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Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Here come da judge

Oregon has a new state Supreme Court justice -- Martha Lee Walters from Eugene. Stories about her appointment can be found here and here. A bio on a Harvard-related site says:

Ms. Martha Walters is a partner with Walters, Romm, Chanti & Dickens in Eugene, Ore., where her civil litigation practice emphasizes employment law, personal injury,domestic relations, civil rights and municipal law. Ms. Walters attended the University of Michigan for her bachelor's degree, before moving on to receive her law degree from the University of Oregon School of Law in 1977. Her professional affiliations include service on the Boards of Directors of the Oregon Trial Lawyers Association and the Lane County Bar Association, as well as membership on the Oregon State Bar Disciplinary Board, the Judicial Conference of the Ninth Circuit, and the Lane County Local Professional Responsibility Committee. She has been a Commissioner of the National Conference of Commissioners on Uniform State Laws since 1992.
A woman, a plaintiffs' attorney, an advocate for workers -- that ought to help the Gov in this election season. But it's another Willamette Valley voice, and one with no judicial experience to boot, and you can bet you'll hear a few catcalls about that.

Comments (21)

The return of a woman to the state's high court could change the dynamics of the current contest for another seat on the court, between Ginny Linder and Jack Roberts. I would think that with some of the pressure taken off the gender issue, this could help Roberts, a Republican. Ted may have helped himself at Linder's expense.


JOB DESCRIPTION: The successful candidate will be appointed to Oregon's highest court. You will be required to make judicial rulings on complex cases previously adjudicated by a lower court.

Knowledge of the U.S. Constitution and O.R.S. are required. Must possess (or be eligible to reinstate) active bar membership previous to swearing in. Kinda, sorta, maybe should live in Oregon or be willing to lie on application.

Consideration will be given to candidates with previous work experience on the bench. Solid Democratic Party credentials may be substituted for work experience.

Excellent job security and retirement benefits. Mediocre pay, unless you're barely making ends meet at present. Women and minorities are strongly encouraged to apply.

Call Teddy K.

I am not comfortable with the gender politics, including that of Jack Roberts. It sounds too much like the notion that gender loyalty trumps all other matters in any ultimate ruling.

I'd hate to hear, in the future, that a chief that holds process up to a microscope is replaced by one that holds immutable physical characteristics up to a microscope, as if that explains all (or absolutely nothing at all). The drift toward tribalism, even incrementally, is itself a sort of systemic disease.

Is the judicial system all about result or about process? About a fair process down to every single last individual?

Nevertheless, it is nice to see experience with labor law, which should serve to enhance the chance of splitting public employee labor bargaining units up by reason of the differential pension tier status (unless?).

Cool, -- "'the little guy'" -- finally someone not promoted from the AG's office.

Wouldn't it stand to reason that most candidates for the bench reside somewhere in I-5 Willamette Valley corridor? Why is this an issue?

Gender aside, Martha Walters is an excellent lawyer and will make a fine addition to the Oregon Supreme Court. As a former labor commissioner living in Eugene, I often received requests for a good local employment attorney. I always recommended Martha.

I don't think people should assume this will make much difference in my race against Virginia Linder. I've always believed voters are more interested in what's between our ears than what's between our legs.

Martha Walters is a great attorney with a stellar reputation. She absolutely has earned this appointment and will be an asset to the court.

I think it's very important that organized labor be "at the table".

Gov. Nesbitt made a great choice.

A pro-labor bias in a Supreme Court Justice is just as offensive as a pro-business bias. They ought to be pro-justice, and approach each case on it's merits.

PERS recipients seem to have received more than their fare share of "seats at the table."

PERS recipients seem to have received more than their fare share of "seats at the table."

Oh, come on!!

The PERS getters deserve everything that they can get.

As the song goes:
How do you like it?
How do you like it?
More, More MORE!!!


yep, never enough....

I found it very interesting that our new Justice announced her bias in the Oregonian today.

The caption for the picture of her said something like she "wants to look out for the little guy." (I don't have it in front of me.)

Silly me, I always thought judges were supposed to impartially rule on the law and the merits of the case, not have some a priori leaning as to who she would favor in her opinions.

Not in Oregon, though. No, here in Oregon our Supreme Court Justices unabashedly announce their biases in the daily newspaper.


If you don't think courts and "the process" are already biased *against* the little guy, then you haven't been paying attention. If she's going to look out for the little guy, the best she's going to do is tip the balance back where it belongs (neutral).

Mister Tee writes:
"PERS recipients seem to have received more than their fare share of "seats at the table.""

Umm. For all the seats I supposedly have at the table, the hosts have been downright inhospitable these past several years. They expect me to upchuck some of what I've already eaten. Doesn't sound to me like I have *enough* seats at the table even with Martha on the Court.


that's only because you confuse what's good for you with what's legal

At least according to my search of the bar directory at the time, not a one of the appointment candidates for the vacancy (and if I understand the process correctly, a person who's qualified can nominate him/herself) was from outside the Willamette Valley. There were, what, 8 people who submitted to the process? Sure, some lawyers from outside the valley might've figured it would be an exercise in futility, but that doesn't stop a lot of people from throwing their names in the hat. I wouldn't infer from that that there's no interest outside the valley (that'd just be silly), but, at least, this isn't one of those instances where the valley crowded out the rest of the state. You can't win if you don't play.

I suspect that after November, the rest of the state will be playing, regardless of whether they have qualified players. The elect-appeals-judges-by-district measure, which is truly pernicious, almost passed last time. As I recall, even Opie's hero, Dan Meek, actively campaigned for it. Dale Penn and Ron Saxton, too.

I think Meek may be trying to break the groupthink "please the right lawfirms and poltical parties" mentality that has led to some rather pernicious opinions. The judge-by-district measure may not be the answer. But pretending there is no problem isn't either.

I believe mrfearless's observation of the tide is partially correct. Justice Walters, I believe, is not personally tied to PERS in any way, nor would it matter.

Mr. Robert's, though, could elaborate on whether his vision, between his ears, of individual liberty extends so far as to allow him to relinquish any "contractual" claim (implying an individual right to voluntarily strike a bargain) to a higher pension tier status as part of pay for future work (or even past pay for past work, having been locked-in via precedent) than that accorded to Justice Walters. I'll take a trial court's word for it that such a matter is a public policy matter that I cannot seek relief for in court on the legality of a bond issuance -- confining me to a mere generalized whine as here.

I have previously made clear to mrfearless in his yahoo group that the best course of action in his own best interest is to assert a claim to pension obligation bond proceeds as a one time and one time only full and final release of all contractual obligations for all work predating the date upon which the underfunded liability calculations were based on. (But coupled with getting it out of the hands of PERB and OIC entirely.)

As the PERB/OIC folks venture into the realm of hedge funds that are nothing more than deceit about the highly speculative and leveraged game of elevated risk . . . just who is it that bears the risk of loss. (NYT: A Hedge Fund's Loss Rattles Nerves, Amaranth; and LTCM. Not in any way like hedging a cash position on a barge-load of wheat against an independent speculator, but here by taking two simultaneously speculative positions based on fishy statistical correlations, by hedging against only oneself in a clearly non-arm's-length-transaction.) I say it is you Mr. Roberts and mrfearless who bear that risk for you have the power to demand finality and you have elected to place your bets instead on the political process to transfer that prospective investment risk to the public.

What could be the harm of Mr. Roberts removing one source of an "appearance of impropriety" on PERS by today, even as a purely political ploy, foreswearing any personal claim to tier-one status, in favor of the latest and greatest tier? Integrity is a quirky thing. It is sometimes best set merely by example rather than command. This ain't about pro-public-union but about pro-investment-banker, quite deleterious to the working stiff in Oregon, East and West alike. Can you lead both mrfearless and his nemesis at the same time; using your noggin?

I can find absolutely no legal obstacle to you giving up a personally advantageous pecuniary status, but I could list oodles of purely political ones; ones that have no business whatsoever gaining an advantage via the judiciary. It is fully and completely within the realm of appropriate discussion in a judicial campaign, in my humble opinion. An independent judge needs courage . . . the kind that comes from an intellectual grasp of issues; and particularly a grasp of the perpetually undefinable term ethics.

(If you are not tier one then never mind. Any Justice's election would suffice for the above point.)

Mr. Ledbury, as one who has been out of government service for last 3 1/2 years, I have already forfeited any right to participate as anything other than a Tier 3 PERS employee should I re-enter public employment.

Not to mention the fact that the judicial retirement system is separate from the regular PERS.

As for your obsession with this subject, may I offer a friendly suggestion: Get a life!

Judge Walters made a comment to the "O" about understanding the little guy because that is the type of client she has represented for almost 30 years. This does not automatically translate into a "bias" on her part. A large percentage of those appointed to the bench come from large firms, went to places like Stanford or Harvard and represented wealthy individuals and corporations. Obviously they are smart people, and you have to give them a lot credit for giving up large incomes as partners to work for a fraction of their true earning potential in the name of public service. Understanding that a person who has limited financial resources often gets limited justice is important for a judge at any level in the process. It makes me feel better that a person with Judge Walters' background is on the bench. Something tells me that with the type of success she has had as a lawyer in private practice the lower salary won't be a big issue.

Martha Walters represented me over twenty years ago. She didn't care if I could pay. She worked diligently for about two years and won against an employer who had many more resources than I could muster. She was interested in fairness and making sure that the process worked the same for everybody - her adversaries included. I have not hesitated to recommend her to others over the years. I have the utmost respect for her and know that she is fair and will give the People of Oregon someone whom they can admire and trust. She has the qualities, aptitude, and deportment that all would expect of a Supreme Court Justice. I am proud to know her.

I would demand of a judge no less fidelity to the ABA rules than that which a judge would hold over any individual member of the bar or public.

A quick hunt on client trust accounts yields this:

"ABA Standard 4.11 provides that '[d]isbarment is generally appropriate when a lawyer knowingly converts client property and causes injury or potential injury to a client.' Even a single act of intentional and dishonest appropriation of a client's trust funds in violation of DR 1-102(A)(3) warrants disbarment."

Your client is the public and the public trust, your client trust account, includes nearly all accounts managed by government or under the color of government authority. Imagine if I made the argument, as some have dared, that I only temporarily borrowed my client's funds and that I made money and then returned it with interest -- thus there was no harm. (Or many variants of the same.)

I won't buy the argument that the legislature says it is OK, BECAUSE I am a judge, to escape the rigor of the rules of ethics that are applicable to all others that are in a position of trust.

I am also not prepared to conclude that any elective office is inherently filled by people who are obsessive, or self-serving; though it is a plausible assumption.

I had argued to the PPS Auditor, the one now working for Gresham, and to the PERB about the need for something equivalent to the bar's Professional Liability Fund or Client Security Fund, in regard of the pension obligation bond proceeds that are held in the name of the local government and yet exposed to risk of investment loss to the public. That is, they need a guarantor of the assumed returns, other than the prospect of cover by the client, that initially served as the economic justification for the issuance of the bonds.

The bond issuance (full faith and credit) should have extinguished the prior claims upon which they were based, in a resolution that achieved judicial finality, rather than merely extend and compound public liability. It is a fix that was not a fix at all. The commingling continues unabated, and you are in the class of private beneficiaries.

It should come as no surprise that I get some of my most wild ideas directly from reading nearly every disciplinary and admission case.

What might make someone proud to be a member of the bar rather than embarrassed, assuming membership was voluntary?

Transfer of investment risk is a "potential injury," wholly independent of legislative license to professionals to sell the idea of public gain via wishful thinking.

(It is nothing personal. It is just that the electoral process affords the only opportunity to raise such issues. I want it to be a meaningful opportunity, rather than one where professionalism is itself cover. Your willingness to engage is appreciated. The argument above would apply to all judicial candidates, even if there were no public pension for the judiciary.)

Virginia Linder seems game for engaging in the electoral process and could just as easily chime in here on the matter of fidelity. She too could assert that gender should be irrelevant, rather than a sales gimmick. Here is a popular "woman" too, as if it matters in a debate on public confidence in the judiciary. I wouldn't necessarily consider a popularity poll from Moshers in a Mosh Pit among professionals (the bar's poll) much of a clue either to likely representation of the public interest to tame lawyers (and my particular interest, attorneys for public bodies).

This IS My Simple Life -- and it is targeted at enhancing the credibility and integrity of the judiciary, as ironic as that may sound.

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