Oregon Supreme Court rejects Kitzhaber bid on emails

Chief Justice Thomas Balmer did not explain reasoning

Oregon Gov. John Kitzhaber, Nov. 14, 2014 (KOIN 6 News)
Former Oregon Gov. John Kitzhaber, Nov. 14, 2014 (KOIN 6 News)

PORTLAND, Ore. (Portland Tribune) — The Oregon Supreme Court has rejected former Gov. John Kitzhaber’s last-ditch bid to deny access to emails that were inadvertently archived by the state.

His criminal defense lawyer, Janet Hoffman, had petitioned the state’s highest court to block a lower court decision that an independent special master would confidentially sift through emails to see which would be released as pertinent to ongoing litigation with the California software giant Oracle over the failed Cover Oregon project.

This story originally appeared on The Portland Tribune, a news partner with KOIN 6 News.

The March 24 order, signed by Chief Justice Thomas Balmer, did not explain the court’s reasoning. However, Oracle had argued that Hoffman and Kitzhaber failed to show how the plan for outside review would harm him, or was legally flawed.

Outside lawyers for Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum did not take a position on whether the emails, which had been in the state’s possession, should be reviewed or disclosed.

Hoffman had already released selected emails from the account, which was used for both state and personal business. But Kitzhaber argued letting someone else go through the emails would violate his privacy.

Oracle had suggested Kitzhaber might be withholding some emails that should have been disclosed, however. The company claims politics, not poor workmanship, is why the $300 million website was never launched.

The court ruling comes a week after Kitzhaber gave his first interview, to OPB, since resigning in February 2015. In a new Facebook video, he expressed his desire to lead again, and blamed his resignation on a “media narrative” that was “long on speculation and short on facts.”

And he expressed confidence that he will be vindicated when the federal influence-peddling probe is complete.

“I know all about being scrutinized,” he said. “When the truth is known and the current investigation complete the public will know that I was not involved in any wrongdoing.”

Hoffman had earlier filed a motion on Kitzhaber’s behalf to quash a federal grand jury subpoena for the emails, and appealed a federal judge’s ruling denying that motion to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. The status of that case, which is sealed, is unclear.

Of the Supreme Court’s ruling, Hoffman said in an email, “We are sorry the Supreme Court chose not to intervene in the matter. Because no opinion was issued, we would simply be speculating as to why the Court chose not to exercise its authority at this time.”

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