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Judge Nelson is the first African American to serve on the state’s high court
Governor Kate Brown Press Office
Published: 02 January 2018

Salem, OR — Gov. Brown announced today that she will appoint Adrienne C. Nelson, a trial judge in Multnomah County, to the Oregon Supreme Court. Judge Nelson will be the first African American to serve on an appellate court in Oregon and the second woman of color to serve on the Oregon Supreme Court.

"Judge Nelson brings to our highest court an important, new voice and wealth of experience she has gained in twelve years on the trial bench," Gov. Brown said.

"In addition to her work in the courtroom, she has made extraordinary strides to make the trial bench more receptive to the needs and experiences of diverse and underserved communities in our state. Judge Nelson is a widely respected civil rights champion, whose perspective on the bench moves us closer to our shared vision of justice for all.”

AUDIO: Governor Brown's statement on Judge Nelson's Supreme Court Appointment

Nelson, whose appointment is effective immediately, will fill a vacancy created by the retirement of Justice Jack L. Landau. 

Nelson was appointed to the Multnomah County Circuit Court by Gov. Kulongoski in 2006. She earlier worked at Portland State University as a senior attorney and coordinator of Student Legal and Mediation Services, from 2004 to 2006.

Prior to that, she worked at the Portland firm Bennett, Hartman, Morris and Kaplan, LLP, from 1999 to 2004.

Nelson began her legal career as a public defender at Multnomah Defenders, Inc., from 1996 to 1999. She grew up in Arkansas, and attended the University of Arkansas for college and University of Texas for law school.

Her first exposure to the legal system was in high school, when her mother sued her school district in Gurdon, Arkansas for refusing to permit an African American student to be recognized as valedictorian. She was ultimately named valedictorian.

Nelson has received the Multnomah Bar Association’s Award of Merit and the Oregon State Bar’s Diversity and Inclusion Award, and has served on various committees including the Commission on Disability Rights and the Committee on Public Education.

She is board chair of Self Enhancement, Inc. and sits on the Oregon Community Foundation Metropolitan Portland Leadership Council, the Reed College Board of Trustees, and the Girl Scouts Beyond Bars Advisory Board.

Previously, she served as president of Queen’s Bench (the Portland chapter of Oregon Women Lawyers) and as an adjunct professor at Lewis and Clark Law School.


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