Mata v. Dept. of Transportation

Summarized by:

  • Court: Oregon Court of Appeals
  • Area(s) of Law: Administrative Law
  • Date Filed: 06-10-2020
  • Case #: A165061
  • Judge(s)/Court Below: Mooney, J. for the Court; Ortega, P.J.; & Powers, J.
  • Full Text Opinion

"An agency conducting a contested case hearing may modify a finding of historical fact made by the administrative law judge assigned from the Office of Administrative Hearings only if the agency determines that there is clear and convincing evidence in the record that the finding was wrong. For the purposes of this section, an administrative law judge makes a finding of historical fact if the administrative law judge determines that an event did or did not occur in the past or that a circumstance or status did or did not exist either before the hearing or at the time of the hearing." ORS 183.650(3).

Petitioners sought review of an Oregon Department of Transportation (“ODOT”) administrator’s final order. The order modified an administrative law court’s findings on Petitioners’ highway use taxes. On appeal, Petitioners assigned error to three factual findings: (1) that Joseph Chand is the “sole proprietor,” (2) that Petitioners are “operations of the same business entity,” and (3) that Petitioners are "separate entities" for ODOT record purposes. Petitioner argued that these findings were not supported by “clear and convincing evidence.” Respondent argued that these findings were immaterial to the matter contested before the court. An agency can modify an administrative law court’s factual findings if they found that “clear and convincing evidence” showed that the findings were erroneous. ORS 183.650(3). When modification change a court’s findings in “any substantial manner,” ODOT must justify these modifications. ORS 183.650(2). However, courts will not reverse immaterial findings of fact. See Pac. Motor Trucking Co. v. Bur. of Labor, 64 Or App 361, 368, rev den, 295 Or 773 (1983). The Court found that the modifications did not change the court’s findings in a “substantial manner” because the modifications had no bearing on Petitioners’ tax liability. Rather, the modifications served only the internal function of identifying Petitioners as two separate accounts. Therefore, the Court held that it lacked a legitimate basis for reversing the final order. Affirmed.  

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