- Associated Press - Monday, June 26, 2017

ALBANY, Ore. (AP) - A judge has ruled that Oregon counties can’t sue the state government in the face of a $1.4 billion class lawsuit that seeks damages for logging practices.

The June 20 decision reverses an earlier ruling by the same judge which stated that counties could seek damages from state government, the Capital Press reported (https://bit.ly/2sUz48T).

The new ruling by Linn County Circuit Court Judge Daniel Murphy considers counties subdivisions of the state and therefore they can’t sue the state government for money.

The lawsuit, filed in March, accuses the state of Oregon of insufficiently logging state forests. The suit states the 14 counties gave the state forestland expecting to receive a portion of logging proceeds in return.

The counties involved in the suit include Linn, Benton, Clackamas, Clatsop, Columbia, Coos, Douglas, Josephine, Klamath, Lane, Lincoln, Marion, Polk, Tillamook and Washington.

Murphy said he’s “well aware this interpretation contradicts” his previous ruling, but the case was complex.

“Like peeling a very large onion, this case contains complex layers of legal issues and theory that can take time to unravel,” he said.

Under Murphy’s ruling, counties would still be able to seek an injunction or order to make changes to Oregon’s logging practices.

The counties have repeatedly said they are not interested in changing logging practices, but rather want to get the compensation they feel they deserve from timber revenues.

The counties’ attorney, John DiLorenzo, said their next step may be to amend the lawsuit or go to the appellate courts for clarification on sovereignty immunity.

Ralph Bloemers, an environmental attorney, doesn’t see much hope for the counties’ complaint after Murphy’s latest ruling.

“The case should be dismissed,” he said.

The Capital Press was unable to reach Oregon’s attorneys for comment.

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Information from: Capital Press, https://www.capitalpress.com/washington

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