Handy v. Lane County

Summarized by:

  • Court: Oregon Court of Appeals
  • Area(s) of Law: Municipal Law
  • Date Filed: 11-04-2015
  • Case #: A153507
  • Judge(s)/Court Below: Garrett, P.J., for the Court; Ortega, J.; Devore, J., concurring and dissenting.
  • Full Text Opinion

Under ORS 192.690, to "meet" means something less restrictive than just contemporaneous meetings. The determinative factors for whether a violation of the Public Meetings Law has occurred is whether a sufficient number of officials are involved, what they discuss, and the purpose for which they discuss it.

Plaintiff appealed a judgment that dismissed his claims against Defendants for violations of the Public Meetings Law. Plaintiff claimed that Lane County commissioners violated the law by holding a private meeting to discuss whether to hold an emergency meeting and substantively what to do in response to a public records request. The trial court granted dismissal of Plaintiff’s claims under the anti-SLAPP statute. Plaintiff argued on appeal that he should have won the anti-SLAPP motion because he could show that there was a probability he would prevail on his claim. To succeed, Plaintiff must show enough evidence to support his claim that the commissioners violated the Public Meetings Law. The Public Meetings Law prohibits a governing body to meet in a quorum for the purpose of deciding or deliberating toward a decision. Three of the five commissioners communicated via telephone and email within several hours, but only two were talking directly at any one time. Based on text, structure, context, purpose, and legislative history, the Court’s interpretation of the meaning of “meet” was something less restrictive than a contemporaneous meeting. Plaintiff’s showing of serial discussions, content of which suggests deliberation, is sufficient to overcome the anti-SLAPP motion. Reversed and remanded.

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