Oregon Court of Appeals Sniffs the Weed and Finds it “not inherently unpleasant”: Oregon v. Lang

Oregon v. Lang, 273 Or App 113 (2015), (Benton County Circuit Court CM1320460; A154498)

Citations below are to the online, unofficial advance sheet version of this case, and available for viewing (at least as of today) at: http://www.publications.ojd.state.or.us/docs/A154498.pdf

This is another case that would be quite instructive to laypeople interested in the law, assuming they read the whole case and also perhaps talk to a lawyer or judge about it, rather than relying on a brief news report – or a blog post.

One cannot read this case, or most any other case for that matter, through a “common sense” lens, especially if it’s someone else’s idea of common sense and that person hasn’t the slightest clue how laws are made, published, administered, enforced, litigated, or interpreted.

Among other knowledge to be gained from reading this case: one might learn about probable cause, how statutes are interpreted, how judges decide the meanings of words, the role of legislative history, rights and responsibilities of law enforcement personnel, the value of “making a good case” by the police and the prosecutor, etc. Yes, there is much more to learn from this case and perhaps especially the limits of the law and perhaps also how not to handle a neighbor-law problem. (Do not assume these have easy legal or non-legal remedies.)

Aside: We may also assume that none of the parties to the case or the judges ever lived in a small apartment with a large, long-haired dog that had been sprayed full on by a skunk. There is nothing “not inherently unpleasant” about smelling skunkweed-equivalent for days on end. Just saying (g).

Excerpts from Oregon v. Lane:

“... defendant’s appeal is limited to challenging whether the affidavit furnished probable cause to believe that someone in his residence had created a physically offensive condition….” [p. 119]

“…. The parties’ arguments about the meaning of the term “physically offensive” present a question of statutory interpretation. To determine the legislature’s intent, we look to the text of ORS 166.025 in context as well as the legislative history and, if necessary, to interpretive maxims. State v. Gaines, 346 Or 160, 171-72, 206 P3d 1042 (2009). We begin with the words of the statute themselves. Because the term “physically offensive” is not statutorily defined, we assume that the legislature intended the words to carry their ordinary meaning. “Physically” means “in respect to the body.” Webster’s Third New Int’l Dictionary, 1707 (unabridged ed 2002). “Physical,” in turn, means “of or relating to the body <~ strength>—often opposed to mental.” Id. at 1706. “Offensive” means “giving painful or unpleasant sensations” and is synonymous with “nauseous, obnoxious, [and] revolting.” Id. at 1566. Those synonyms suggest that the word “offensive” implies a greater degree of displeasure or discomfort than the word “unpleasant” might, standing alone....” [pp. 119-120]

How to Change Your Voter Party-Affiliation Registration in Oregon

It’s easy to register to vote in Oregon, online, in person, by mail.
Visit the Oregon Secretary of State Elections homepage or the Register to Vote page directly.

It’s also easy to update your contact information, e.g. address, name, etc.

HOWEVER, note that it’s not so easy at that Secretary of State’s website to figure out how you can change your party affiliation online or in print. That webpage says:

You can update your voter registration information, except to change your party for the Primary Election ….

But there is no specific instruction or link to any page with specific information about how to update your party affiliation so it’s anyone guess if you can do that without calling or visiting a county elections office, which is either very easy or very difficult depending on where you live and what transport you have. Maybe if I drill down and enter my personal data in all the forms it will become clear how one changes one’s party affiliation, but without doing all that, I couldn’t tell you.

The SoS print voter registration forms (PDFs also online) allow you to “update” all sort of personal information, e.g. name, county and state, home address, and date of birth, but it does not include on the form a clear option to update your choice of “Political Party.

On the other hand it looks as if you can write in a change on that form (assuming you print it out). I suppose you can add a note about your party change to the bottom of the form where it asks you to specify what information you are updating. But it’s not clear that is permitted.


Contact your county’s Elections office; they should almost always be the first place you turn anyway when you have questions about Elections and Voting. You can find links to your county’s elections info at the SoS County Elections Officials webpage.

Some county elections websites give very clear instructions on updating party affiliation, but not all of them do. Multnomah County Elections does give clear instructions and I suspect that the instructions apply to every county – after all, Oregon elections law is state law, not local.

Here, for example, is what you’ll see at the Multnomah County Elections Office website:
Party affiliation change – please update your party affiliation by completing a new registration card online (link is external) or print (link is external).

Happy voting!

Homeless in Portland: Business Alliance, Street Roots, and the Law of Urban Planning 101

There has been a recent slew of articles and editorials on homelessness in Oregon, but this editorial stands out – and not just as a reminder that Street Roots is always worth reading.

The editorial needs a few footnotes, specifically citations to sections of the Oregon Constitution and other laws that are referenced. But their absence doesn’t take away from the gist.

Portland Business Alliance: We can do better than this,” by Israel Bayer, Street Roots editorial, 15 July 2015

The Portland Business Alliance took out a full-page ad in today’s Oregonian with the headline, “We can do better than this.” The ad goes on to say, “Our city is experiencing a crisis on our streets and in our parks….

On its face, the campaign seems like a practical call for housing and resources — something we can all agree on. In some ways, Street Roots doesn’t disagree. It’s time for bold action on housing and homelessness in our city. There’s simply no place left to turn.

Saying that, buying a one-page ad in The Oregonian and orchestrating a Change.org petition seems like a sensational attempt to force the mayor into responding to the issue.

Here’s the thing. When it comes to having tools at our disposal to combat our housing and homeless crisis we are hurting badly. Here is a short-list of tools used in other states that are prohibited at a local or state level….‘ [Link to full editorial.]

National Survey of State Laws, 7th edition

Look for the 7th edition of this important legal research resource, National Survey of State Laws, which is used by lawyers and many other legal researchers. Visit the Hein Blog for a July 8, 2015, guest post by the author, Richard Leiter.

Link to my 2014 blog post on this topic: How to Find State Law Comparisons, Surveys, and Compilations

How to Serve (Deliver) Legal Papers in Oregon

There is a new Multnomah County Circuit Court, Family Court FAQ guide on “How to Serve (Deliver) Legal Papers in Oregon.” (We thank Judge McKnight and her family law team* for this guide! They say “[i]t was developed for family law cases but we included Plaintiff/Defendant terms so that usage could be general.“)

Link from Multnomah County Circuit Court, Family Court website, if that direct PDF link is not working. Today the FAQ number is 23, but that could change as new tips and answers to questions are added.

You will need to refer to the Oregon Rules of Civil Procedure, which are referenced in this guide. You can find the ORCP at the OJD Court Rules website or link directly to them at the Legislature’s ORCP website. (For the most recent proposed and adopted ORCP rules, visit the Council on Court Procedures website.)

*The booklet was written by the Self-Representation Subcommittee of the State Family Law Advisory Committee for the Oregon Judicial Department in June 2015.

Superseded Oregon Revised Statutes 1953-1993: Update

The Oregon Legislature (via Legislative Counsel) has now posted all the superseded ORS volumes we scanned (1953-93). They already have 1999-2011 ORS.

Note: It’s not very easy to find the 1953-93 archives because you have to click on some very tiny print on a different screen in order to get there. Here are my instructions from a September 2014 Gutbuster blog post: Superseded ORS on the Oregon Legislature’s Website: 1953-1981:

…. Indirect link: Visit the ORS Archives 1999-2011 webpage and click on the text (in tiny print): “Older editions of the ORS are available here and more are being added as time and resources allow.

We’re still awaiting 1995 and 1997. The Legislature has those digital files and it’s only a matter of time before those show up on the website.

(Yes, there will be a few missing pages from the ORS volumes we scanned. We found a lot of those pages after combing through dozens of ORS duplicate sets and are only waiting for the end of the current Legislative Session to send them on. Legislative Counsel has enough on their plates right now.)

Grandparent Custody and Visitation Rights in Oregon: 2015 HB 3014

2015 House Bill 3014 signed by the Oregon Governor. (Keep an eye on OLIS to find the Oregon Laws Chapter number when it is assigned.)

See the Oregonian article: Oregon grandparents rights” by Amy Wang, 6/3/15:

Oregon Gov. Kate Brown has signed a bill that will maintain grandparents’ legal rights if parents’ legal rights are terminated.

Currently, if a child’s parents have their rights terminated, the child’s grandparents also lose their legal rights to be in the child’s life. House Bill 3014 redefines the word “grandparent” to mean “the legal parent of the child’s or ward’s legal parent, regardless of whether the parental rights of the child’s or ward’s legal parent have been terminated.” [Link to Oregonian article.]

Oregon Supreme Court: PERS Decision (4/30/15)

Moro v. State of Oregon, 357 Or 167 (S061452) (2015)

“.... Before Balmer, Chief Justice, and Kistler, Walters, Linder, Brewer, and Baldwin, Justices, and Haselton, Chief Judge of the Oregon Court of Appeals, Justice pro tempore.**

Brewer, J., concurred and filed an opinion. Oregon Laws 2013, chapter 53, sections 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, and 10, are declared unconstitutional under Article I, section 21, of the Oregon Constitution insofar as they affect retirement benefits earned before May 6, 2013. Oregon Laws 2013, chapter 2, sections 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, and 6 (Special Session), are declared unconstitutional under Article I, section 21, of the Oregon Constitution insofar as they affect retirement benefits earned before October 8, 2013. Oregon Laws 2013, chapter 2, section 8 (Special Session) is declared void. Petitioners’ requests for relief challenging Oregon Laws 2013, chapter 53, sections 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, and 17, are denied….” [Moro v State of Oregon]

Legal Information Services to the Public: Legal Research Toolkits for Public Librarians

From the AALL (American Association of Law Libraries), LISP (Legal Information Services to the Public) special interest section:

Public Library Toolkit:

“This is a toolkit meant to help public librarians understand the process of legal research, effectively develop and use the information located within their libraries, utilize information located outside their libraries, with the end goal of helping the patron locate the legal information they need ...”

Clark County, King County, and other Washington State County Law Libraries

We get a lot of calls for people who need to talk to a Washington STATE public law librarian. If you need to research Washington State law, don’t call us, call them:

Washington (State) County Law Libraries

Washington State Law Library

If you need to research Oregon law, do call us: Oregon Law Libraries