Chernaik v. Brown

Summarized by:

  • Court: Oregon Supreme Court
  • Area(s) of Law: Land Use
  • Date Filed: 10-22-2020
  • Case #: S066564
  • Judge(s)/Court Below: NAKAMOTO, J
  • Full Text Opinion

The public trust doctrine, a common law doctrine, applies to “navigable waterways” and the lands below such waterways, capable of expanding to include natural resources.

On review, Petitioner asserted that the trial court erred in granting the state’s motion for summary judgment. Petitioner’s argued that Oregon’s public trust doctrine should be construed broadly to include natural resources not traditionally protected and that injunctive relief is available under that doctrine. Petitioner asserted that under the public trust doctrine, the state of Oregon breached “fiduciary obligations to prevent impairments due to climate change with respect to a range of natural resources in Oregon.” Chernaik v. Brown, 367 Or 143, 155 (2020). In response, the state argued that it does not have fiduciary obligations to the natural resources that the petitioner contended. The public trust doctrine applies to “navigable waterways” and the lands below such waterways. The Court found that the plaintiff’s proposed legal test was undeveloped and would impose expansive new obligations on the state. Thus, the Court held that, as a common law doctrine, the public trust doctrine was capable of expanding to include more natural resources but declined to extend the doctrine at that time. Affirmed.

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