Experience and integrity on the Supreme Court

By Bob Stoll of Portland, Oregon. Bob is an attorney and progressive activist.

I urge Oregonians to vote for Judge Richard Baldwin for the Oregon Supreme Court in this November election. The Oregon Supreme Court is the final interpreter of all state laws and regulations, and the Oregon Constitution: its decisions typically affect Oregonians far more frequently than the decisions of federal courts. Thus, it is critical that we have highly qualified members on the Oregon Supreme Court.

Experience and integrity are important on the Supreme Court.

Judge Baldwin’s opponent, Nena Cook, has never presided as a judge over any civil or criminal trial. According to her law firm website, her practice has been primarily representing Fortune 100 corporations in employment disputes against their employees. Willamette Week and others have raised issues as to her integrity relating to various representations she has made in her campaign which are very troubling to many of us.

Judge Baldwin is by far the most qualified, with the most relevant experience, and of the highest integrity.

Growing up under modest circumstances, after working his way through college and law school, Judge Baldwin has committed his life to serving others. While in private practice he represented working families in a wide range of civil and criminal matters. He was Director of Legal Aid in Portland, providing legal services to Oregonians who could not afford to hire a private attorney. His civil rights and other community service as earned him awards by the Oregon Women Lawyers association, and others.

In 2001, Governor Kitzhaber appointed him to be Multnomah County Circuit Court Judge and he has served with real distinction in that position since then, including presiding over several hundreds of civil and criminal trials. As a result of his extraordinary abilities, Judge Baldwin was selected by his peers to be one of five judges on the Complex Litigation Panel to preside over the most difficult civil and criminal cases.

In the Supreme Court election, Judge Baldwin has been endorsed by over 60 judges throughout Oregon, including all of the 12 Supreme Court and Court of Appeals judges endorsing in this race, as well as by 68% of Oregon lawyers in an Oregon Bar poll.

Although this is a non-partisan race, and although Judge Baldwin is necessarily not politically involved, in addition to the above endorsers, Governors Barbara Roberts and (and former Supreme Court Justice) Ted Kulongoski, as well as Hardy Myers, have also endorsed Judge Baldwin.

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    Presiding over a trial is just about the least important qualifier for Oregon Supreme Court Justice, if the present makeup of the Court is any guide. That's because, as Supreme Court Justices regularly point out, the Supreme Court is not about deciding specific cases, it's about setting legal policy for the entire state. Someone with a great breadth of practice experience, like Nena Cook, with a diverse background, would be a great addition to the Supreme Court.

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    Hear, hear! Go Judge Baldwin!

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    For me, the key difference between these two candidates is that Judge Baldwin has general trial court experience. He has presided over simple one day civil and criminal trials. And multi day complex civil and serious criminal trials. He has seen excellent, and not so excellent lawyering. He has had to prod and coax better lawyering, and had to talk to pro se litigants. He has see the faces of defendants, victims and survivors. He has had to hand down serious sentences where the whole courtroom is tense in anticipation.

    That's the type of experience that hardens the steel, and gives an appellate jurist understanding that what you read on paper, in a transcript, or in a brief, sometimes can't convey.

    Judge Baldwin has gotten into the dirt, played in the mud, and knows that from the ivory tower, or the tall shiny building, you don't always get the best view.

    Our current Supreme Court has plenty of very smart lawyers who practiced at the Dept. Of Justice, The huge downtown law firms, or representing employers. They are perfectly able to understand and argue cases having to do with complex securities laws. I would like at least one voice in our Supreme Court during deliberations who can say.....let me tell you something about a case like this.

    That is the difference maker to me in this race.

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