Jack Roberts & Virginia Linder

Supreme Court races usually fly under the radar, but this first-open-seat-in-decades race promises to be a barnburner. Jack Roberts, former GOP candidate for governor, is getting massive infusions of cash from right-wing sources - while Virginia Linder has been running quietly with modest support from attorneys, newspaper editorial boards, and a number of progressives.

Last week's news coverage:

This is a fascinating race: Linder is more qualified and experienced, but Roberts has the money, name recognition and political experience to win this election. Linder's only hope is to make sure voters know who she is -- and who's paying for Roberts' campaign. ...

[Linder] won the bar poll in this race, earning more than five times the votes from the legal community as Roberts did. She enjoys the support and respect of legions of her peers.

She's no politician, however. Like many judges, she's slightly horrified by the idea of selling oneself to voters. And as a sitting judge, she faces ethical limitations in the money she can accept.

Roberts has no such qualms or constraints. As a former labor commissioner and gubernatorial candidate, he is accustomed to self promotion and fundraising. He raised more than $370,000 for the primary from backers including Oregon Right to Life; the American Justice Partnership, an out-of-state group that supports lower jury verdicts; timber groups; and eccentric millionaire Loren Parks.

BlueOregon readers will remember this comment posted here - by Jack Roberts himself:

The truth is I think she is a fine Court of Appeals Judge and would make a fine Supreme Court Justice.

I have said from the beginning that I believe it is a disgrace in 2005 that Oregon has no women on its Supreme Court. Therefore, if Judge Linder demonstrates the ability to be a strong candidate with a good chance to win, I would be inclined not to make this race. However, Gene Hallman has a head start and a strong organization raising money and getting endorsements for him.

I believe I can overcome this, but Judge Linder needs to demonstrate that she can. I will be watching her campaign to see if she does this before making a final decision as to what I intend to do. In any event, I am encouraged that she is thinking of running and I wish her the best.

Go to Virginia Linder's website and sign up to get her email updates, to volunteer, and to donate. Don't wait for her to ask.


  • Rob "Not a Judge" Jackson (unverified)

    This is a big deal. This is basically Roberts's ploy to reinvigorate his political life. He'll use this as a platform to run for Governor. Nothing suggests he really wants to be a judge...but he'd love the title.

    Linder needs to win...for the good of an impartial judiciary.

  • (Show?)

    If this is a ploy to reinvigorate my political life, I wish someone had let me in on it.

    I have no interest in running for governor again. Besides, if I'm elected to the supreme court, I will take an oath which includes the promise that "I will not accept any other office, except judicial offices, during the term for which I have been elected." The term for a supreme court justice is 6 years, meaning it won't expire until the end of 2012 . . . and the next governor's race will be in 2010.

    I don't take back any of the positive things I have said about Judge Linder and I still think she would make a fine judge. But I think the voters deserve a choice and they've now got the run-off they voted for. (Incidentally, I didn't know Gene Hallman before the race began but I've come to like and respect him and believe he would also make a fine judge.)

    I have no intention of running a negative campaign and I don't believe Judge Linder does either. I think I can make the case for why I would be a good choice for the supreme court without suggesting that Judge Linder would be a bad one. I would hope her supporters can do the same.

  • (Show?)

    OK, Jack, as long as you're here... a question: What do Oregon Right to Life, the American Justice Partnership, and Loren Parks see in you?

    And let's not have the usual "a bright guy who will be a fair judge" silliness. After all, Hallman and Linder would fit that bill too. So, what is it that these passionate advocates are after in supporting you to the tune of hundreds of thousands of dollars?

  • LT (unverified)

    Jack, it is a fact of life that some people look at who funds a candidate---I know that happened when Bev Clarno ran statewide. She was a good Speaker, but some of the funders for her statewide campaign were the sort some of us couldn't support. Outside of that issue, I seem to recall that was a "2 equally qualified people" statewide election.

    Given the choice for Supreme Court between a woman who has already been a judge and a well known man (partly well known for being outspoken) who has been elected to non-judicial office, there will be a variety of questions people have the right to ask themselves and their friends. Some people might reflect on Ed Fadeley (who defeated Vern Cook and before that Judge Jelderks) and ponder whether they want an outspoken elected official on the court.

  • LT (unverified)

    In response to "not a judge" Jackson, if there was a possibility that Jack Roberts would end up deciding cases like former AG, US Supreme Court Justice and Nuremberg prosecutor Jackson, I might be able to support him.

    The Justice Jackson who wrote in 1943 "no official, high or petty, can prescribe what shall be orthodox in politics, nationalism, religion or other matters of opinion........"

    Look it up---the case is West Virginia Board of Education vs. Barnette.

  • (Show?)

    Fair question, Kari. But it requires three separate answers and lot of your bandwidth so I hope you don't mind.

    For many years, Oregon Right to Life has used me as an example to other pro-choice politicians as a pro-choice politician they could work with because I've always treated them with respect and tried to find common ground even though we disagree on their fundamental issue. Therefore they made an in-kind contribution in the form of a letter to targeted homes "recommending" my election to the supreme court (they couldn't call it an endorsement because their charter prohibits them from endorsing anyone who isn't pro-life).

    Fairly or not, Oregon Right to Life feels that have not always been treated fairly by the Oregon Supreme Court (the most recent ruling on their parental notification ballot title being an example they would cite) and they were eager to have someone on the court who they believed would try to ensure they got a fair shake even if he didn't agree with them.

    The American Justice Partnership came out to Oregon in December to look into the gubernatorial race and someone suggested they talk to me about the supreme court race. They were primarily concerned about Gene Hallman who, again fairly or not, was perceived as the Oregon Trial Lawyers Association (OTLA) candidate.

    I still hadn't decided for sure whether or not I would run but I talked to them primarily about the politics of the race. I told them that if I ran I wasn't interested in any independent expenditure campaigns and that in any event tort reform was not a good issue in Oregon, voters having already rejected two ballot measures on this issue. I didn't think too much about it until several months later when I heard we might have more money for media than I thought we would. It later turned out to be money from the AJP.

    It is my understanding that now that Hallman is out of the running, they are not necessarily committed to helping me in the general election.

    Loren Parks is perhaps the most interesting case. I have never received support from Parks before and had been led to believe that he regarded me as a Judas because I had publicly opposed most of the ballot measures he has financed over the years. So I was surprised several months ago to receive a call from Gregg Clapper saying that Parks wanted to help in my race.

    I told Clapper that I wasn't going to run any negative ads and didn't want any independent expenditure ads. I told him we already were working on a couple of ads (one for TV, one for radio)and that when we were finished I would show them to him and then anyone who wanted to help could just make contributions through the normal channels.

    I was frankly surprised when Parks decided to make a substantial contribution because our ads were not the kind he normally finances. I think he was influenced primarily by the fact that Steve Doell from Oregon Crime Victims United was on the radio ad, and Parks strongly supports them.

    If I were going to wrap all three of these up together I would say that all three supported me, not because they think I am a closet right-winger, but because they thought I could help pull a court they regard as very liberal back to the center. We did not alter our message one iota in response to those contributions and I have not made any promises or representations to any of them as to how I would vote to decide any case if I am elected.

  • (Show?)

    And LT, I'm sure there are people who share your concern about having an "outspoken elected official" on the Oregon Supreme Court. On the other hand, for the last 30 years we have had at least one and at one time as many as three justices who had held nonjudicial elected office before joining the court. This list includes Berkley Lent, Betty Roberts and Ted Kulongoski as well as Ed Fadeley, who you mentioned.

    Oh, and let's not forget Wally Carson, whose seat Judge Linder and I are seeking to fill.

    On the other hand, I do share your admiration for Justice Robert Jackson.

  • (Show?)

    Nice answer, Jack. I'm glad we gave you a glowing non-endorsement at Loaded O. :)

  • Andy N. (unverified)

    For consistency's sake, shouldn't all you people who advocate for Linder because she's a woman actually use the same logic to advocate for Roberts? There aren't any conservatives on the court right now either. There aren't any non-Portlanders/Salemites on the court right now, are there? There aren't any former politicians on the court right now are there? All 3 good reasons to vote for Roberts? Seriously, cut out with voting for Linder because she is a woman argument. It is lame...and a dis-service to her as a judge.

  • (Show?)

    "All you people..."

    I'm pretty sure that the only person in this thread who has said gender is a reason alone to support Ginny Linder is... Jack Roberts.

    I have said from the beginning that I believe it is a disgrace in 2005 that Oregon has no women on its Supreme Court.

    I'm supporting Ginny Linder because a) she's qualified to be a judge, and Jack is not, and b) she seems like a moderate sort with reasonable politics - and Jack is supported by Right to Life and Loren Parks.

    I supported Gene Hallman in the primary (and worked for his campaign) - but as far as I'm concerned, we're all Linder people now.

  • LT (unverified)

    Let's not forget Wally Carson who was my state senator before he was on the court. Wonderful mild-mannered man who I will miss after his long career--have known him for years. And I said during the primary that if all 3 candidates were combined together, they might match Wally---big shoes to fill.

    I don't recall Ted being outspoken as a justice, or for that matter after he left the state senate. (Might not have had to fight so hard for his primary victory if he'd been outspoken last year rather than "where's Waldo").

    Betty Roberts was in politics and on the court awhile back, although some may not know her history at least they might recognize the name.

    Might have to tell most people who Berkley Lent was.

    This time (unlike Fadeley's election) we have the choice between a judge and a former statewide elected official. I'll take the judge.

  • grrlszgrrl (unverified)


    You guys always miss the point. The fact that Linder is a woman is not what qualifies her for the court, clearly. But, if we want to get into debates about equal representation then it matters. Women across this state who have to go before the Supreme Court will not find their experiences represented on the court at this time. Linder is the only chance we have this year of rectifying that to a very minor degree. Like the legislature, also underrepresentative, the courts should look like the population. I may have a memory lapse, but didn't we fight a war against England for taxation without representation?

  • Harry (unverified)

    Quotas anyone?

  • grrlszgrrl (unverified)

    From the likes of whom have never had to worry about representation issues, the "quotas" remark seems rather telling. Yes, let's drag out the language of affirmative action to hide what really is going on everyday in every arena: straight white men just want to keep things the way they are.

  • (Show?)

    Quotas aren't "the language of AA;" they're different. AA in this case would be encouraging and giving a fair shake to women like Linder in running for OSC--something she clearly got, and is borne out by her strong finish in the primary. A quota is saying "we need a woman on OSC, just because there isn't one, as long as she's minimally qualified." It's awfully unseemly of you, grllzgrrl, to declare this a power and control issue by "straight white men." I think the audience of this blog is well-receptive to fairness and electoral equality; declaring absent substantiation that it's just about keeping da bitches down seems awfully rude and counterproductive to your goal, IMO. The straight guy with the most to lose should Linder be installed, said upthread she'd make a fine justice. What part of the tinfoil hat are you storing that counterfactual in?

  • (Show?)

    Is it correct that Linder got 52% of the Bar's endorsement vote, while Roberts got 10%? And if so, why?

  • Robert Harris (unverified)

    Here's the link for Mr. Roberts' Oregon State Bar response form. This is filled out by all candidates for Supreme Court. You can compare it to Judge Linder and Mr. Hallman.

    Roberts' Profile

    Couple of things of interest: It appears he hasn't practiced law since about 1989. He also has never tried a case or represented a person in court.

    He beleives his lack of technical legal experience uniquely qualifies him to be a supreme court justice (!?). It appears he believes the Supreme court sets pubic policy and doesn't just interpret the law. (Talk about an activist judge!)

    Does this help explain whay only 10% of the lawyers voted for him while Judge Linder got about 51% and Mr. Hallman got about 39%.

  • (Show?)

    Mr. Harris, it is not true that I have never tried a case or represented a person in court. It is true that my law practice was primarily representing and advising clients on personal and business transactions and arrangements outside of the courtroom.

    I have never said that I lack technical legal experience, simply that I have experiences outside of the courtroom and outside of my legal practice that, once Justice Carson leaves the bench, none of the other justices on the court have. My campaign is based on the belief that those experiences are valuable. Voters, of course, are free to agree or disagree with this.

    I have never said that the Supreme Court "sets public policy and doesn't just interpret the law." Just for fun, let me quote what I did say in the document you cite:

    "The role of a state supreme court justice is unique in our system because, except for cases which implicate federal law or the United States Constititution, the decisions of this court are final and set the framework for the course and development of the law in Oregon. Most cases that get to the supreme court have been extensively argued and evaluated from a purely legal standpoint but the Supreme Court has the opportunity to consider those legal issues within the broader context of society and government.

    "Therefore, the Supreme Court needs to be filled, not with the seven best legal technicians in the state, but with seven people who represent a breadth of backgrounds and experience, people who have been exposed to the implications of the law and the legal system on the rest of society, people who understand the way the court's decisions affect people and institutions who are not parties to the present litigation but who will live with its impacts."

    I stand by that statement.

    Finally, although only about a quarter of the eligible lawyers participated in the bar poll, we expected Judge Linder and Gene Hallman to get most of the votes and frankly did nothing to campaign for votes in the bar poll.

    Historically, elections for judges (when contested at all) have primarily targeted the fewer than 13,000 people who are active lawyers in Oregon, rather than the more than 550,000 people who ended up voting for judge in this recent election. We took a different tack in the race and were fortunate to finish first. This is to take nothing away from Judge Linder and Gene Hallman, whose support among our colleagues in the bar was well-deserved.

  • Robert Harris (unverified)

    Mr. Roberts

    If I mischaractedized your courtroom experience, I apologize. You stated in your OSB response form that you were not a litigation attorney. So perhaps you could tell us how many trials or types of courtroom appearances you've done to clarify the record.

    The earlier poster asked why you only received 10% of the attorney vote in the bar poll. I believe it has to do with your lack of courtroom experience, and frankly your lack of experience practicing law. From your OSB form it appeared that you practiced law full time about nine years, from 1980 to 1989. (again if thats incorrect, please clarify) While I understand you've had other valuable experience since then, most lawyers believe that a judge should have extensive substantial experience in the practice of law prior to going on the bench. Any bench, not just trial court bench.

    I agree that your politics for the race are excellent, because you're right, only a few percentage of the voters care about the bar poll results. But that's a different matter from the original question, which was why you did so poorly on the bar poll.

    And here's why I think expereince practicing law, and particularly courtroom expereince, is so important. I've seen our Courts in this state go from process oriented under Justice Linde, Van Hoomison and others to result oriented under Justice Carson. This is very concerning to me. When we marginalize process the court can become a superlegislature, or a toady to the legislature, or a grievance committee. You just don't know because its the personalities on the court that come to matter, not the 200 years of legal history, jurisprudence and due process. So we end up with ad hoc court rulings that make bad, and difficult to implement, precedent.

    And while I hope I'm wrong, when you emphasize your "common sense experience" over technical expertise, I fear another result oriented judge with insufficient respect for precedent and process. Experienced litigation attorneys, or even non-litigation attorneys with extensive practices, come to understand that very few things can be "known" for sure, and its the process that must be protected, and the 200 years of American jurisprudence shouldn't be ignored because some judge beleives that the result which proper process leads to doesn't comport with his/her sense of the "right" or "common sense" result.

    But of course very few things can be known for sure....so good luck and if you are elected, I wish you the best.


  • (Show?)

    Thnk you for your thoughtful response.

    I'm fascinated, however, by your characterization of the Linde Court as process oriented and the Carson court as result oriented. It seems to me that the revolution in Oregon constitutional jurisprudence since 1980 that was championed by Justice Linde was anything but process oriented. In particular, Justice Linde's analysis of Article 1, section 8 (Oregon's free speech provision) in State v. Robertson not only had no legal precedent, it drew upon no basis in the constitutional language or history of that provision. I believe Judge Landau of the Oregon Court of Appeals referred to that holding as an exercise in pure "ipsi dixitism." And the whole Fazzolari trilogy of cases was hardly in keeping with past precedent.

    I'm not suggesting these cases were decided rightly or wrongly, simply that they were not process-oriented decisions. On the other hand, one of the complaints I've heard about the Oregon supreme court under Chief Justice Carson is that its decisions were largely rule-driven and that the constitution was treated like a "cookbook," as Charles Hinkle put it. Fiar or not, that charectization hardly seems consistent with a result-oriented court.

    Whatever your analysis of these respective courts or their decisions, it does seem to me that it is the current court that is primarily stocked with legal practitioners and technicians, while to the best of my knowledge Justice Linde (my former professor) never practiced law, and the courts on which he served were generously sprinkled with lawyer-politicians like Berkeley Lent, Betty Roberts, Wally Carson, Ed Fadeley and George Van Hoomissen.

    <h2>None of this proves that I would be a better justice than Judge Linder or vice versa. It does suggest, however, that during the course of this campaign we candidates should try to help voters better evaluate our legal knowledge and judicial philosophies rather than simply rely on our resumes and employment histories to decide who to support.</h2>
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