Oregon Supreme Court Justice Nelson nominated to federal bench

Oregon Supreme Court Justice Nelson nominated to federal bench

Justice Adrienne C. Nelson would be the first Black woman to serve on the U.S. District Court for Oregon.

By:  Max Egener

President Joe Biden has nominated Oregon Supreme Court Justice Adrienne C. Nelson to serve as a federal judge.

If confirmed by the U.S. Senate, Nelson, 55, would be the first Black woman to serve on the U.S. District Court for Oregon.

Gov. Kate Brown appointed Nelson to be an associate justice on Oregon's high court in 2018, making her the first Black judge to serve on that court — or any court of appeal in the state.

Before that, Nelson was a trial court judge for nearly 12 years on the Multnomah County Circuit Court.

Nelson was one of three other federal judicial nominees announced Thursday, July 14.

The nominations continue to fulfill Biden's "promise to ensure that the nation's courts reflect the diversity that is one of our greatest assets as a country — both in terms of personal and professional backgrounds," read a statement from the White House.

All of the nominees "are extraordinarily qualified, experienced and devoted to the rule of law and our Constitution," White House officials said.

Nelson's interest in law began in Arkansas, where she grew up.

She was prohibited from serving as valedictorian at her high school because of her race, according to Brown's office. The school initially decided to give the honor to a white student with a lower GPA.

Nelson's mother, Jacquelyn Brown, sued the school district and prevailed, allowing Nelson to be named valedictorian.

Nelson stayed in the state to earn her undergraduate degree at the University of Arkansas. She earned her law degree at the University of Texas.

She launched her legal career as a public defender at Multnomah Defenders Inc. in 1996. Nelson then joined the private firm Bennett, Hartman, Morris and Kaplan LLP, where she practiced from 1999 to 2004.

She worked as a senior attorney and coordinator of Student Legal and Mediation Services at Portland State University until 2006 when former Gov. Ted Kulongoski appointed her to the Multnomah County Circuit Court.

Nelson was appointed to finish the term of former Oregon Supreme Court Justice Jack Landau in 2018. She won the election for a full six-year term later that year.

She has received the Multnomah Bar Association's Award of Merit and the Oregon State Bar's Diversity and Inclusion Award.

Last August, Nelson cut the ceremonial ribbon and officially opened Adrienne C. Nelson High School in Happy Valley.

In a joint statement Thursday, U.S. Sens. Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley said they "wholeheartedly" support Nelson's nomination.

"Justice Nelson is extremely well-qualified for this federal judgeship, combining her experience on Oregon's highest court and previous trial judge tenure in Multnomah County with service as a public defender and mediator. We eagerly look forward to helping this outstanding nominee advance through the Senate confirmation process," read the statement.

Biden's nominations now will go before the Senate Judiciary Committee. It's the 23rd round of nominees to the federal judiciary, bringing the president's total nominees to 123.

Nelson would fill the seat of Michael W. Mosman, who became a senior judge in December.