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Oregon Courts Must Give Notice before Amending Judgment

Oregon Courts Must Give Notice before Amending Judgment

by Mark Wilson

On August 6, 2014, the Oregon Court of Appeals reversed a lower court’s second amended judgment that reinstated a former prisoner’s lifetime term of post-prison supervision (PPS). The lower court lacked authority to amend the judgment, because the parties were not provided notice or an opportunity to be heard.

In 1994, Larry Nobles, aka Henry Jackson, pleaded no contest to murder and was sentenced to 144 months in prison and a lifetime PPS term.

Oregon trial courts retain jurisdiction to delete or modify erroneous aspects of a judgment under ORS 138.083(l)(a): “The court may correct the judgment either on the motion of one of the parties or on the court’s own motion after written notice to all the parties.”

Invoking ORS 138.083(l)(a), Nobles moved the trial court for the reduction of his PPS term to three years. The trial court granted the motion and entered an amended judgment reflecting the change.

Two days later, however, acting sua sponte and without notice to either party, the trial court issued an “amended amended judgment,” reversing its earlier PPS reduction and reinstating the lifetime PPS term.

Nobles appealed, arguing that the court had violated ORS 138.083(l)(a) and his constitutional rights when it failed to give him notice or an opportunity to be heard on the second amended judgment. He also argued that the lifetime PPS term violated state law.

The Court of Appeals agreed that “written notice ... was an explicit prerequisite to the trial court’s authority to act under ORS 138.083.” Having failed to provide notice, “the trial court lacked the authority to amend the amended judgment.” Finding it unnecessary to reach Nobles’ constitutional claims, the appellate court vacated the lower court’s second amended judgment and remanded for further proceedings.

The decision effectively reinstated the three-year PPS term imposed by the first amended judgment. The Court of Appeals did not address the opposing arguments about the correct PPS term, finding those arguments “may appropriately be made to the trial court on remand.”

The state will likely invoke ORS 138.083(l)(a) – or the trial court will do so on its own motion with proper notice to the parties – to reinstate Nobles’ lifetime PPS term. See: State v. Nobles, 264 Ore. App. 580, 333 P.3d 1077 (Or. Ct. App. 2014).


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Related legal case

State v. Nobles