July 2, 2018

Martha Walters becomes Chief Justice of Oregon Supreme Court

Chief Justice Martha Walters began her tenure as the Chief Justice of the Oregon Supreme Court on July 1, 2018. Justice Walters is the 43rd Chief Justice of the Oregon Supreme Court and the first female elected to the role.

Justice Walters has been a member of the Oregon Supreme Court since 2006. Prior to joining the judicial branch, Justice Walters practiced employment law and civil litigation in Eugene.

In addition to her practice, Justice Walters has been an active volunteer with the Oregon State Bar, the Lane County Bar Association, and the first woman president of the National Conference of Commissioners on Uniform State Laws. Prior to joining the court, Justice Walters was involved with the Civil Legal Services Task Force, the Oregon State Bar Disciplinary Board, and the Judicial Administration Committee, to name just a few of her commitments in Oregon.

Further, Justice Walters joined the National Conference of Commissioners on Uniform State Laws as one of the four Oregon Commissioners in 1992. In 2007 she was voted in as the first female president of the Commission.

According to the Oregon Judicial Department, “By statute, the seven Supreme Court justices elect the Chief Justice to a six-year term. The Chief Justice presides over the Supreme Court and assigns opinions to associate justices to write after oral arguments on cases. She also serves as the administrative head of the Judicial Department – the state court system consisting of 194 trial and appellate judges, 1,584 non-judge employees, and a biennial General Fund budget of $454.5 million.”

Congratulations to Chief Justice-elect Walters!

A retrospective of Chief Justice Balmer’s tenure will run in the next issue of the Capitol Insider.

Attorney General Ellen F. Rosenblum and Supreme Court Chief Justice Martha Lee Walters at the Oregon State Bar’s President’s Reception in Salem, Oregon. February 2018.

Back to top

Simple, two-thirds, or three-fifths majority votes?

In some situations, the Oregon Constitution requires greater than a majority vote to pass legislation. Under Article IV, section 25, bills that raise revenue require a three-fifths majority for passage. And under Article IV, section 33, of the Oregon Constitution, some bills that reduce criminal sentences require a two-thirds majority for passage. Two separate bills that passed in the last two legislative cycles are currently being challenged in Oregon’s courts based, in part, on these constitutional requirements.

Revenue Bills

Article IV, Section 25

In 2018, the Oregon Legislature passed Senate Bill 1528. The bill removed a state tax add back in the calculation of Oregon’s adjusted gross income for some taxpayers. SB 1528, which began in the Senate, passed the Senate 16–13 with 1 excused and passed the House 32–28. While the bill did not receive three-fifths of the votes in either chamber, proponents have argued it did not “raise revenue” for the purposes of Article IV and therefore did not need to meet this requirement. Senator Brian Boquist (R Dallas) filed suit challenging the passage of the bill in June.

Sentencing Bills

Article IV, Section 33

In 2017, the Oregon Legislature passed House Bill 3078, which reduced sentencing for some property crimes. Measure 57, a voter-approved initiative passed in 2008, addressed repeat property crimes.

Under Article IV, section 33, of the Oregon Constitution, bills that reduce a criminal sentence approved by the people requires a two-thirds majority for passage. HB 3078 passed the House 33–26 with 1 excused and passed the Senate 18-11 with 1 excused. In this case, the bill did not receive two-thirds of the votes in either chamber. Proponents of the bill have argued that the changes to Measure 57 in 2009 modified the initiative enough so that Article IV does not apply. Clackamas County District Attorney John Foote, among others, have challenged the constitutionality of HB 3078.

Back to top

Election Update – Lawyer Legislators

With the completion of the May primary elections, the Republican, Democratic, and Independent candidates are gearing up for the general election on November 6, 2018. This election cycle, 10 of the 11 currently sitting lawyer-legislators are running for reelection. Representative Phil Barnhart (D-Eugene) has decided to retire after 18 of years representing his House district.

Three new lawyers are running for a legislative seat this election cycle. Candidate Kim Wallen (R-Medford) is running for Representative Sal Esquival’s seat in House District 6. Candidate Marty Wilde (D-Eugene) is running for Representative Barnhart’s seat in House District 11. In addition, Shemia Fagan (D) won a primary challenge and will be running unopposed in the general election to fill the District 24 Senate seat (Mid-Multnomah County).

The thirteen lawyers running for office are:

Oregon House of Representatives

      • District 6 (Medford):                               Kim Wallen (R)
      • District 11 (Eugene):                              Marty Wilde (D)
      • District 16 (Corvallis):                             Dan Rayfield (D)
      • District 26 (Wilsonville):                          Rich Vial (R)
      • District 34 (NE Washington County):      Ken Helm (D)
      • District 36 (SW Portland):                      Jennifer Williamson (D),
        House Majority Leader
      • District 41 (Milwaukie):                          Karin Power (D)
      • District 55 (S Central Oregon):              Mike McLane (R),
        House Republican Leader (R)

Oregon Senate

      • District 4 (S Eugene, Lane County):       Floyd Prozanski (D)
      • District 11 (Keizer, Woodburn):               Peter Courtney (D),
        Senate President
      • District 13 (Keizer):                                  Paul Diller (D)*
      • District 16 (St. Helens, N Coast):            Betsy Johnson (D)
      • District 24 (Mid-Multnomah County):      Shemia Fagan (D)
      • District 30 (Greater Eastern Oregon):     Cliff Bentz (R)

Best of luck to all of the candidates!

*Mr. Diller withdrew from the campaign in June. A replacement will be picked by the Democratic Party of Oregon to run in his place.

Back to top


Thank you for reading the Oregon State Bar’s CAPITOL INSIDER.
The archives are available here.

2018 Public Affairs Committee Members

Kathleen Rastetter, Chair
Whitney Boise, Vice Chair
Rob Gratchner
John Bachofner
Eric Foster
Liani Reeves
Michael Rondeau 

Public Affairs Department

Susan Grabe, Public Affairs Director
Amy Zubko, Public Affairs Legislative Attorney
Matt Shields, Public Affairs Staff Attorney
Kellie Baumann, Public Affairs Assistant

Back to top