SALEM -- Oregon Attorney General Hardy Myers scored a mixed result in today's Supreme Court ruling in a contentious ballot initiative case with some unusual twists.
In Chip Terhune and Larry Wolf vs. Hardy Myers (No. S53487), Myers filed an instant appeal to a Supreme Court decision Dec. 21 ordering Myers to rewrite a ballot title (brief description and summary of consequences) for Initiative Petition No. 12 (IP12).
Myers appealed that decision, also on Dec. 21, on the grounds that it was moot. That's because the original petitioner (unbeknownst to anyone else connected with the case, including the justices) had withdrawn the petition six months earlier.
On the same grounds, Myers also moved that the Supreme Court withdraw its Dec. 21 opinion ruling against him in the original ballot-title case.
IP12, as originally defined, "would prohibit individuals, companies, and organizations from using money deducted from an employee's paycheck for a political purpose, as defined in the measure, unless the employee annually consents in writing to such use."
In December the Supreme Court agreed with the petitioners that the ballot submitted by Myers' office did not reflect the original intent of the petition.
"The ballot title that the Attorney General certified did not substantially comply with [statutory] requirements," wrote Justice Dunham in the court's opinion. Myers was ordered to rewrite the ballot title in compliance with the law.
But in today's ruling the Supreme Court agreed with Myers that the initiative petition's withdrawal by the petitioner declared the case moot and ruled for dismissal. However, the justices expressed frustration with the fact that nobody outside of the attorney general's office was aware that the case had become moot in June.
"The court depends on the diligence and cooperation of all counsel...to prevent a waste of the court's limited resources," Dunham wrote. Myers had earlier apologized for not sharing the information and assured the court that "this office is taking steps to implement a system to ensure that this does not happen again."
On its second ruling, the Supreme Court denied a Myers motion to vacate its decision against him. The court ruled that the attorney general would not be harmed by leaving the decision to stand, nor would the public interest be served by vacating it.