multiple offenses, whether the governor’s moratorium on imposing the death penalty affects the jury’s ability to constitutionally consider that punishment, and whether the Supreme Court should presume that the undisclosed bias of an alternate juror impaired defendant’s constitutional right to trial by an impartial jury. Ultimately, the Court concluded none of defendant’s assignments of error identifies a basis for reversing the judgment, and affirmed. View "Oregon v. Taylor" on Justia Law

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Petitioner Melton Jackson, Jr. was tried on charges of first-degree sexual abuse and first-degree sodomy in 2001. At trial, petitioner’s counsel did not object to certain testimony, and controlling case law at that time from the Court of Appeals held that such testimony was admissible. In 2009, however, the Supreme Court held that that testimony was not admissible. In his post-conviction complaint, petitioner alleged that his trial counsel had failed to provide constitutionally adequate assistance and that he had been prejudiced as a result. The Court of Appeals affirmed the post-conviction court’s grant of partial summary judgment against petitioner, assuming that counsel exercising reasonable professional skill and judgment would have objected to the testimony so as to preserve the right to seek Supreme Court review of then-existing Court of Appeals case law. Thus the Court of Appeals concluded that as a factual matter, the chance that the Supreme Court would have allowed review in petitioner’s case and ruled in his favor was too small for him to demonstrate prejudice. The Oregon Supreme Court addressed only the prejudice aspect of petitioner's claim, and disagreed with the appellate court's application of the case law controlling here. "In our view, it is not appropriate, or workable as a matter of judicial decision-making, to speculate as to how individual members of the Supreme Court would have viewed a petition for review in petitioner’s case, as the post-conviction court suggested. Nor is it correct to conclude [. . .] that because of this court’s 'complete discretion' regarding whether or not to allow petitions for review, any assessment of the likelihood that such a petition by petitioner would have been allowed would be 'nothing but speculation.'" The Oregon Supreme Court concluded a petitioner had to show his lawyer’s deficiency had “a tendency to affect the result of the prosecution.” Given that conclusion, the alleged constitutional inadequacy of his trial counsel, which blocked his appellate counsel from the opportunity to raise the issue on appeal and subsequently in a petition for review, was prejudicial. View "Jackson v. Franke" on Justia Law

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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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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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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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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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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