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Oregon Attorney, as Pro Se Litigant, Entitled to Attorney Fees (under ORS 192.490)


Craig Colby v. Karen Gunson, State Medical Examiner (SC S057691) (August 26, 2010)

Excerpt (from August 26, 2010, OJD Media Release):

On review from the Court of Appeals in an appeal from the Marion County Circuit Court, Albin W. Norblad, Judge. 229 Or App 167, 210 P3d 917 (2009).

The decision of the Court of Appeals is reversed, and the case is remanded to the Court of Appeals for further proceedings.

Opinion of the Court by Justice Thomas A. Balmer. Today, the Oregon Supreme Court held that an attorney who, acting pro se, prevails in a suit seeking disclosure of a public record is entitled to recover the reasonable value of the attorney’s legal services under ORS 192.490(3) ….

The Court concluded that, when used in the context of an attorney fee award, the ordinary meaning of the term “attorney fees” includes the reasonable value of an attorney’s services, whether or not the client was required to pay for those services. The Court also reasoned that an attorney need not have a separate client to recover “attorney fees” under the statute. Because plaintiff was an attorney and because he performed legal services in seeking disclosure of public records, the Court concluded that he was entitled to collect attorney fees for those services if he prevailed in his suit. The Court therefore reversed the decision of the Court of Appeals and remanded for further proceedings…”
(Link to full opinion.)

(Link to ORS 192.490.), which reads:

2009 ORS 92.490: Court authority in reviewing action denying right to inspect public records; docketing; costs and attorney fees. (1) In any suit filed under ORS 192.450, 192.460, 192.470 or 192.480, the court has jurisdiction to enjoin the public body from withholding records and to order the production of any records improperly withheld from the person seeking disclosure. The court shall determine the matter de novo and the burden is on the public body to sustain its action. The court, on its own motion, may view the documents in controversy in camera before reaching a decision. Any noncompliance with the order of the court may be punished as contempt of court.

(2) Except as to causes the court considers of greater importance, proceedings arising under ORS 192.450, 192.460, 192.470 or 192.480 take precedence on the docket over all other causes and shall be assigned for hearing and trial at the earliest practicable date and expedited in every way.

(3) If a person seeking the right to inspect or to receive a copy of a public record prevails in the suit, the person shall be awarded costs and disbursements and reasonable attorney fees at trial and on appeal. If the person prevails in part, the court may in its discretion award the person costs and disbursements and reasonable attorney fees at trial and on appeal, or an appropriate portion thereof. If the state agency failed to comply with the Attorney General’s order in full and did not issue a notice of intention to institute proceedings pursuant to ORS 192.450 (2) within seven days after issuance of the order, or did not institute the proceedings within seven days after issuance of the notice, the petitioner shall be awarded costs of suit at the trial level and reasonable attorney fees regardless of which party instituted the suit and regardless of which party prevailed therein. [1973 c.794 §9; 1975 c.308 §3; 1981 c.897 §40]

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One response to “Oregon Attorney, as Pro Se Litigant, Entitled to Attorney Fees (under ORS 192.490)”

  1. Debra Heumphreus says:

    If a person is not an attorney, represents themselves
    pro se, may they obtain legal fees? If not what fees
    may the pro se be reimbursed for? Paper, ink, travel etc.
    Is it unfair access to be denied the new e file to the court
    if you are not an attorney, but handling a pro se matter
    for yourself.
    Is it legal for statutes to allow the court file to be
    incomplete and the judge not recusable as in Oregon.

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