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The International Longshore & Warehouse Union v. Port of Portland

Court of Appeals of Oregon

May 3, 2017

THE INTERNATIONAL LONGSHORE & WAREHOUSE UNION, a California unincorporated association, Plaintiff-Appellant,
v.
PORT OF PORTLAND, an Oregon municipal corporation, Defendant-Respondent.

          Argued and Submitted September 21, 2015

         Multnomah County Circuit Court 130710780; John A. Wittmayer, Judge.

          Lindsay Nicholas argued the cause for appellant. With her on the briefs were Robert Remar and Michael J. Morris.

          Amy Edwards argued the cause for respondent. With her on the brief was Reilley D. Keating.

          Before Armstrong, Presiding Judge, and Hadlock, Chief Judge, and Egan, Judge.

         Case Summary:

         Plaintiff, International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU), appeals a judgment dismissing its complaint against defendant, the Port of Portland. In that complaint, the ILWU sought to compel the port to produce public records under the Oregon Public Records Law. The trial court had determined that it did not have jurisdiction to compel the production of those records. Held: The only statutory prerequisite to instituting a circuit court proceeding under the Public Records Law is that the Attorney General or district attorney deny a petition seeking review of a public body's denial of the right to inspect a public record. Here, the district attorney had denied the ILWU's petition to inspect port records before the ILWU brought its complaint in the trial court. Thus, the trial court had jurisdiction to consider the merits of the ILWU's complaint.

         Reversed and remanded.

          ARMSTRONG, P.J.

         This is an action for declaratory and injunctive relief arising out of requests for public records under the Oregon Public Records Law, ORS 192.410 to 192.505. Plaintiff, the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU), appeals a judgment dismissing its complaint against defendant, the Port of Portland. In its complaint, the ILWU sought to have the circuit court compel the port to produce the requested records and to waive or substantially reduce the fees that the port was requiring the ILWU to pay before the port produced the records. The court dismissed part of the ILWU's complaint because there had been no "denial" of the ILWU's records request, which the court concluded was necessary for it to have jurisdiction over claims seeking to compel the port to produce records. The court also dismissed the ILWU's claims relating to the port's fees to produce the records, with leave to replead those claims. The ILWU declined to replead its remaining claims and filed this appeal from the judgment dismissing its claims. We conclude that the circuit court erred in dismissing the ILWU's complaint. Accordingly, we reverse and remand.

         Because it assists in understanding the facts of this case, we begin with an overview of the relevant provisions of the Public Records Law. Under ORS 192.420(1), "[e]very person has a right to inspect any public record of a public body in this state, except as otherwise expressly provided by ORS 192.501 to 192.505 [listing exemptions from disclosure] ." "Under the statutory scheme, disclosure is the rule, " and exemptions are narrowly construed. Guard Publishing Co. v. Lane County School Dist, 310 Or 32, 37, 791 P.2d 854 (1990). As such,

"[a] public body must adhere strictly to the requirements of the relevant statutes. A public body may not exempt itself from its responsibilities under the Inspection of Public Records law by adopting a policy that seeks to deprive citizens of their right under the law to inspect public records. Disclosure is the norm; exclusion is the exception that must be justified by the public body."

Id. at 39.

         The custodian of a public record is required to provide a person who asks to inspect a record the reasonable opportunity to inspect or copy the record. ORS 192.440(1). If the request is in writing, the public body is required to "respond as soon as practicable and without reasonable delay" and may request clarification or additional information "for the purpose of expediting the public body's response to the request." ORS 192.440(2); s ...


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