ALBANY, Ore. — A judge signaled he plans to certify Linn County’s timber lawsuit against the state as a class action, meaning it would include other counties.
The county filed the lawsuit earlier this year, asserting insufficient logging had cost it and more than a dozen other timber-rich counties more than $1.4 billion.
The complaint says the counties turned over ownership of forestlands to the state in the early 20th century with the expectation that timber revenues would be maximized. But a forest management plan adopted more than a decade ago emphasized improvements to fish and wildlife habitat and other conservation measures.
Linn County Judge Daniel Murphy said in an opinion Tuesday — without “reciting in detail the court’s reasoning” — that he believes the lawsuit meets the requirements for a class action. He added that he won’t formally decide the issue until the lawsuit survives further motions to dismiss.
On Tuesday, he rejected a state argument that he lacks jurisdiction over the case.
Scott Kaplan, an attorney for the state, said during oral arguments last month that managing the case as a class action would be impractical. He also argued there’s a lack of “commonality” among the counties, which donated their land to Oregon during different times and under specific terms.
Chris McCracken, an attorney representing Linn County, rejected the argument, saying counties all face the same issue — that the state violated its contract to maximize timber revenue.
If class action status is granted, the other timber counties include Benton, Clackamas, Clatsop, Columbia, Coos, Douglas, Josephine, Klamath, Lane, Lincoln, Marion, Polk, Tillamook and Washington.