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Attorney General Hardy Myers Announces Favorable U.S. Supreme Court Ruling In Enguist V. Oregon Department Of Agriculture
High court ruling is fifth victory in five cases argued by Oregon Department of Justice beginning in 2003
Attorney General Hardy Myers today announced that the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in the state's favor for the fifth time in as many cases by issuing its decision in Engquist v. Oregon Department of Agriculture this morning. Today's ruling affirms the decision of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals that the "class of one" theory of equal protection does not apply in the public employment context.
The case involved a former Oregon Department of Agriculture employee who sued the state after failing to be promoted and later being laid off, claiming discrimination and a violation of her U.S. Constitution equal protection rights under the "class of one" theory. The "class of one" equal protection theory typically applies to situations in which the government's different treatment of one individual compared with others similarly situated can be judged against a clear standard that exists. Because employment decisions are inherently individualized and subjective, the state successfully argued that the theory does not apply in the public employment context.
"Today's ruling is extremely gratifying," stated Myers. "The Court affirmed what we have maintained all along; that employees have ample legal remedies for any improper employment action and do not need to add in federal court an equal protection claim not based on membership in any class."
The Engquist case is the fifth successfully argued by the Oregon Department of Justice before the U.S. Supreme Court beginning in 2003. In 2006, the Court held in Sanchez-Llamas v. Oregon that the Vienna Convention, in its requirement that foreign nationals detained by law enforcement be notified of their right to contact their embassy, does not preclude the application of state procedural default rules requiring that the claim of failure to notify must have been raised in state court. That same year the Court reversed the Oregon Supreme Court's earlier ruling in Oregon v. Guzek that a convicted criminal defendant has a constitutional right to introduce alibi evidence during the penalty phase of a death penalty case. The Court also held in Gonzales v. Oregon that then-U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales exceeded his authority under the federal Controlled Substances Act by threatening to revoke the federal prescription-writing privileges of physicians who prescribed barbiturates for terminally ill patients in accordance with the Oregon Death with Dignity Act. In 2004, the Court agreed in Baldwin v. Reese with the state's contention that a federal habeas corpus petitioner had not properly exhausted his federal constitutional claim in state court before seeking to assert that claim in federal court.
The U.S. Supreme Court also announced today that it will hear arguments in the state's sixth case, Oregon v. Thomas Eugene Ice, on October 15, 2008. Ice involves the question whether the U.S. Constitution requires that facts necessary to impose consecutive criminal sentences must be found by a jury or admitted by a defendant.
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