March 07, 2017

Oregon Supreme Court hears cases at Lewis & Clark Law School

The Justices visit campus each spring for hearings and to meet with faculty and students

The Oregon Supreme Court heard two cases at Lewis & Clark Law School on Monday, March 6. The Justices visit the three Oregon law schools each year to hear cases, and meet with students and faculty as part of their effort to connect Oregonians with the work of the judicial system.

The two arguments heard on campus this year were George Wittemyer v. City of Portland and State of Oregon v. Cathrine E. Garcia.

The first case, George Wittemyer v. City of Portland questioned the constitutionality of the city’s controversial arts tax which imposes a tax of $35 on the income of each income-earning resident of Portland for support of arts in public schools. The plaintiff claimed the tax is a “poll or head tax” violating of Article IX, section 1a of the Oregon constitution. The Justices were reviewing the Court of Appeals decision, which concluded that the arts tax was not a poll or head tax and thus, judged in favor of the defendant, the City of Portland, which was represented by Lewis & Clark law alumnus and moot court adjunct faculty Denis Vannier ’04. Professor Jack Bogdanski, who teaches tax law, filed a brief in support of the plaintiff and presented argument to the court during oral arguments. 

In the second case the court reviewed the Court of Appeals decision in State of Oregon v. Cathrine E. Garcia, which reversed the conviction of Garcia for interfering with a peace officer. The question for the court involved the proper interpretation of a statute defining the offense of interfering with a peace officer.

Students and faculty at Lewis & Clark were able to view the arguments in person, or by live feed in the student lounge. Time was allotted for observers to answer questions of the Justices following each argument. Afterward, the Justices remained on campus to have lunch with faculty.

For additional information about the cases, view the Supreme Court’s docket.