My lawsuit to reinstate Ballot Measure 8 is slowly progressing. It is in the earliest stage of determining who will be the judge. Under Oregon law, the general rule is that all elected judges and those that are appointed to fill a vacancy in an elected judge position automatically become PERS members the minute they take office. That gives each one of those judges a financial stake in the outcome of any PERS case they hear.
If my lawsuit is successful, drastic changes would be made to PERS which would reduce PERS benefits effective as of January 1, 1995. The judge who would normally hear my case is a PERS member and, as a result, that judge has a direct financial interest in the outcome of the case. That disqualifies him from hearing my case under Oregon law, under the Oregon Code of Judicial Conduct and, in this case, under the due process clause of the 14th Amendment to the US Constitution. I am arguing that the judge must step down immediately so that a non-PERS judge can be appointed to hear the case.
The Oregon Department of Revenue has appeared in the case and is telling the judge that he can still act as the judge despite his clear financial conflict. Of course, the Oregon Department of Justice attorney who is making that argument on the Department’s behalf is also a PERS member. So are all of the employees of the Department of Revenue. Everyone involved in the case, except for me, is a PERS member and they all have a financial interest in the outcome of the case.
The Department’s legal obligation is to administer the Oregon tax laws for the benefit of all Oregonians, not just for the benefit of PERS members but with the conflict of interest that all Department employees have it is very difficult for them to do that. Especially when the attorney who is representing them is also a PERS member who has the same conflict. The Department is not getting the independent advice it needs to carry out its responsibilities.
The current PERS control over Oregon is fundamentally unfair and one objective of my lawsuit is to break that control. I will keep you updated as events occur.