Oregon Supreme Court

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Oregon Supreme Court
Court information
Justices:   7
Chief:  $134,000
Associates:  $131,000
Judicial selection
Method:   Nonpartisan election of judges
Term:   6 years
Active justices

Thomas Balmer  •  Martha Walters  •  Rives Kistler  •  Virginia Linder  •  David V. Brewer  •  Jack Landau  •  Richard C. Baldwin  •  

Seal of Oregon.png

The Oregon Supreme Court is the highest court in Oregon. No other court in the state may reverse or modify a decision of the Oregon Supreme Court.[1]


The current justices of the court are:
JudgeTermSelected by
Chief justice Thomas Balmer2001-2021Gov. John Kitzhaber
Associate justice Martha Walters1997-2021Gov. Ted Kulongoski
Associate Justice Rives Kistler2003-2017Gov. Ted Kulongoski
Associate Justice Virginia Linder2006-2019
Justice David V. Brewer2013-2019
Justice Jack Landau2011-2017
Justice Richard C. Baldwin2013-2019

Chief justice

Thomas Balmer was sworn in on May 1, 2012 when former Chief Justice Paul De Muniz stepped down. Before serving as chief justice Balmer was an associate justice (holding Position 1) of the Supreme Court, a position to which he was initially appointed on September 20, 2001 by then-Gov. John Kitzhaber, a Democrat.[2][3][4] The Supreme Court is responsible for choosing the Chief Justice, who serves six-year terms. The responsibilities of the position include taking care of administrative responsibilities as well as the financial responsibilities of the state Judicial Department.[5]

Judicial selection

State court judges serve six-year terms and run for nonpartisan election. In the case of a vacancy, the Governor may fill the seat with an appointment. To keep that position, the appointed person must run for election for a full six-year term at the next general election.

Judicial selection measures fail

In November 2002, voters in Oregon were presented with two measures on the selection of judges to increase accountability. The first measure "would have given voters a "none of the above" option when voting for judges and would have required mid-term judicial appointees to run for election at the next available election, rather than at the next general election." The second measure would have had appellate judges elected from geographic districts.[6]


Justices on the Oregon Supreme Court serve in terms of six years.[7] The mandatory retirement age in Oregon is 75. To be a qualified candidate to the court, he must be a United States citizen, a resident of Oregon at least three years before the election or appointment, and must be admitted to practice law in the Oregon Supreme Court.[8]

Removal of justices

A judge may be removed if he is convicted of a felony or a "crime involving moral turpitude," misconduct in office, a failure to perform the duties of the bench, is incompetent to perform those duties, has violated a rule of judicial conduct, or is consistently drunk or uses drugs.


"The Supreme Court has jurisdiction over the following matters:

  • Direct review of circuit court decisions in death penalty cases certain labor law injunctions
  • Direct review from decisions of the Oregon Tax Court
  • Discretionary review of Court of Appeals decisions and certified questions from the Court of Appeals
  • Direct review of certain agency proceedings, including prison siting decisions, energy Facility Siting Council decisions, and certain solid waste disposal site selection decisions
  • Direct but discretionary review of certified questions of law from a federal court or court of another state
  • Original proceedings (court has discretion whether to hear a particular case), including mandamus; habeas corpus; quo warranto; challenges to ballot titles, explanatory statements, and statements of fiscal impact; and, reapportionment review (every ten years)
  • Practice of law proceedings—admissions to the practice of law, and disciplinary proceedings to reprimand, suspend, or disbar attorneys after trial by the Disciplinary Board
  • Judicial fitness and disability—disciplinary proceedings to censure, suspend, or remove of a judge after investigation and recommendation of the Commission on Judicial Fitness and disability"[9]


Fiscal Year Filings Dispositions
2014 * *
2013 949 66
2012 923 64
2011 922 74
2010 * *
2009 * *
2008 1,352 75
2007 1,314 73


  • Ohio has not provided caseload data for years 2009 through 2010 and 2014.


Unopposed  Judge Thomas Balmer (Position 1)
Unopposed  Judge Martha Walters (Position 7)
See also: Oregon judicial elections, 2012
CandidateIncumbencyPositionPrimary VoteElection Vote
CookNena Cook    NoPosition 340.05%ApprovedA48.24%   DefeatedD
SercombeTimothy Sercombe    NoPosition 326.08% 
See also: 2010 State Supreme Court elections

Incumbent Jack Landau faced Allan J. Arlow and was re-elected.

Oregon Supreme Court
2010 General election results
Candidates Votes Percent
Jack Landau Green check mark transparent.png n/a 72%
Allan J. Arlow n/a 18%

Incumbent Rives Kistler ran unopposed and was re-elected.

Oregon Supreme Court
2010 General election results
Candidates Votes Percent
Rives Kistler Green check mark transparent.png n/a 98.8%
See also: State Supreme Court elections, 2008

Thomas Balmer ran unopposed and was re-elected.

Oregon Supreme Court
2008 General election results
Candidates Votes Percent
Thomas Balmer Green check mark transparent.png n/a n/a

Martha Lee Walters ran unopposed and was re-elected.

Oregon Supreme Court
2008 General election results
Candidates Votes Percent
Martha Lee Walters Green check mark transparent.png n/a n/a

Political outlook

See also: Political outlook of State Supreme Court Justices

In October 2012, political science professors Adam Bonica and Michael Woodruff of Stanford University attempted to determine the partisan outlook of state supreme court justices in their paper, State Supreme Court Ideology and 'New Style' Judicial Campaigns. A score above 0 indicated a more conservative leaning ideology while scores below 0 were more liberal. The state Supreme Court of Oregon was given a campaign finance score (CFscore) which was calculated for judges in October 2012. At that time, Oregon received a score of -1.00. Based on the justices selected, Oregon was the 3rd most liberal court. The study is based on data from campaign contributions by judges themselves, the partisan leaning of contributors to the judges or, in the absence of elections, the ideology of the appointing body (governor or legislature). This study is not a definitive label of a justice but rather, an academic gauge of various factors.[12]

Notable cases


Financial disclosure

See also: Center for Public Integrity Study on State Supreme Court Disclosure Requirements

In December 2013, the Center for Public Integrity released a study on disclosure requirements for state supreme court judges. Analysts from the Center reviewed the rules governing financial disclosure in each of the 50 states and the District of Columbia, as well as personal financial disclosures for the past three years. The study found that 42 states and Washington D.C. received failing grades. Oregon earned a grade of F in the study. No state received a grade higher than "C". Furthermore, due in part to these lax disclosure standards, the study found 35 instances of questionable gifts, investments overlapping with caseloads and similar potential ethical quandaries. The study also noted 14 cases in which justices participated although they or their spouses held stock in the company involved in the litigation.[13]

History of the court

The Oregon Supreme Court Building in Salem, Oregon

Oregon has four types of courts, which include the trial and appellate courts, the municipal courts, federal courts, and the tribal courts.[14] In addition to the different types of courts, the state is divided into 36 counties and 27 judicial districts.[15]

See also

External links