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Thursday, July 12, 2007
Knocking on Heaven's Door
Apropos of that justice, after the service I had a chance to talk "shop" with Scott Jonnson, the attorney who represented Martha and retirees in the Sartain v State of Oregon case that was part of the Strunk consolidated matter ruled on by the Oregon Supreme Court two years ago. Scott filled me in on the tardiness of the Oregon Supreme Court in issuing their final ruling in the "fee award" portion of Strunk. In her final days, Martha was concerned about the disposition of "her" case should she die before PERS was forced to implement. Scott assured her (and then me) that he would continue pursuit of PERS until they complied so that Martha's estate could get what she was denied in her lifetime, not to mention all the retirees she represented. There is no legal uncertainty created by her death. He also noted that Martha would live on forever through the case, as legal precedents are always referred to by the cases in which they were decided. Thus, "Sartain v State of Oregon" will become an historically important case and will continue to be cited in both Oregon and other state pension cases. One interested factoid emerged that I was unaware of. The attorney fee award in the Sartain case was tripled by the Special Master because he wanted the award to be sufficient to cover expenses and the donations made by OPRI members to subsidize the litigation. This is to prevent double jeopardy to OPRI contributors - the original donation plus the cost levied against retirees to pay OPRI for the legal fees incurred in its litigation against PERS. Thus, OPRI will have a difficult time NOT offering to refund the donations once PERS pays them what the Court is expected to order. The Court (in particular Judge Breithaupt, Special Master) made this an important part of its recommendation.
Finally, I now know the date, time, and place of the Arken/Robinson status conference. It is scheduled for August 16, 2007 at 9:00 a.m. in Judge Kantor's courtroom in the Multnomah County Circuit Court. A nice turnout would both honor Martha and provide us with important clues about how PERS is going to treat the ruling. Scott thought that with a summary judgement, PERS may have about 90 days (probably not any more) to decide whether to appeal. Nearly 30 days have already elapsed and we'll be up to almost 60 by the time of the status conference. PERS is going to have to fish or cut bait fairly soon and no one seems to be certain what they'll do.