Oregon Engineer Scores Win in Court; Judge Rejects State’s Attempt to Dismiss Case

J. Justin Wilson
J. Justin Wilson · December 14, 2017

Portland, Ore.—On December 14, 2017, Magistrate Judge Stacie F. Beckerman, of the U.S. District Court for the District of Oregon, denied a request of Oregon’s engineering-licensing board to close a First Amendment challenge brought by Mats Järlström.

Mats sued the Oregon State Board of Examiners for Engineering and Land Surveying this past April, after the board investigated him for two years—and fined him $500—for talking publicly about the math behind traffic lights. After Mats sued, the board admitted that it had violated his First Amendment rights. But in the motion denied today, the board resisted a court ruling that would fully secure Mats’s rights—and the rights of all Oregonians—against similar violations in the future.

“Today’s decision puts us one step closer to ensuring a victory not just for Mats, but for every Oregonian,” said Sam Gedge, an attorney at the Institute for Justice, which represents Mats. “The Board has already admitted that it broke the law and violated Mats’s First Amendment rights. This decision sends a strong message to the Board: The Board has a responsibility to respect the rights of every citizen, not just those who are forced to vindicate their rights in court.”

The court’s ruling today recognized Mats’s claim that the board has a history of enforcing its laws against countless people for speaking out in a wide range of contexts.  The court also held that the case will proceed so that Mats can make his best case for why the challenged laws violate the First Amendment.

The next step is for the parties to conduct discovery, move for summary judgment, and ask the court to decide whether Oregon’s engineering laws unconstitutionally restrict core First Amendment activity.