The county is asking a judge to dismiss a lawsuit filed against it by the sheriff seeking legal fees.
Attorney Gerald Warren, on behalf of the county and Grant County Court, filed a motion to dismiss May 2 “for the failure of plaintiffs to state a claim upon which relief can be granted, the Court lacking subject matter jurisdiction due to untimely OTCA (Oregon Tort Claims Act) notice, or for improper service of the Summons.”
Attorney Benjamin Boyd, on behalf of Sheriff Glenn Palmer, former civil deputy Sally DeFord and the sheriff’s office, filed a complaint in court March 16, asking a judge to declare that they are not liable for legal fees from a lawsuit filed by The Oregonian newspaper.
The Oregonian sued Palmer, DeFord and the sheriff’s office to compel the disclosure of public records in May 2016. The suit was dismissed when the records were disclosed, but a judge awarded The Oregonian $28,337 in attorney fees. Palmer and DeFord also incurred $41,355 in fees while represented by a private law firm, Hostetter Law Group, according to their complaint, which claimed the county is legally required cover all of the fees.
Warren argues in the motion to dismiss that Boyd’s complaint fails to state the “ultimate facts constituting a claim” as required. The laws cited by Boyd in the complaint apply only to tort claims, which The Oregonian lawsuit seeking public records was not, Warren claims, and the complaint does not provide the required facts for a common-law claim that a debt was paid to a third party, that the county is also liable to the third party and that the county ought to pay rather than Palmer or the sheriff’s office.
Alternatively, Warren argues, if The Oregonian’s lawsuit was a tort claim, Boyd failed to provide notice of his clients’ loss or injury within 180 days as required. Boyd said in his complaint a tort claim notice was served Jan. 19 — 181 days after the final supplemental judgment document in The Oregonian lawsuit was filed July 21, 2017. Warren argues, however, that Boyd’s clients “knew they had suffered the ‘harm’ of incurring their own attorney fees” by Dec. 28, 2016, when the county declined a request to cover the fees — if not Nov. 3, 2016, when the initial judgment was entered that stated it did “not preclude Plaintiffs from submitting a request for attorney fees.”
Finally, Warren argues the complaint should be dismissed because required follow-up mailings regarding the service of the summons and complaint were not sent. Boyd subsequently submitted an affidavit May 10 stating he had mailed the documents on May 4.
Before Warren’s motion to dismiss was filed, Boyd filed notice April 24 his clients intended to apply for a default order because the county failed to respond within the required time frame. Boyd also filed a motion March 27 to disqualify Grant County Circuit Court Judge William D. Cramer Jr. from serving as judge in the proceeding because his clients “believe that they cannot have a fair and impartial trial or hearing” before Cramer.
A hearing in the case is scheduled June 1 before Judge Patricia Sullivan.