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Appeal request denied in $1 billion Oregon timber lawsuit

A lawsuit over Oregon’s timber practices doesn’t have to undergo an “interlocutory appeal” before heading to trial.
Mateusz Perkowski

Capital Press

Published on June 5, 2018 7:19AM

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A class action lawsuit that alleges insufficient logging of Oregon’s forests can go to trial without first being reviewed the Oregon Court of Appeals.

Linn County Circuit Judge Daniel Murphy has rejected a motion by the State of Oregon to allow for an “interlocutory appeal” on thorny legal questions before the Oregon Court of Appeals.

The complaint seeks more than $1 billion in damages on behalf of 14 counties and numerous taxing districts, which claim they’ve received inadequate logging revenues from forestland they’d donated to the state government in the early 20th century.

Contractual agreements require those forests to be managed for maximum timber revenue, but for the past 20 years, Oregon has instead focused on environmental and recreational values, according to plaintiffs.

Over the past two years of litigation, Murphy has ruled on several contentious points of law in the case, such as whether “sovereign immunity” bars counties from suing the state government in this context.

In January, the judge denied a request by Oregon’s attorneys to dismiss the lawsuit on that basis, but the state government had hoped to raise the matter and others in an “interlocutory appeal” before a trial.

While the state’s attorneys claimed the Oregon Court of Appeals would provide a “road map to the key issues,” the counties argued such an appeal would unnecessarily delay the proceedings by up to three years.

Postponing the trial would prejudice the counties’ case because witnesses and experts “are already in advanced years and may not be available, or may have less clear recollection,” once finally called to testify, said John DiLorenzo, the plaintiffs’ attorney, in a court brief.

With the judge deciding against an interlocutory appeal, a trial can be expected to take place within the first half of 2019, most likely by March, he said.

Capital Press was unable to reach an attorney for Oregon for comment on the decision.


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