Politics

Brown appoints 2 Oregon Supreme Court judges in her final days as governor

By Lauren Dake (OPB)
Dec. 28, 2022 7 p.m.

Gov. Kate Brown announced Wednesday she is appointing two justices to the Oregon Supreme Court, making every justice on the state’s highest court a Brown appointee.

Her announcement also included an appointment to the Oregon Court of Appeals and two appointments to the Multnomah County Circuit Court.

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Brown, whose tenure as governor ends in a little more than a week, has appointed 112 judges during her time in office.

“Throughout my time as Governor, I have sought to appoint highly-qualified individuals with deep connections to their communities, extensive courtroom experience, and professional and lived experiences that are representative of all of Oregon,” Brown said in a press release.

Kate Brown wears a suit and sits in an armchair in front of a wooden bookcase.

Oregon Gov. Kate Brown, in her office at the state capitol, Feb. 3, 2022, following her final state of the state address. Brown, whose tenure as governor ends in a little more than a week, announced two state Supreme Court appointments Wednesday.

Kristyna Wentz-Graff / OPB

Unlike the federal Supreme Court, justices on Oregon’s highest court serve six-year terms before facing election. Still, electoral challenges are rare, let alone successful.

Brown’s efforts have not only remade the state’s Supreme Court, but will have a lasting impact throughout the judiciary on the state’s tax, trial and appellate courts.

Since taking office in 2015, she has appointed 56 judges who are women, 55 who are men and one who is non-binary. She has also appointed 27 judges who are people of color, two of whom are Native American and eight judges who openly identify as LGBTQ+.

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Brown’s efforts to overhaul the judiciary started early in her tenure as governor.

Stephen Bushong.

Stephen Bushong.

Office of Governor Kate Brown

“When I graduated from law school as a young lawyer, there was one woman on the (Oregon) Supreme Court,” Brown told OPB. “It was Justice Betty Roberts. In my entire career, until I became governor, there were never more than two women on a seven-person court. Never more than two. And when I became governor, I changed that immediately.”

Brown’s latest Supreme Court appointments are Stephen Bushong and Bronson James.

Bushong has been a judge on the Multnomah County Circuit Court since 2008 and will fill the position created by Justice Thomas Balmer’s retirement. Before becoming a judge, Bushong litigated civil cases as an attorney at the Miller Nash law firm and as an attorney with the Special Litigation Unit at the Oregon Department of Justice.

Bronson James.

Bronson James.

Office of Governor Kate Brown

James has been a judge on the Court of Appeals since 2017 and will fill the spot of Chief Justice Martha Walters as she retires. Before his time on the bench, James was an appellate public defender with the Oregon Office of Public Defense Services and represented injured plaintiffs, as well as criminal defendants at his own firm.

Brown is appointing Megan Jacquot, currently a judge on the Coos and Curry County circuit courts since 2016, to the state Court of Appeals vacancy created by James’ moving to the state Supreme Court. Jacquot previously practiced as a juvenile defense attorney and appellate attorney in Coos Bay before becoming a judge. She is an enrolled member of the Chocktaw Nation and will be the first tribal member to serve on an appellate court in the state. Jacquot also serves on the governor’s Foster Care Advisory Commission.

Related: Oregon's broken foster care system: What we found

Bryan Francesconi, currently a public defender, and Rima Ghandour, currently a civil litigator, will fill the two vacancies on the Multnomah County Circuit Court.

One of Brown’s earlier appointees, Oregon Supreme Court Justice Adrienne Nelson, the first Black judge on the state’s highest court, has been nominated as a federal judicial nominee by the Biden administration and is awaiting approval from the U.S. Senate.

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