The Case for Leslie Roberts

By Irving Potter of Portland, Oregon. For 25 years, he has been Leslie Roberts' law partner.

On October 20, BlueOregon posted a guest column from the campaign manager for Charles Henderson. The column suggested that his candidate was the best choice for Multnomah County Judge. Unfortunately, many who have commented on this election have chosen merely to vilify Leslie Roberts for having the gall to suggest that the governor and the appointed candidate follow the law. As Leslie Roberts' friend and law partner for over 25 years, I want to put before the voters a quick summary of why I believe Leslie Roberts would deserve to be elected, even if she was opposed by a highly qualified and experienced candidate.

Leslie, a lifelong Oregon resident, is an honor graduate of Portland's Reed College and Yale Law School. Leslie graduated law school and passed the Oregon Bar Exam in 1972, beginning her career as a law clerk at the Oregon Supreme Court. After serving with the court, she joined a Portland law firm. As a young lawyer, like the write in candidate, she accepted court appointments and represented indigent clients in all types of matters, including criminal and domestic cases. As she gained experience and her reputation grew, she went on to represent clients in increasingly complex cases, although her representation of clients in personal injury matters was never on behalf of insurance companies trying to avoid coverage, only for the injured.

Leslie served as a volunteer pro tem judge in Multnomah County. She was appointed by the Presiding Judge of the Multnomah County Circuit Court to serve on the commission that designed the arbitration system for the court. She was a member of the Oregon State Bar Alternate Dispute Resolution Section, where she was elected by her peers as Chair of the Section. Leslie was a member of the Oregon State Bar Health Law Section, where she was again elected by her peers as Chair. Leslie served on the Oregon State Bar Ethics Committee where she was, once again, elected by her peers as Chair.

Leslie was elected a Director of the Multnomah County Rural Fire District #10 and has served for many years as its counsel. Leslie has been a long time member of the ACLU, serving on the board of the local affiliate and on the National Board of the ACLU. As her law partner for over 25 years, I perhaps better than anyone, know what a good person Leslie is. With eight children, including six adopted from China, Leslie's professional accomplishments are surpassed only by the great job she is doing as a mother and as a truly caring member of our community. Through a 34 year legal career, Leslie has acquired an unmatchable list of accomplishments and experience. It is not often that the voters have the opportunity to elect a judge with Leslie's personal and professional qualifications.

I am sure that the voters who visit Blue Oregon are fair minded individuals who consider all of the facts before making any vote. After considering the qualifications of the two candidates seeking this position, I have no doubt who they will select as the next Multnomah County Judge. Leslie Roberts will be a great Judge.

  • Mister Tee (unverified)

    I voted for Henderson, despite his striking resemblance to Scott Peterson.

    Leslie's actions were undemocratic and unethical. At a minimum, she should have notified The Oregonian as soon as she became aware of the residency issue, and allow them to shine some daylight on the issue. This would have permitted additional qualified candidates to consider running for the seat.

    Plus, she looks like the Church Lady from SNL.

  • (Show?)

    Here's what I want to know from those who agree with Mister Tee above.

    Why does a candidate for office have any ethical duty to help other people run for that same office?

    Let's say, for example, that Ron Saxton had forgotten to submit his voter's pamphlet - and the deadline were just an hour away. Would Ted Kulongoski be ethically bound to give him a quick reminder call?

    I haven't voted yet, and this is one of the few races where I haven't decided yet - but I don't understand what ethical duty Leslie Roberts has, except to file her own paperwork correctly, and run as hard as she can.

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    This isn't about helping a current opponent. This is about holding onto information that should have been reported some time earlier. We live in a democracy, and we have elections for a reason.

    As someone who has worked as a judge, and is running for another judge position, Roberts made an extremely poor decision when she held onto that information.

    What she should have done is reported it as soon as she knew. That was the ethical thing to do.

    Instead, she kept it to herself knowing that people rarely will run against an incumbent judge. The positions are just too low profile and have such a huge undervote that doing so is often a waste of time and resources. That's why you see so many unopposed candidates on the ballot. This way she was pretty much guaranteed the ability to run unopposed.

    This wasn't about helping other candidates. This was about ensuring that there weren't any other candidates.

  • lw (unverified)

    From what I have heard and read, Roberts had little time to do the "ethical thing". It has been reported that she did ask the elections office to verify residency. What more can someone do? I agree with Kari, do all candidates, likely candidates, have the obligation to check up on all opposition to see if things are in order? If You was elected, and then Roberts made the residency claim, how would Judge Anon above rule?

  • JB Eads (unverified)

    Why does a candidate for office have any ethical duty to help other people run for that same office?

    The problem here is three fold. One, at best, Roberts is looking to win on a technicality. I understand that in a campaign, you do what you need to do to win, but I honestly think judicial races should be held to a higher standard than other cut-throat electoral contests. It's hard to imagine how a Roberts win would be viewed as legitimate, which is bad for the system as a whole.

    Two, Leslie Roberts continues to claim that she told the governor's office about her neighbor's residency problems, which that office flatly denies. I'm inclined not to believe her given her other questionable behavior.

    Three, it remains to be seen if Leslie Roberts is sufficiently qualified to be judge. Notably, Leslie has applied to several other open judicial positions only to be passed over by more qualified legal applicants.

    OK, four, I guess. It's sleazy to do this to your neighbor. This isn't for control of the Senate -- it's for circuit court judge for chrissakes. Portland's a small town; the one thing I just don't understand about this is why Roberts thinks this is such a great prize she's willing to alienate herself from virtual the entire legal community to get there.

  • JB Eads (unverified)

    Last sentence should have read: "virtually" the entire legal community to get there.

  • Isaac Laquedem (unverified)

    As I understand the situation, the information suggesting that Judge You didn't meet the residency requirements was readily available from the Multnomah County Director of Elections, the county recorder, and the Department of Motor Vehicles. It was not some sort of secret hidden in the Roberts safe deposit box.

    None of the lawyers who are complaining about Ms. Roberts had the courage to run against a political unknown who had been on the bench for about a week, and they shouldn't be complaining that they don't get the chance to run against Ms. Roberts.

  • Harold (unverified)

    Leslie Roberts should not be a judge for several reasons:

    1. Roberts is sneaky. Judges shouldn’t be sneaky. Roberts admits in the press that she was aware of the residency issue in May. However, she didn’t raise it until after the filing deadline. She waited to file at the last moment on the last day.

    Judges should be fair, not sneaky.

    1. The legal community didn’t feel that Roberts would make a good judge. Recently, she was NOT rated “highly qualified” by the Multnomah Bar Association after a very rigorous process. She has applied several times for other judicial positions and has always lost out. She knew that this was her only shot and boy did she take it. One must admit, it was quite a “gotcha.”

    2. Roberts’ partner argues that she should be judge because she is smart and went to good schools. This is not enough. There is no shortage of smart lawyers. Judges need to be something more.

    3. Henderson would make a good judge. He has the right experience and is viewed as a fair and ethical advocate. He is endorsed by 14 sitting judges. Roberts is endorsed by zero, which is a huge point. Henderson has endorsements from the Oregonian, Willamette Week, Mercury and scads of diligent fact checking local bloggers. Again, zero for Roberts. Roberts is endorsed by, well, Roberts, and…another Roberts, some attorney friends and, for some reason, a few medical doctors (one would suppose to fill in extra space on the Oregonian voter’s guide?).

    I’m done. My vote for Henderson is in the mail.

  • lin qiao (unverified)

    First off, I am very glad that Irving Potter reminded us that Charles Henderson works for an insurance company and is therefore at least as ethically unqualified for the bench as, say, a criminal defense lawyer would be.

    Second, I am very impressed by the arguments about what Leslie Roberts was or wasn't ethically obliged to do. As Mr. Chisholm notes, the only "ethical duty Leslie Roberts has, except to file her own paperwork correctly, [is to] run as hard as she can." The weak-minded are apt to confuse ethical behavior with a fuzzy concept such as neighborliness, which clearly has no economic utility; fortunately, we have lawyers to correct us and explain what the meaning of "is" is.

  • Jane (unverified)

    To address Isaac Laquedem's response -- if so many lawyers had access to Ms. You's residency situation, why was Leslie Roberts (her neighbor and opponent for this judicial position) the only one to file a complaint and file for candidacy for this position. Ms. Roberts could have easliy filed for Judge Freemen's position (9 other attorneys are currently running for this position and Judge Freeman passed away only days before the deadline). In an article by Steve Duin she admitted that she knew no other attorneys were going to file for Judge You's position and it's a decision any lawyer would make (if they knew what she knew).

    To address Kari Chisholm's comment -- Ms. Roberts essentially had insider information that she knew would ensure that she would be the only candidate on the ballot. Is this the type of election process we want to encourage, especially for a judge.

    In an e-mail Ms. Roberts has sent to various lawyers, she admits that she knew since August 9th that Ms. You did not meet the residency requirement. Why did she wait until August 29th to reveal that Ms. You was not qualified to be on the ballot.

    Finally, a prominent attorney in town and friend of Leslie Roberts and her husband, points that both Ms. You and Ms. Roberts was wrong in the handling of this situation, and that if Ms. Roberts wants to regain her reputation in the legal community, Ms. Roberts shouldresign from the position if she wins the election and allow the governor to appoint an individual to that position.

    Ms. Roberts was "stunned" that Ms. You won the Governor's appointment. It appears that Ms. Roberts was determined by any means to obtain this judicial position for herself.

  • Rusty (unverified)

    As the blogger who first reported anything about Charles Henderson's candidacy in this race, I've been following it for some time. In that time, I've noticed and collected an array of information that, if true, makes it impossible for me to vote for Roberts. I personally believe it's true, and that's why I've already sent in my ballot with Henderson's name written-in. All of the information I'm relying on is readily available in the press.

    One thing that's bothered me is the ongoing question of the timing of Leslie Roberts' decision to enter this race. It is widely reported, and she has stated as well, that she entered the race on August 29th, the filing deadline for this election. Roberts contends that this was the date she made the decision to run. That's hard to reconcile, however, given that her application for candidacy points to a different conclusion. Notice that at the bottom of the application, Roberts typed-in August 20th as the date the form was filled out. Given how smart Mr. Potter (himself a member of her campaign, serving as its treasurer and main point of contact -- see the bottom of the page I linked-to -- and, thus, not merely writing as her friend and law partner) has pointed out Ms. Roberts as being, and what a gifted lawyer she is, you'd think she'd be more careful about checking her work on such an important document before handing it in. As you review the form, you will see that the date was changed by hand from August 20th, when the form may have actually been completed, to the date it was filed, the 29th. Roberts has blamed this discrepancy on being a bad typist (per Willamette Week); but it raises my suspicion that she may have actually decided to run on the 20th, filled out the form, printed it, and then, just prior to filing that day, decided to wait and see if anyone else filed. All while sitting on the information that Youlee You (who at that point, was sworn in as a judge) wasn't qualified to run, let alone to hold the seat she had on the bench. If my theory is correct, then Leslie Roberts violated legal ethics rules, as only Leslie Roberts seems to have been verifiably aware of You's lack of capacity due to her failure to meet a legal requirement for judicial qualification (as is evidenced by the fact that the only other open seat, as of August, has nine attorneys in contention for it). You can see a fuller discussion of the legal ethics violation over on the Portland Metroblog, where we discussed it after a previous commenter actually produced the ethics rules that they contended Roberts violated. And, might I add, it astounds me that a person who "served on the Oregon State Bar Ethics Committee where she was, once again, elected by her peers as Chair" would allow herself to get anywhere this close to an ethics violation that could result in some form of reprisal from state regulators that monitor attorney conduct.

    Another issue I have is with the shifting account of You's and Roberts' relationship. Though Roberts is not on record describing herself as You's friend, The Oregonian has characterized their relationship that way (more than once), and such a characterization would be highly inappropriate if it hadn't been drawn from some factual background. Roberts herself did note that, while You and her husband were in California, "[w]e [Roberts and her husband, Court of Appeals Judge Rex Armstrong] were staying in touch with them, ... and when the house came back on the market, my husband e-mailed them, 'Hey, interested in the old house?'" These characterizations by both Roberts and the media seem to fly in the face of a statement in a later e-mail sent by Roberts to several members of the legal community, whom she was seeking support from, where she stated "[a]lthough we lived next door, our cordial acquaintance was limited to a smile and wave in parking cars, or related to our children who sometimes played together." And if you've been following the story through the various local blogs, there are even some nuggets out there in some comment strings. Like this one: "I am a neighbor of both Roberts and You. The families were clearly friends. The kids and parents constantly run back and forth. There is a lot of whispering about this situtation."

    The final issue is the one that Henderson's people have raised on their website (strangely, they've been mum on all of the other stuff): Roberts' failure, in her various campaign materials, to clarify relationships between herself and key endorsers, such as her step-mother (and former Governor) Barbara Roberts, or Mary Wendy Roberts (former Ore. State Labor Commissioner). These relationships should be disclosed to people who are trying to evaluate candidates. Endorsements go a long way in terms of helping voters decide qualifications; factors that may tend to influence endorsements (such as family relationships) should be made clear to people to allow them to decide how much weight to give the endorsements when making their decision.

    In my opinion, there's a pattern of inconsistencies and colliding facts that concerns me and that ought to concern anyone else considering Roberts for the bench. As another commenter noted, a judicial race should be held to a higher standard than others. Judges make day-to-day decisions about justice and fairness and peoples' rights and responsibilities, and should behave in such a way as to be above any appearance of impropriety. What I see, based on the various stuff I've been able to cobble together, is a pattern that casts a looming shadow Ms. Roberts.

  • Chris Piekarski (unverified)

    If you look at her resume, certainly Leslie Roberts is well-qualified to be a judge. We don't dispute that; I don't think anyone would.

    It's all of the other issues that are of concern. I think they've been well-vetted by others, so I won't go into them. I'd just ask that voters not only look at resumes, but instead look at the context of this election, the endorsements of the candidates, and the testimonies regarding each candidate's demeanor and temperament. On our website, we have several attorneys who've faced Charles in court who speak very highly of him. And we feel that speaks volumes.

    I, like Mr. Potter, am sure that the voters who visit Blue Oregon are fair-minded individuals who consider all of the facts before making any vote. After considering not only the academic qualifications of the two candidates seeking this position, but also all of the other information available about them, I have no doubt who they will select as the next Multnomah County Judge. Charles Henderson will, indeed, be a great judge.

    Chris Piekarski Director, The Committee to Elect Charles Henderson Judge [email protected]

  • (Show?)

    Another major reason to doubt whether Roberts has the character and judgment to be a good judge, which no one here has mentioned, is that in her letter to the Secretary of State challenging You's eligiblity, in the course of arguing why the statute should be interpreted to make You ineligible, Roberts relied on a judicial opinion written just several days earlier by an Oregon Court of Appeals Judge who just happens to be her husband. That opinion went out of its way to explain an arcane rule of statutory intepretation that just happened to support Roberts' view of the You issue.

    This plainly creates an impression that Roberts and her husband, a sitting judge, misused his office for her personal gain. Even if that is not what happened in fact, she should have been aware that such an appearance of impropriety could be created by her citation to her own husband's opinion, conveniently written just in time to give her case a boost. Her failure to realize that means that, at best, she is too clueless to be qualified for the bench.

  • Irving Potter (unverified)

    I'm greatly encouraged that my letter has generated discussion about this campaign. There is one charge raised by Rusty to which I must respond. Barbara ROBERTS is Leslie's step mother and Mary Wendy ROBERTS is her sister. The last name should have been a clue but perhaps it was to subtle for some and the list of endorsements should have had an asterisk giving further information on each endorser. The judges and the many prominent lawyers (more than 40 have endorsed Leslie, formally in writing)who have endorsed Leslie are not related to her. They just know and respect her. In the same spirit, should the write in candidate have disclosed that one of his endorsers was the lawyer who defended one of the cases arising out of the candidate's driving habits. I don't know if its the one that resulted in an unpaid judgment or the one that resulted in the loss of his driver's license, but perhaps the relationship (and the candidate's failure to show up for his own hearing or to pay the judgement against him, or the court ordered loss of his driver's license) should also have been disclosed.

  • (Show?)
    Posted by: lw | Nov 2, 2006 7:53:25 PM

    She filed as she brought up the residency notifcation. It was unethical. Period.

    If you had a case before this judge, would you want someone with so little regard to ethcis deciding your case?

  • (Show?)
    Posted by: Irving Potter | Nov 3, 2006 10:36:03 AM The judges and the many prominent lawyers (more than 40 have endorsed Leslie, formally in writing)who have endorsed Leslie...

    Which judges have endorsed her?

  • Anonymous lawyer (unverified)

    In my opinion, Ms. Roberts is a junkyard-dog kind of lawyer, which lots of people need and want as a lawyer (admittedly, I've been accused of this myself, but I try not to fit that label). It's not being unethical, but it's taking every advantage, even to the point of being slimy. Most lawyers try not to do this (myself included). That kind of lawyer is not, in my view, pleasant to deal with, but it's also not generally unethical. However, I don't want to appear in front of a judge who has been a junkyard-dog lawyer.

    Finally, I think it's remarkable that so many lawyers and judges have come out against Ms. Roberts. It's a risky move, and one that I'm obviously not willing to take in a non-anonymous way.

  • Chris Piekarski (unverified)


    For the record, Lisa Ludwig, one of our attorney endorsers, did represent Charles on a speeding ticket.

    Myself, James Shadduck, and James Shikany are all current or former co-workers.

    Charles' suspended license has been covered in the press, and he's been open and honest with the press about it. If anyone has questions about whether he was in any way evasive with the press, those can be directed to Nigel Jaquiss at Willamette Week. For the record, when the issue was raised, Charles told Willamette Week "'I've got no excuse .. The irony is, I was probably in the courthouse that day.'" And as it's indicated in Mr. Potters' statement that Charles has some sort of unpaid judgment against him, that is not accurate.

    If a six-year old, short-lived driver's license suspension resulting from an inadvertent failure to promptly pay a speeding ticket and his current employment as an attorney for an insurance company are the worst indictments against the character of Charles Henderson, I'd say that speaks more for Charles than against him in this particular race.

    Chris Piekarski

  • irving potter (unverified)

    I'm glad someone asked. Leslie solicited endorsements over a 24 hour period in connection with the Oregonian's voter's guide. After that, she stopped soliciting. These are the folks who formally agreed during that period to be publically listed as endorsing Leslie's candidancy:

    *Governor Barbara Roberts; Judge William Riggs, Oregon Supreme Court, retired; Judge Jacob Tanzer, Oregon Supreme Court, Court of Appeals, ret’d; Dr. Jessica Gregg; Dr. John Rudoff; Dr. Joanne Rudoff; Peter Boghossian, PhD.; Dr. Chris Hauptman; Mary Wendy Roberts (former Ore. State Labor Commissioner); Stephanie Wilde;Partial list of attorney endorsers -- William Gaylord, Ivan Gold, Wayne Landsverk, David Canary, Timothy Sercombe, Barbara Combs Lee (Pres. Compassion &Choices), Ernest Bonyhadi, Karen Berry, Linda Eyerman, Michael Hanlon, Margaret Leek Leiberan, Alan Spinrad, Peter Stoloff, Jeremy Sarant, Steven McCarthy (Pres. Clear Creek Distillery), Leonard A. Girard, Charles Tauman, Andy Jordan, Charlie Williamson, Jeffrey A. Bowersox, Barbara J. Diamond, Marc Blackman, Neil Driscoll, Gary Grenley, Allen Johnson, Barbee Lyon, Tom Triplett, Kate Joseph, William Crow, William Day, Irving Potter; Scott Farleigh; Ted E. Runstein, Tom Cunningham, Theodore Falk, John F. McGrory, Jr., Marc Abrams, Robert Bonaparte, Garry L. Kahn.

  • anon (unverified)


    The author of this article is a member of her campaign committee? And didn't disclose it in his bio? If that's true, the ethical issues are only multiplying. What is this, amateur hour?

    Not to mention the remarks in Mr. Potter's last comment - mee-OW!!! Come on, are we to assume that everyone with the last name "Roberts" is related to the candidate? She's related to Jack Roberts too, huh? Lonnie Roberts?

  • Chris Piekarski (unverified)


    It is clear that I am a zealous advocate for Charles. And, clearly, Mr. Potter is a zealous advocate for Ms. Roberts. Although I've made it clear that we aren't interested in belittling Ms. Roberts, and we'll continue not to, I have no idea where he'll take this comment thread next.

    Regardless, as I've said before, the issues are basically all out there for people to consider. That said, absent some sort of very egregious statement by Mr. Potter or another commenter that demands a response, we'll be declining the opportunity to engage in any more petty argument in this (or any other) comment thread.

    We've posted several resources for voters to look at on our site, including the Oregonian's online voters' guide and Wikipedia. As we've said, others have covered the conduct by others that concerns so many and you can find those on your own.

    Research and draw your own conclusions.

    Vote your conscience.

    Thank you,

    Chris Piekarski

  • Local lawyer (unverified)

    Mr. Potter, please answer the question. How many sitting judges have endorsed Ms. Roberts again?

  • Irving Potter (unverified)

    Leslie believes that it is at least inappropriate for sitting judges to comment on political races. Many sitting judges have expressed the same view. For that reason, she has not asked any sitting judge to endorse her and will not.

  • Local lawyer (unverified)

    Mr. Potter, that is indeed a rich one. Rich indeed. It would appear that at least 14 sitting judges in Multnomah County would disagree with that opinion (or the 30+ endorsing Albrecht). All of that spinning makes me, for one, dizzy. Anyway, thanks for your reply.

  • Church Lady (unverified)

    How conveeeeeeeenient!

    That just goes to show how petty those OTHER judges are, the ones who endorsed the Peterson Boy. Don't they know that is


    So Leslie didn't receive any endorsements from sitting judges because she didn't ask for them? And none of them volunteered it, not realizing the lofty ethical standards that are being followed by this campaign. Isn't that special.

  • (Show?)

    Irving, I want to get some clarity.

    You wrote earlier: The judges and the many prominent lawyers (more than 40 have endorsed Leslie, formally in writing)who have endorsed Leslie...

    And then you wrote: For that reason, she has not asked any sitting judge to endorse her and will not.

    At first, this appears a contradiction - but it's not. Can you identify which of her endorsers are retired judges?

    I'm not sure I care whether any judges have endorsed her or not -- given the vitriol spewing against Leslie Roberts, I think I'm inclined to vote FOR her -- but I'd like to get clear on the question of whether other judges have endorsed her.

  • Irv Potter (unverified)

    To Kari:

    Retired Judges William Riggs and Jacob Tanzer have endorsed Leslie. Steve Duin, in his column, reported on a heated exchange relative to this issue at the recent Judicial Conference. I do not know the nature of the exchange but it was heard by enough people that it got to Mr. Duin, who reported on it. Obviously, the mere fact that an exchange occurred indicates there are definite differences of opinion on this issue. Leslie has her view. Others may (and obviously do) disagree.

  • C. Smythe (unverified)

    Would you state if Charles Henderson's license was suspended more than once? I read somewhere (sorry I cant recall where) it was twice and one of those was for 6 months! Most people have NEVER had their license suspended ...they are not prompt in paying a ticket. If Charles was like ..really young and was not a habitual or repeat offender ..and it just happened once and was not due to a DUI or something..maybe this needs to be explained. You may just want to address this allegation for once and all ...It is good to refute or clarify such things. .... so its good to deal with them directly.

  • jfk (unverified)

    Nice "swift boating" Rove-berts

  • Anon att'y (unverified)

    Clearly, the legal community is very passionate about these events. Perhaps an apology from Ms. Roberts could help start the healing.

  • another attorney anon (unverified)
    <h2>I have not seen Leslie Roberts display the patience and demeanor needed by a judge. While my contact with her has been limited, I will support her opponent instead for that reason.</h2>
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