Oregon Supreme Court justice retiring Dec. 31, giving Gov. Brown another court pick
Gov. Kate Brown has appointed the majority of those on the Oregon Supreme Court and Oregon Court of Appeals. (Ron Cooper/Oregon Capital Chronicle)
An Oregon Supreme Court justice announced his retirement on Monday, giving Gov. Kate Brown the opportunity to appoint her seventh member of Oregon’s highest court.
Justice Thomas Balmer told Brown in a letter that he will retire Dec. 31, according to a news release from the Oregon Judicial Department. At 70, Balmer has served on the court for 21 years and was chief justice between 2012 and 2018. Balmer said in the release that serving on the court has been “an honor and the privilege of a lifetime.”
“I have done my best to live up to my judicial oath to ‘faithfully and impartially’ fulfill my duties as a judge, uphold the constitutional role courts play in our democracy and contribute to a justice system that strives towards ‘equal justice under the law,’” Balmer said.
Brown also issued a statement.
“Justice Balmer has brought a keen legal intelligence, a commitment to hard work and a deep understanding of our state to the Oregon Supreme Court,” Brown said. “He has been wise, open-minded and independent.”
100 court appointments, essentially reshaping Oregon courts and making them more diverse. Balmer’s appointment will mark her seventh to the seven-member Oregon Supreme Court. She’s also named a majority of the 13 Oregon Court of Appeals justices.
One of Brown’s Supreme Court appointments, Lynn Nakamoto, retired last year. She appointed five of the seven current justices – Roger DeHoog, Rebecca Duncan, Meagan Flynn, Chris Garrett and Adrienne Nelson. Other than Balmer, Chief Justice Martha Walters is the only non-Brown appointee on the court.
Balmer’s term was due to end Jan. 4, 2027. When a justice retires or resigns before the end of their term, the governor appoints a replacement. That person serves until the next statewide election that occurs 60 or more days after the appointment. The person then must run to retain the seat. Once elected, Supreme Court justices serve for six years. Last year, Brown filled vacancies on the Oregon Supreme Court and the state Court of Appeals after interviewing and vetting them with the Oregon State Bar. Candidates who applied but weren’t selected will automatically be in the running for Balmer’s seat, she said in the release.
She said in the release that vacancies are filled based on merit and that she urges lawyers from a wide variety of backgrounds to apply. Her office did not respond to a request for more details by the end of the workday Monday.
Those who didn’t apply last year can send their application forms to the governor’s general counsel, Shevaun Gutridge. Forms must be received by 5 p.m. on Wednesday, October 19. Only members of the Oregon State Bar who are U.S. citizens and have lived in Oregon for the past three years qualify to become a state Supreme Court justice.
Balmer’s replacement will start Jan. 1.
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