Oregon Supreme Court in Klamath
by Ty Beaver, Herald and News 5/10/09
Area residents will have the rare opportunity to sit in on an Oregon Supreme Court hearing this week when the justices hear a case from the 2001 Klamath Basin water crisis.
The state Supreme Court will hear two cases Wednesday in Pelican Court at Klamath Union High School. The court holds proceedings outside of Salem a few times a year to provide chances for Oregonians to see the judicial process.
One of the two cases involves a lawsuit filed by Klamath Basin water users against the federal government. Federal judges want the state Supreme Court to answer three questions about the lawsuit and water law, though the justices have only agreed to hear the questions at this point.
“It will be a very interesting process,” said Bill Ganong, a Klamath Falls attorney representing water users.
Ganong and another lawyer representing those impacted by the water shutoff filed the lawsuit shortly after irrigation water was restored in the fall of 2001. Ganong said the lawsuit charges the federal government with the taking of property without appropriate compensation.
Waiting for years
The lawsuit sat in civil court proceedings for years before a judge ruled the water users didn’t have standing to file suit. That decision was appealed to the U.S. Court of Appeals, whose judges want the state Supreme Court to weigh in on questions about Oregon water law.
Ganong said that while the federal courts put forth the questions, the justices could choose to rewrite the questions or not even answer them. Both he and an attorney with the federal government will make arguments, but even those may not be completely heard, as the justices can interject.
“What happens is you start talking and maybe get to make one point,” he said.
Harold Hartmann, a Malin irrigator, said Wednesday’s court hearing is a major development. He won’t be surprised if there are more people wanting to attend than the 700-plus seats at Pel Court will accommodate.
Court officials have said the hearing in Klamath is more about public relations and education than anything else.
Local high schools were contacted to have students attend the hearing, and audience members will be encouraged to ask questions after the justices have finished with the day’s business.
“I think (the justices) want to let the rest of the state know they aren’t forgotten,” said Stephen Armitage, court administrator.
Oregon Supreme Court in Klamath
When: 8:45 a.m. May 13
Where: Pelican Court at Klamath Union High School
Things to know
* The court's hearing is open to the public but those wanting to attend are encouraged to arrive early as there will be limited parking close to KU and limited seats in Pel Court. There will also be increased security.
* Basin courtroom protocol and behavior are
expected. Electronic devices such as cell
phones will have to be turned off and no hats may be
"It is the official courtroom for the Supreme Court that day." said Linda Kinney, assistant to the chief justice.
* Questions will be allowed after the hearing but the justices will not answer questions about any of the legal arguments heard that day. Attorneys involved in the day's activities, however, can be asked those questions.