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Jarlstrom v. Aldridge

United States District Court, D. Oregon

December 14, 2017

MATS JÄRLSTRÖM, Plaintiff,
v.
CHRISTOPHER D. ALDRIDGE, WILLIAM J. BOYD, DAREN L. CONE, SHELLY MC DUQUETTE, JASON J. KENT, LOGAN T. MILES, RON SINGH, DAVE M. VAN DYKE, SEAN W. ST. CLAIR, AMIN WAHAB, and OSCAR J. ZUNIGA JR., in their official capacities as members of the Oregon State Board of Examiners for Engineering and Land Surveying, Defendants.

          OPINION AND ORDER

          STACIE F. BECKERMAN UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         Plaintiff Mats Järlström filed suit against the members of the Oregon State Board of Examiners for Engineering and Land Surveying (“Defendants”) challenging the constitutionality of Oregon laws and regulations governing the practice of engineering and the use of the title “engineer.” Plaintiff alleges that the challenged laws violate the First Amendment's free speech protections, both on their face and as applied to Plaintiff's conduct. (Compl. ¶¶ 103-46.)

         Defendants admit many of the facts alleged in Plaintiff's complaint and admit liability on Plaintiff's as-applied challenges. (Answer ¶¶ 83, 93, 103, 114.) Defendants now move for entry of judgment. (ECF No. 43.) Plaintiff opposes the motion. (ECF No. 50.)

         BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff Mats Järlström is a resident of Washington County, Oregon, a lawful permanent resident of the United States, and a citizen of Sweden. (Compl. ¶ 8; Answer ¶ 7.) Plaintiff earned the equivalent of a Bachelor of Science degree in electrical engineering in Sweden and has spent his career working in the field of electronics. (Compl. ¶¶ 12-15; Answer ¶ 9.) He is not a licensed professional engineer in Oregon. (Compl. ¶ 28; Answer ¶ 22.)

         In May 2013, Plaintiff became interested in traffic light timing after his wife received a “red-light-camera” ticket. (Compl. ¶ 11; Answer ¶ 9.) Plaintiff spent the last three years analyzing the mathematical formula for the duration of a yellow traffic light. (Compl. ¶ 15; Answer ¶ 9.) Specifically, Plaintiff believes the current formula used for traffic light timing is incomplete because it only accounts for drivers who proceed straight through a yellow light and does not account for drivers who must slow to make a legal turn. (Compl. ¶ 17; Answer ¶ 11.)

         Defendants are members of the Oregon State Board of Examiners for Engineering and Land Surveying. (Compl. ¶ 9; Answer ¶ 8.) The Defendants' agency is charged with administering and enforcing the Professional Engineer Registration Act. (Compl. ¶ 9; Answer ¶ 8.)

         In September 2014, Plaintiff emailed Defendants offering to present his theories about traffic light timing to the Board, and asking for “support and help” in presenting those ideas. (Compl. ¶¶ 24-25; Answer ¶¶ 18-19.) Two days later Defendants responded, informing Plaintiff that they had no authority over traffic lights, but they did have authority over engineering laws, which Plaintiff was violating by using the title “engineer” and the statement “I'm an engineer.” (Compl. ¶¶ 26-27; Answer ¶¶ 20-21.) In their response, Defendants advised Plaintiff to stop using those references until he registered with the Board. (Compl. ¶ 29; Answer ¶ 23.) Over the following months, Plaintiff continued to talk about his ideas with the public, including the National Council of Examiners for Engineering and Surveying, the 60 Minutes news program, a local news station, and the physicist who created the original traffic light timing formula. (Compl. ¶¶ 31-32; Answer ¶ 23.) In at least one of those communications, and in subsequent emails to the Defendants, Plaintiff described himself as an “engineer.” (Compl. ¶ 37; Answer ¶ 26.)

         In November 2016, Defendants fined Plaintiff $500 for violating sections 672.020 and 672.045(1) and (2) of the Oregon Revised Statutes, and section 820-010-0730 of the Oregon Administrative Rules. (Compl. ¶¶ 72-74; Answer ¶¶ 50-52.) Those laws, along with sections 672.002(2), 672.005(1)(a)-(b), and 672.007(1) of the Oregon Revised Statutes are referred to as Oregon's “engineering practice” and “engineering title” laws. (Compl. ¶ 56; Answer ¶ 43.) Together, the laws regulate the profession of engineering in Oregon, specifically who may call themselves an engineer, what constitutes the practice of engineering, and who may legally participate in the practice of engineering. (Compl. ¶¶ 51-55; Answer ¶¶ 39-42.)

         In addition to its investigation of Plaintiff's activities, the Board has investigated other speech for violations of the challenged laws, including speech contained in voter pamphlets, a complaint letter sent to the Board, court testimony, a political advertisement, and a magazine article. (Compl. ¶¶ 57-61; Answer ¶ 43.) Neither party provides details about the specific speech at issue or the results of those investigations.

         In April 2017, Plaintiff filed this suit alleging that Oregon's engineering practice and engineering title laws violate the First Amendment's Speech and Petition clauses both facially and as-applied to Plaintiff. (Compl. ¶¶ 103-146; Answer ¶¶ 76-116.) In September 2017, Defendants filed a motion for entry of judgment admitting that the Board violated Plaintiff's speech and petition rights, and asking the court not to address the facial claims. (Mot. for Entry of J. at 4-5.) Plaintiff objects to the motion on the ground that Defendants' proposed judgment fails to provide all the relief Plaintiff seeks. (Resp. to Mot. for Entry of J.; Suppl. Br. in Resp.)

         ANALYSIS

         I. STANDARD OF REVIEW

         Defendants' motion for entry of judgment is procedurally unusual. The Federal Rules of Civil Procedure do not address the standard by which a court reviews such a motion. One court, reviewing a similar motion, determined that a district court may grant a motion for entry of judgment, “even over the opposition of the nonmoving party, if (1) there is no genuine issue of material fact at issue, (2) the nonmoving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law, and (3) the motion offers to ...


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