Legal challenges to two Grant County measures and one ordinance have been dismissed, but the judge did not rule on whether the laws were valid.
County resident Mark Webb sought an order from the Grant County Circuit Court declaring measures 12-37 and 12-40 and Ordinance 2013-01 invalid because of procedural errors and conflicts with state law and state and federal constitutions.
Measure 12-37 declared Grant County a United Nations-free zone, which Webb argued conflicts with the U.S. Constitution.
Measure 12-40 directed the county to petition Congress for title to public land within the county, which Webb argued was improper because it compelled an administrative, rather than legislative, act.
Ordinance 2013-01 prohibits road closures on public land without authorization from the Grant County Court and the sheriff, which Webb argued was preempted by state and federal law.
Former county counsel Ron Yockim filed motions on behalf of the county to dismiss Webb’s complaint on several grounds, including that Webb failed to allege a specific injury he incurred from the laws in order to create a justiciable claim the court could review.
Grant County Circuit Court Judge William D. Cramer Jr. dismissed Webb’s complaint Jan. 9 without addressing whether these three county laws conflicted with paramount law because he determined the complaint was not justiciable.
“On the record before me I do not find any actual harm to Petitioner (Webb), nor that any purported harm is possible,” Cramer said in his Jan. 9 opinion. “... I will comment that under different facts, each of these two measures and ordinances could be justiciable and meet the standards for review.”
Regarding Measure 12-37, Cramer said no U.N. activity had been alleged to have ceased because of the measure.
“I find it improbable that the UN, if authorized to perform activity in Grant County, would curtail it because of this measure,” he said.
If that happened, or if county officials intervened, Cramer said the complaint “would be justiciable.”
Cramer said no evidence had been presented that the county ever petitioned Congress for title to public lands as directed by Measure 12-40 but that the county could make such a request even without the measure.
“If a petition were filed, then the time would be ripe to determine if it is probable that Congress would cede title of the lands to Grant County and if so, if there is harm,” he said.
Regarding Ordinance 2013-01, Cramer said, “there is no evidence that roads have not been closed by federal or state agencies as a result of this ordinance.” He said Webb failed to show how invalidating the ordinance would have “a practical effect on his rights” as required for review.
“The legislature ... limited when challenges to laws and measures can be heard,” Cramer said in the opinion. “Requiring actual or probable injury as opposed to whether the law is valid is required.”
Yockim also argued on behalf of the county that Webb’s complaint against Measure 12-40 should be dismissed because it did not occur within the seven-day period allowed by law to challenge a county clerk’s determination that a prospective initiative complies with requirements in the Oregon Constitution.
Cramer said that was true for a clerk’s determination whether a measure complies with requirements to include the full text of a proposed law and to embrace only one subject.
“The remaining arguments as to the validity of the measures do not appear time barred,” Cramer said, “but I do not reach those issues here as my decision on justiciability is dispositive.”