In Short

Oregon’s second female chief justice takes office

By: - January 5, 2023 2:46 pm

Oregon’s Supreme Court has a new chief justice who’s the second woman to serve in the role. Meagan Flynn took office on Jan. 1, succeeding Chief Justice Martha Walters, who retired. (Salem Reporter)

Oregon’s Supreme Court has a new chief justice who’s the second woman to serve in the role.

Meagan Flynn took office on Jan. 1, succeeding Chief Justice Martha Walters, who retired and ran the court from 2018 to 2022 as the first female chief justice. 

The court, which chooses the chief justice, announced its intent to vote for  Flynn in October and then officially elected her to a six-year term unanimously in December. 

Flynn, 55, was appointed to the Supreme Court in 2017 by Gov. Kate Brown, and served as associate justice on the state Supreme Court from 2017 through 2022. She was on the Oregon Court of Appeals from 2014 to 2017.

“I am grateful for the opportunity to serve the Supreme Court, the judicial branch, and the people of Oregon as chief justice,” Flynn said in a statement on Thursday. “I look forward to building on the strong foundation that our courts have thanks to the amazing work of Chief Justice Martha Walters.”

Chief Justice Meagan Flynn (Oregon Judicial Department)

In late December, Brown appointed two new members to the high court, and now all of its members are her appointees. After being nominated, Supreme Court judges have to secure their spot in the next election.

Besides heading the court, the chief justice is the administrative head of the Oregon Judicial Department, the state’s court system. Its reach is wide and includes 200 trial and appellate judges, more than 1,700 other employees and a budget of about $300 million annually. The Oregon Judicial Department includes the Supreme Court, Court of Appeals, Tax Court, circuit courts in each of Oregon’s 36 counties and the Office of the State Court Administrator.

“In the coming months, I plan to listen, learn, collaborate and advocate for a judicial branch dedicated to access, inclusion, innovation, improvement and justice for all,” Flynn said her a statement. 

In her first act as chief justice, Flynn swore into office Brown’s new  associate judges, Stephen Bushong, a former Multnomah County Circuit Court judge; and Bronson James, a former Oregon Court of Appeals judge. They replace Walters and Justice Thomas Balmer, who also retired last year. They’ll need to run for election in May 2024. 

Flynn has practiced civil appellate law at Preston Bunnell & Flynn in Portland from 1999 to 2014. From 1994 to 1999, she was an associate attorney at Pozzi Wilson Atchison in Portland and worked on issues such as personal injury, state workers compensation and federal longshore compensation cases. From 1992 to 1994, she was a judicial clerk for two judges on the Oregon Court of Appeals.


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Ben Botkin
Ben Botkin

Ben Botkin covers justice, health and social services issues for the Oregon Capital Chronicle. He has been a reporter since 2003, when he drove from the Midwest to Idaho for his first journalism job. Botkin has won multiple awards for his investigative and enterprise reporting, including on education, state budgets and criminal justice.