SALEM, Ore. (AP) — The Oregon Supreme Court has a black judge for the first time in its 170-year history.
Gov. Kate Brown announced on Tuesday the appointment of Adrienne Nelson, a trial judge in Multnomah County.
“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,” said the governor, who in 2015 appointed an Asian-American woman, Lynn Nakamoto, to the court, making her the first woman of color on the high court.
“I am overjoyed and grateful the governor has chosen me,” Nelson said in a telephone interview.
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A native of Arkansas, Nelson moved to Oregon in 1994 after earning her law degree from the University of Texas. In a recent article for Portland Monthly magazine, Nelson said people noted when she arrived that there wasn’t a lot of diversity in the state. Oregon’s original constitution prohibited black people from residing in Oregon, a clause that remained until 1927.
Even today, Oregon’s population is only 2.1 percent black, compared with 13.3 percent for all of America, according to the 2015 U.S. census.
“There have been strides, but I do think it’s something we have to talk about and work on,” Nelson said. “It’s 2018 and I am the first (African-American) on an appellate court since Oregon was a territory or became a state.”
Nelson fills a vacancy created by the retirement of Justice Jack Landau. The appointment is effective immediately.
“I take my role as a judge very seriously,” Nelson said. “I believe in the rule of law, and that we need to treat each other well.”
Follow Andrew Selsky on Twitter at https://twitter.com/andrewselsky