Latest Posts

  1. City of Portland Violated Public Records Law by Overcharging Requesters. 

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    Yesterday, Judge Shelley Russell held Portland’s method for determining fees to produce public records violates public records law because it does not refund overcharges.  Here’s the opinion and order.

    The court found Portland provides an estimate based on the worst case scenario – the most it would cost to comply.  The city requires more money when it underestimates the actual cost.  But what does the city do when it collects more than the actual cost?  What then?  The city pockets the excess.  That’s illegal, and the court ordered the city to stop doing that.

    Once again, it was an attorney who served as a plaintiff, Alan Kessler, who worked with Charlie Gee.  A non-lawyer neighborhood activist or member of the Press cannot take on these battles because they do not have the resources to mount legal challenges.  Thank you and congratulations to both of them.

    Take away number 1 – other claimants out there?

    With this ruling, everyone else who paid an estimate and was not asked to pay more MIGHT have a claim against the city because there’s a reasonable chance they overpaid and never received a refund.

    Take away number 2 – ethics?

    Perhaps the city needs to reconsider its overall ethics.  In the Oregon Department of Justice under Dave Frohnmayer, I was taught public attorneys need to play it straight:  follow the law and produce the records if the law requires it, even if production is contrary to the client’s litigation or other interest.  My sense is the in-house lawyers at the City of Portland view their role differently: as advocates for the goals-du-jour of their client contacts.  If true, I believe that is not the proper ethical standard for that office.

    Jeff Merrick, Attorney.

    © 2019 by Jeff Merrick.  This is not intended as legal advice.  Unless we have a contract, I am not acting as your lawyer.

  2. Past supervisor may be sued for badmouthing former employee.

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    A former employee may sue a former supervisor for employment retaliation, held Oregon’s Supreme Court yesterday.

    Nicole McLaughlin worked as a medical assistant at Hope Orthopedics.  She applied to graduate business school. A supervising doctor, Dr. Wilson, wrote her a great reference.  Later, the same doctor sexually harassed her, she alleged to the company.  Ms. McLaughlin was accepted into graduate school, and Ms. McLaughlin’s sexual harassment claim was “resolved.”

    The supervising doctor then visited to school admissions to provide more information on his prior reference.  Allegedly, he told admissions Ms. McLaughlin “left her past two jobs by getting large amounts of money and a gag order,” and was concerned about her manipulating male faculty members.

    Ms. McLaughlin sued for defamation and retaliation under the employment law statutes.  The employment law claim is important because it provides for attorney fees if she wins while defamation claims do not provide for attorney fees. The trial court threw out the employment law claim because Dr. Wilson was not the employer at the time.  Ms. McLaughlin won the defamation case.

    Oregon’s Supreme Court held the employment law claim was proper:

    • The law permits suits against a person such as supervisor even though he was not the employer.
    • The law permits claims when the person “otherwise discriminates.”
    • “Other” discrimination “is not strictly limited to acts inside the employment relationship” and certainly extends to retaliation with a connection “to past or future employment.”
    • In this case, the retaliation had a connection with her past employment and relates to Ms. McLaughlin’s “access to future employment through the [MBA] degree she was pursuing.”

    So, the court ruled Ms. McLaughlin and her lawyers were right and the trial judge was wrong.

    I suppose the next step for the parties is to negotiate attorney fees and call it a day.

    Jeff Merrick, Attorney and Mediator

    I help people with employment law and other civil claims.

    The above is not intended as legal advice. It is for general information purposes only. Reading it or attempting to contact me does not mean I am your attorney. I only represent people after we sign a written contract.

    © 2019 by Jeff Merrick

  3. How to seek justice from a dishonest attorney.

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    So, what can a clients do when their attorney has cheated them?

    KGW Reporter Kyle Iboshi

    KGW Television News broadcast a long report about the infamous Lori Deveny, who is currently under indictment for stealing from her clients.  Reporter Kyle Iboshi does a good job of explaining what options are available and not available for Oregon clients.  Around 5:25, the reporter interviews me regarding lawsuit options.

    Here’s the link to the story.


  4. The Bialostosky v. Teri Cummings public records case is a misfire, not a precedent


    A writing in the possession of an elected official that contains information relating to the conduct of the public’s business is a “public record.”  Period.  Journalists are dismayed at a ruling that seems contrary to this law.  Never fear.  The trial court order in Bialostosky v. Teri Cummings is not a valid precedent because the well-meaning teenager who presented the case did not give the trial judge the record he needed to rule correctly.

    The law is clear.

    A  “‘Public record’ includes any writing that contains information relating to the conduct of the public’s business[.]” ORS 192.411(5)(a).  Even if the writing is on a “privately owned computer” it can be a public record subject to disclosure if it relates to the conduct of the  public’s business.  ORS 192.411(5)(b).

    The allegations and argument were faulty.

    The people of West Linn elected Theresa Cummings to serve as a city councilor.  She kept notes during public meetings, allegedly relating to the conduct of the public’s business.  Mr. Bialostosky asked the  City of West Linn to produce her notebook.  “They are not our records,” said the city.

    Then, Mr. Bialostosky requested the notes directly from Councilor Cummings, and she did not provide them.

    Mr. Bialostosky sued.  In every lawsuit, the Complaint defines the issues on which the court may provide relief.  The Amended Complaint asked the court to declare “that Ms. Cummings as an elected official is a public body who is subject to Oregon Public Records Laws[.] (Para. 17).  At argument Mr. Bialostosky “conceded” that the definition of “public body” was “critical to his assertion that the notebook is a ‘public record.’”

    Some people view the role of a trial judge to help achieve the right outcome.  Others view the role of a trial judge to resolve the issues put to him or her, without assisting one side or the other make their arguments.  Mr. Bialostosky asked Judge Breithaupt to rule that Councilor Cummings is a public body.  Correctly, he ruled she is not, just as a quarterback is not a football team.

    This case is not a precedent for a properly presented case. 

    First, unlike appellate opinions, trial court opinions are not binding on any future trial court.

    Second, the problem with Bialostosky v. Cummings as a precedent is that Councilor Cummings did not need to be a public body.  Oregon’s Public Records Law provides a two-track appeals system, one for elected officials and another for public bodies. This case confused the two tracks.

    Third, although Judge Breithaupt’s holding may have been a proper resolution of the flawed case in front of him, the holding is WRONG as a statement of general law. He held, “the notebook was not, as required by the definition contained in ORS 192.311(5)(a), ‘prepared, owned, used or retained by the public body.’”

    The law, divorced from the specific and flawed record of this case, does not require the record be prepared, owned, used or retained by the public body.  The definition follows:

    192.311(5)(a) “Public record” includes any writing that contains information relating to the conduct of the public’s business, including but not limited to court records, mortgages, and deed records, prepared, owned, used or retained by a public body regardless of physical form or characteristics.

    (b) “Public record” does not include any writing that does not relate to the conduct of the public’s business and that is contained on a privately owned computer.

    The plain language does not “require” the documents be “used or retained by the public body.” That is merely one example of records that “contain information relating to the conduct of the public’s business.”

    Other records – including those in the hands of elected officials – that contain information relating to the conduct of the public’s business may be public records subject to disclosure to any person.

    THAT is the law.

    Jeff Merrick, Oregon Litigation Attorney

    Helping people with claims against government, including public records.

    ©2019 by Merrick Law, LLC. and Jeff Merrick

  5. Oregon disbars lawyer 16 months after his arrest on 56 counts of sex crimes.

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    Oregon State Police arrested 54-year-old Roseburg attorney Sean Michael Handlery on 56 charges.  They included luring a minor, rape, sodomy, sex abuse and others.  That was January 2018.  In May 2019, the Oregon State Bar disbarred Mr. Handlery, citing twelve indictments plus bad conduct in the practice of law, too.

    The other bad conduct (“Besides that Mrs. Lincoln, how was the play”) included failing to correct false statements to the court, encouraging a client to lie and taking an employment law case when he did not know enough and about employment law and did not educate himself after accepting the case.

    When hiring and working with a lawyer, people need to do their research and trust their gut.  If something feels off, keep shopping for anther lawyer; there are thousands of us.

    Jeff Merrick, Oregon Litigation Attorney
    “I help people with legal malpractice and other claims against attorneys.”

    ©2019 by Merrick Law, LLC. and Jeff Merrick. The above is not intended as legal advice. It is for general information purposes only. Reading it or attempting to contact me does not mean I am your attorney. I only represent people after we sign a written contract.

  6. Nike Case:  Employers cannot launder bias of supervisor through an independent person who fires employee.

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    Today, Oregon’s Supreme Court held that even if the decisionmaker who fired an employee is not biased, the company may be liable for discrimination or retaliation if a biased supervisor influenced or was involved in the termination.

    In Ossanna v. Nike, Inc., Douglas Ossanna had complained about safety issues.  Electricians in the apprenticeship programs were not properly supervised, he said, and caused of electrocutions.  He went through the chain of command, but he saw no action to fix the problems.  Worse, he felt his supervisors took away his chances for advancement because of this complaints.  Later, he was fired, allegedly for using the gym when he was called in during the holidays to open the facility for some other workers.

    Nike delegated firing authority to a person NOT in the chain of command.  That person talked to the supervisor but did not interview Mr. Ossanna.  Hmm. . . .

    At trial, Mr. Ossanna asked the judge to instruct the jury that if the supervisor were biased, and his bias tainted the decision  — “influenced, affected or was involved in the adverse employment decision against plaintiff”– then the jury may find unlawful bias factored into the decision to fire him.  The trial judge refused to read jury instruction on what’s called “cat’s paw.”  Oregon’s Supreme Court said the judge should have read the instruction.

    We call the legal theory “cat’s paw” because a judge who used it in 1990 referred to an old fable:  A monkey gets a cat to pull roasting chestnuts from the fire.  Then, the monkey takes the chestnuts, and the cat is left with burned paws.  Since then, the legal community uses “cat’s paw” to mean one person using another person to accomplish his or her purpose.

    Another cat’s paw example is a supervisor at a fast food restaurant is propositioning a subordinate.  When the subordinate does not submit, the supervisor goes to the owner and gets her fired for some other reason, like showing up late one day.  The owner might not even know that the supervisor was harassing the subordinate.  In fact, the owner’s true motive was not to punish the subordinate for refusing to submit to the supervisor’s sexual demands.  Yet, that was the real reason she was fired.  The cat’s paw fills that gap.

    Ossanna v. Nike, Inc. officially fills that gap for employment discrimination and retaliation claims in Oregon.

    Jeff Merrick, Oregon Litigation Attorney
    I help people with claims against employers.
    ©2019 by Merrick Law, LLC. and Jeff Merrick. The above is not intended as legal advice. It is for general information purposes only. Reading it or attempting to contact me does not mean I am your attorney. I only represent people after we sign a written contract.
  7. Oregon Public Bodies are NOT above Oregon law Protecting Whistle Blowers.

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    Oregon public employers are subject to Oregon laws protecting employees, confirmed the Oregon Court of Appeals last week in Burley v. Clackamas County.

    Galina Burley sued her employer, Clackamas County.  She alleged it retaliated against her for reporting the county improperly used federal grant money.  A jury agreed and awarded her $386,916.  The county said, “Not so fast, we don’t think the law applies to us.”

    One of the laws in question makes it unlawful for an “employer” to retaliate “for the reason that the employee has in good faith reported information that the employee believes is evidence of a violation of a state or federal law, rule or regulation.”  ORS 659A.199.  The employee can be wrong about whether the employer broke the law. The employee must only have a good faith belief the employer violated the law.

    The county argued “employer” means private employer only, not public employer.  It pointed to some words in the legislative history suggesting private employees needed this protection.  But the court of appeals said, Read the dang statutes; they’re clear as can be.

    ORS 659A.001 defines “Employer” as “any person” in the state who engages or uses the personal service of one or more employees.  It then defines “person” to include “public body.”  Game over.  Pay the woman.  And now, pay her the additional tens of thousands it cost for the appeal.

    Whether one likes it or not, Oregon public employers must follow state laws that protect whistleblowers.  According to Burley v. Clackamas County, they must follow ALL other employment laws under that whole chapter of the statutes (ORS 659A), which controls so many of the rights of employees.

    Jeff Merrick, Oregon Litigation Attorney
    I help people with claims against government.
    ©2019 by Merrick Law, LLC. and Jeff Merrick. The above is not intended as legal advice. It is for general information purposes only. Reading it or attempting to contact me does not mean I am your attorney. I only represent people after we sign a written contract.
  8. Attorney disbarred for sex with client


    Attorney Gregory Knudsen of Wyoming wanted sex with his client at the same time he represented the married woman in her divorce proceeding.  He got what he wanted, and her husband complained to the bar.

    The state bar confronted Mr. Knudsen.  Sex with client?  No, we dated but not when she was my client, he said.  Apparently, the bar did not believe him. They actually had law enforcement execute a search warrant. (I wish Oregon officials would be that aggressive.) They found 11,000 texts and GIFs. Afterwards, Mr. Knudsen admitted wrongdoing.

    The “non-lawyerly” texts scared the woman.  She was afraid her husband would find them.  Attorney Knudsen encouraged her to delete the texts.  In other words, the attorney asked her to destroy potential evidence that might have pertained to the divorce case.  Another big no-no for an attorney.

    More details on the facts are found in the court’s decision.

    Oregon, too, prohibits a lawyer from having sexual relations with a current client unless a consensual sexual relationship existed before the lawyer-client relationship.

    Oregon defines “sexual relations” and “lawyer.”

    “’Sexual relations’ means sexual intercourse or any touching of the sexual or other intimate parts of a person or causing such person to touch the sexual or other intimate parts of the lawyer for the purpose of arousing or gratifying the sexual desire of either party.”

    “Lawyer” means the lawyer working on or assisting with the case.  That gives a pass to other lawyers working in the law firm not working on the case.  Attorneys may touch the file or touch the firm’s client, but not both.

    After the attorney client relationship ends, then the attorney and former client may act as any consenting adults.

    Which reminds me of an infamous 1992 case in which an Oregon attorney celebrated a big settlement on behalf of a sixteen-year-old by providing her alcohol and sex in a limousine.  The grand jury indicted him for three crimes: contributing to the sexual delinquency of a minor, sexual abuse in the third degree and furnishing alcohol to a minor. Although never convicted, the attorney lost his license for 18 months.  I suspect such conduct would net a stiffer penalty in 2019.

    The bottom line:  There are consequences when attorneys cross that line with clients from professional to sexual.

    Jeff Merrick, Oregon Litigation Attorney
    ©2019 by Merrick Law, LLC. and Jeff Merrick. The above is not intended as legal advice. It is for general information purposes only. Reading it or attempting to contact me does not mean I am your attorney. I only represent people after we sign a written contract.
  9. Domicile known. Deaths in “low-barrier” housing add to questions about homeless policy.


    Bud Clark Commons housed 259 previously homeless people between January 1, 2015 and December 31, 2018.  Thirty-eight of them died there.  That’s nearly 15%.  Police dispatch records reveal 872 calls for service to its address: 15 for some of the deaths plus for numerous disturbances, some “with weapons,” thefts, assaults and many other reasons between January 2015 and July 2018.  Is Bud Clark Commons a feel-good model that taxpayers should replicate?  Or is it time to steal best practices used by other cities?

    The Housing Authority of Portland, doing business as  “Home Forward,” manages Bud Clark Commons. It provides 130 apartments, including for people suffering from addiction.  “Low-barrier” housing or shelters means we expect little from guests, and they are free to continue suffering from addiction.  Housing first is the best approach for helping people because treatment is more likely to work if people have stable housing.  However, the type and location of housing is very important.  Bud Clark Commons is within walking distance of drug-selling predators in Portland’s last open drug market.  Residents may walk a couple of blocks, get their drugs, come home and die in their own apartments.  The public records did not indicate how many of the the 38 deaths were from overdoses or conditions exacerbated by drugs.

    In the mid-20th century, housing authorities built projects in which they placed together low-income and welfare-dependent people.  We learned “the projects” are not the most fertile places for success.  The opposite is true.  Yet, here we are in 2019 continuing to provide mass shelters or housing where we group together service-dependent and drug-dependent people.  Successful cities find and create better housing options.

    In 2017, Multnomah County reported 4,177 homeless people on its point-in-time census.  Multnomah County also reported 79 deaths of homeless people in its report entitled “Domicile Unknown.”  That’s about 1.9%, which is about twice the death rate for Portland.

    Chair Kafoury and homeless advocates use the annual “Domicile Unknown” report to argue we must build more shelters or projects.  Every citizen knows we have problems.  The report merely inflames the debate, distracting from the real question of whether the approach pursued by Chair Kafoury and Mayor Wheeler is the best one.

    It cost us $253,000 per studio apartment to build Bud Clark Commons in 2011.  I do not know much it costs to operate.  Other jurisdictions found success reducing the numbers of unsheltered people by starting with audits:  Are we getting good results for the dollars spent?  Then, they re-direct money to more effective strategies.  Meanwhile, we in Oregon uncritically do more of the same, resulting in our dismal rankings among states plus the District of Columbia.  Oregon ranks 51 out of 51 for sheltering families with children, 49 of 51 for veterans, 47 of 51 for unaccompanied youth, and 50/51 homeless, cumulatively.

    Our leaders need to do more than appear at ground-breaking photo / video-ops and brag about spending more money every time they expand a service-dependent ghetto or seed a new one.  They should audit existing programs, listen to neighbors and adopt best practices in a transparent process.

    Jeff Merrick

  10. Willamette Week article better than a lawsuit by me.


    On October 15, 2018, I asked the Press for help alerting any other victims of Lori Deveny.  People had contacted me to sue Ms. Deveny because I market myself to sue other lawyers.  They told me she was still stringing them along with promises they would get their money, one day, as if she were still authorized to practice law.  If anyone else were still waiting for money from Ms. Deveny, they needed to know her current status with the bar, I believed.  I thought a lawsuit could be newsworthy and might alert others.

    I considered lawsuits alleging fraud, conversion, breach of fiduciary duty, legal malpractice or other claims.  But, I did not feel it was in the best interests of the people who contacted me to file suit.  Nevertheless, I believed I needed to something in case other people believed she was still acting as their lawyer.   I contacted the Oregon State Bar, and I got the impression they felt they were doing all they could – which I did not believe was enough.  So, I contacted Nigel Jaquiss to see if the Willamette Week might be interested in the story.

    Today, Ms. Del Savio and Willamette Week published their story on her.  Thank you to Anna Del Savio, Nigel Jaquiss and the editors.

    Jeff Merrick, Oregon Litigation Attorney
    ©2018 by Merrick Law, LLC. and Jeff Merrick. The above is not intended as legal advice. It is for general information purposes only. Reading it or attempting to contact me does not mean I am your attorney. I only represent people after we sign a written contract.