Thursday, June 17, 2010

Oregon Supreme Court Rules Multnomah County Owes $1.15 Million to Dorothy English Estate

"The Court of Appeals correctly concluded that the county's defenses to enforcement of the trial court judgment are either barred by preclusion principles or lack merit. The trial court judgment is a final, valid judgment that requires that the county pay English $1,150,000. We therefore affirm the decision of the Court of Appeals, reversing the judgment of the mandamus court.

"The decision of the Court of Appeals is affirmed. The judgment of the circuit court is reversed, and the case is remanded to the circuit court with instructions to issue a peremptory writ of mandamus directing the county to pay the judgment for $1,150,000."
Multnomah County argued that following the original court judgment in favor of English was at the county's discretion. In other words, if you lose a judgment, you determine if you pay or not. Nice work if you can get it.
"We view the county as arguing, at least in part, that the trial court judgment potentially created no remedy at all for English. In other words, the county appears to argue that, after the trial court entered the judgment, the county retained the following options: (1) to pay English $1,150,000, but only if it specifically allocated funds for that purpose as described in ORS 197.352(10); (2) to affirmatively waive all relevant land use regulations; or (3) to do nothing, in which case all relevant regulations would be automatically waived two years after English's cause of action accrued, by operation of ORS 197.352(10). Under the third circumstance, applying the county's reasoning, English would have no remedy under the judgment; instead, her only remedy would be the automatic waiver already contained in Measure 37.

"To the extent that the county argues that the trial court judgment creates no remedy for English -- and imposes no obligation on the county -- we disagree. As noted, the trial court granted English's motion for summary judgment "as to liability" after determining that the county had continued to enforce nonexempt land use regulations that decreased the value of English's property. Although we agree with the county that the trial court did not necessarily conclude, in granting English's motion for summary judgment, that English was entitled to payment, the trial court did conclude that English was entitled to some remedy -- either payment or waiver of the land use regulations. Thus, we cannot agree with the county that the judgment determined only the amount of compensation and granted English no remedy at all."
Multnomah County will also have to pay for English's costs in fighting the county's refusal to pay. Unfortunately, given Multnomah County's bizarre governance, this is probably one of the better uses of county funds. At least justice is being done for the English estate. Too bad Multnomah County was able to stall until after English died. But, better justice (and a smack down of outrageous county action) late than never.

H/T OregonWatchdog


Marvinlee said...

I welcome the long-delayed Oregon Supreme Court ruling on Dorothy English's property rights case. Ms. English was a feisty, stron-willed individual who rightly resisted the refusal of her property rights. However, this legal case is also a story of abusive, arrogant, and ultimately unwise hubris by several Multnomah County officials. Their recall would be a public service.

T. D. said...

I agree. The reports are that it will cost the county another $700,000 to pay the English estate's legal costs, bringing the total to about $1.8 million.

Of course, that's not counting the wasted county time spent on this. I wonder if we'll ever see a breakdown on Multnomah County costs along with the judgment itself.

At the minimum, the county will have spent over $2 million on this--besides presenting idiotic arguments such as that since Dorothy English died her estate can't collect on judgments due to her. The lack of merit of that argument can be seen in the fact that the Oregon Supreme Court didn't even deign to discuss it.

"13. The county also argues that English's death extinguishes her rights under the trial court judgment. We reject that argument without discussion."