Articles Posted in Oregon Supreme Court

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In consolidated juvenile dependency cases, father appealed judgments changing the permanent plans for one of his children from reunification with a parent to guardianship and for another child from reunification to another planned permanent living arrangement. Father argued that his trial counsel was inadequate for failing to appear on his behalf at the hearing in which the juvenile court decided to change the permanent plans. The issue this case presented for the Supreme Court's review centered on whether a parent could raise a claim of inadequate assistance of counsel for the first time on direct appeal from judgments changing the permanent plans for his children from reunification with a parent to permanent plans of guardianship and APPLA. After review, the Supreme Court answered that question in the affirmative. The Court concluded: (1) the unchallenged rationale of "Oregon ex rel Juv. Dept. v. Geist" (796 P2d 1193 (1990)), was applicable to a direct appeal from judgments that make such changes in the permanent plans for children who were wards of the court in dependency cases; and (2) the legislature’s enactment, following the Supreme Court's decision in "Geist," of a statute that provided a juvenile court procedure for modifying or setting aside a dependency judgment while an appeal from the judgment was pending, did not obviate the need for a direct appeal remedy for father’s claim of inadequate assistance of counsel. View "Dept. of Human Services v. T. L." on Justia Law

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The parties were married for 21 years. At the time of trial, husband was 51 and wife was 53. Husband was a practicing attorney with the Army Corps of Engineers. Wife worked at the Bonneville Power Administration. Both parties were beneficiaries of federal retirement benefits. Because wife was eligible for Civil Service Retirement System (CSRS) benefits, she was not eligible for Social Security benefits based on her own employment. Husband's civilian federal employment was under the Federal Employees Retirement System (FERS) and subject to Social Security taxes. The question presented in this case was whether federal law forbid a division of property by which the value of retirement benefits belonging to the nonparticipating spouse is reduced by the present value of hypothetical Social Security benefits to which that spouse would have been entitled if she had been a Social Security participant. Because the Supreme Court concluded that the trial court did not violate federal law by "considering" Social Security benefits in that way, it affirmed that court's decision. View "Herald v. Steadman" on Justia Law

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Father sought review of a judgment for unpaid past child support. In the judgment document, the circuit court imposed judgment for the unpaid installments and accrued interest on each installment, and postjudgment interest on both the amount of the unpaid installments and the accrued interest. The Court of Appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court surmised the outcome of this case hinged on the application of two paragraphs of ORS 82.010(2). The trial court relied on the language in paragraph (2)(c). The Supreme Court concluded, however, that the interest at issue in this case was not interest to which ORS 82.010(2)(c) referred. After an initial judgment is entered requiring payment of child support in future recurring installments, interest on unpaid installments is postjudgment, not prejudgment interest, and is not governed by paragraph (2)(c) of ORS 18 82.010. View "Chase v. Chase" 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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In this juvenile dependency proceeding, a father was found by the court to have subjected one of his children to sexual abuse. Although the child was unavailable to testify at the proceedings, the juvenile court admitted into evidence child's out-of-court statements. Father contended that the juvenile court's theory for admitting the statements - that they were the statements of a party-opponent and, therefore, not hearsay -was a fundamental misunderstanding of the evidence rule pertaining to statements of party-opponents. Furthermore, Father argued that the court's admission of child's out-of-court statements under OEC 801(4)(b)(A) violated his (father's) right to due process and to a proceeding that was fundamentally fair. Upon review, the Supreme Court agreed with father that the juvenile court erred in admitting the child's statements under OEC 801(4)(b)(A), and concluded that the error was not harmless. Accordingly, the Court reversed the juvenile court's judgments and remanded the case for further proceedings. View "Dept. of Human Services v. G. D. W." on Justia Law

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At issue in this dependency case was the lawfulness of a juvenile court order that required a father not to interfere with the ability of a child who is a ward of the court to visit other children who live with the father but are not wards of the court. The Court of Appeals concluded that the juvenile court possessed the authority to enter the order under ORS 419B.337(3). "J.R.F," the Father in this case, contended that the Court of Appeals erred in its holding, because the order at issue did not involve visitation "by the parents or the siblings." The Department of Human Services (DHS) contended that the Court of Appeals was correct, because, although ORS 419B.337(3) did not explicitly authorize the order at issue, the dependency statutes, taken as a whole, authorized the court to "make any order designed to further the best interest of a ward and advance the reunification of the family." Upon review of the matter, the Supreme Court concluded that even if the state was correct about the scope of the authority that the statutes conferred on the juvenile court, the record in this case was inadequate to support the order at issue. The Court therefore reversed the opinion of the Court of Appeals and vacated the order of the juvenile court.