First African American Judge Joins Oregon Supreme Court

By George Khoury, Esq. on January 11, 2018 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

Congratulations are certainly in order for Justice Adrienne C. Nelson, who, last week, was appointed to the Oregon Supreme Court. Rather surprisingly, throughout the history of the Oregon Supreme Court, there has never been an African American justice before Judge Nelson. In fact, the same holds true for all of Oregon's appellate court system as well.

Judge Nelson is rather happy to be breaking barriers, making history, and providing a positive role model to the minority children in the state. Being a civil rights advocate, she is grateful to have the opportunity, but cautioned that she would not be an "activist" judge, but rather a bridge.

Welcome to the 21st Century Oregon

While in the public perception, Oregon is a progressive and liberal state, the state has a noted lack of diversity. In the 2010 census, African Americans only made up 2% of the state's population. Asian Americans make up 4%, while Hispanic Americans make up 12%. To contrast, California is 6.5% African American, 15% Asian American, and 39% Hispanic American.

The appointment of Judge Nelson to the Oregon Supreme Court follows the appointment of another minority female judge, Lynn Nakamoto, in 2016. Judge Nelson will be filling the seat recently vacated by retired Judge Jack Landau. It is expected and hoped that Judge Nelson's background and experience as a trial judge will bring a fresh perspective to the state's high court.

More About Judge Nelson

Adrienne Nelson moved to Oregon in 1994 and began practicing law there. She served as a public defender, worked in private practice, and even spent two years lawyering for a public university, before joining the bench in 2006. For the last twelve years, she has served as a state court trial judge, and as Governor Kate Brown noted in making the appointment, Judge Nelson is regarded as a civil rights champion.

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