State v. Arnold, No. A168230 (Or Ct App, November 26, 2019)
Issues: (1) Can service of summons still be considered effective under ORCP 7 if the underlying
summons is technically defective? YES. (2) Must a party still obey an order if that party has a good
faith reason to believe the order is invalid or erroneous? YES.
Facts: Police served defendant Tina Arnold with a restraining order naming “Tina Ball,” who was
married to F. Ball. Defendant accepted the restraining order and left the premises, but later returned,
claiming that the order was not valid because it was not issued in her actual name. Defendant was
found in contempt of the restraining order and moved for a judgment of acquittal.
Holding: Citing Oregon’s long-standing law that personal service should not be allowed to devolve
into “a degrading game of wiles and tricks, rather than a procedure for insuring that a defendant
receive actual notice of the subject and pendency of an action,” Business & Prof. Adj. Co. v. Baker ,
62 Or App 237, 240–41 (1983), the Court held that adequacy of service is determined by examining
the totality of the circumstances, even if formal service requirements have not been met. Service of
the restraining order was sufficient because the facts showed that defendant had notice of the order
and understood that it applied to her.
The Court also held that, regardless of sufficiency, a court order is not subject to collateral attack in
a contempt proceeding. “Litigants are not entitled to sit in judgment on their own cases . . . Unless
and until an invalid order is set aside, it must be obeyed.” The only possible exception offered by
the Court is if a litigant has no fair opportunity to challenge the order prior to violating it, which
was not the case here. Even if the trial court had held that the order was fatally flawed, it was still a
valid order at the time defendant violated it, and therefore defendant was still in contempt.
Discussion: Arnold supports the general principle that court orders (including summons) which
fulfill their intended purpose are not subject to technical attacks by persons seeking to disregard the
order. In cases where an aggrieved person has a good faith belief that an order is invalid, the
remedy is to seek a court ruling invalidating or quashing the order and, until such time, the order
must still be obeyed.
Briefing by Robert Parker, an Associate Attorney in Holt Woods & Scisciani’s Portland
Of ice. Robert is licensed to practice in Washington and Oregon.