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Saturday, December 29, 2007

Grow Old With Me

Yesterday, the Oregon Supreme Court issued its long awaited opinion in the case Clarke v OHSU. The particulars of this case aren't terribly relevant to our situation, but there is an eerily familiar tempo to the case that supports my claim that the PERS cases, in particular Arken and Robinson, are unlikely to be finished in any material way until the Supreme Court rules in about 2012. I may be overestimating how quickly the Court will act. The original case Clarke v OHSU was filed in 1998 in Judge Kantor's Circuit Court in Multnomah County. It was a particularly complicated case and by the time it was finally filed, depositioned, tried, and ruled on by a jury, the decision - in favor of OHSU - was issued in 2001. It then went to the Oregon Court of Appeals where the ruling - overturning Judge Kantor's decision - was in favor of the Clarke family. That ruling came down in 2006. The Supreme Court heard arguments in Clarke v OHSU earlier in 2007 and took nearly a year to issue its ruling - affirming the Court of Appeals and remanding the case back to Judge Kantor for final disposition.

If we use this case as an example of how long it takes complex cases to be litigated through the court system, it is unlikely that our cases will rush speedily to final judgement. Ours *is* a complicated case. It only seems easy and obvious to us, but to Judges and those specializing in administrative and contract law, our cases are quite complicated and rulings rarely come quickly. That said, Judge Kantor is especially slow in issuing his rulings according to several former court reporters familiar with the workings of the Multnomah County Circuit. Judge Kantor is apparently regarded as one of the Judges who takes quite some time to issue rulings. He is not overturned all that often, certainly no more than the speedier judges, and the OHSU case should not be taken as a harbinger of Judge Kantor's record with the OSC. But, anyone who thinks final resolution of our cases will come quickly will be in for a rude and unpleasant shock. Justice delayed may be justice denied, but the wheels of our justice system just plain move slowly. I suspect we'll all grow old together waiting for a final decision.

The only good news in all this is that we will have some political change in both the Courts and the Governor's office by the time these cases get to the Oregon Supreme Court. Perhaps the next Governor will decide to cut the PERS Board loose and put in his/her own chosen ones. Perhaps if that happens, we might see some movement towards a settlement rather than waiting for the Supreme Court again. It will be 2010 before that happens, but since we're only 3 days from 2008, 2010 doesn't seem that far away anymore. So, let's grow old together, but let's do it with vim, vigor, and a never say die conviction. We will not give up.

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