Adrienne Nelson is the First Black Woman to Become a Federal Judge in Oregon

Adrienne Nelson is an experienced jurist and the first Black woman jurist in Oregon to be appointed to the federal bench. She was the first Black woman to serve on the Oregon Supreme Court prior to her ascension.

She was also a Multnomah County Circuit Court judge for almost a decade. She also worked in private practice as a public defender for Multnomah Defenders Inc., one of Portland’s two nonprofit public defense organizations.

Her nomination was confirmed by the US Senate in February with a bipartisan vote of 52 to 46. She was nominated by President Joe Biden last summer, and during her Senate Judiciary Committee hearing in October, she stated that she is open and fair-minded.

“I approach each case with an open mind and treat everyone fairly, impartially because to the litigants their case is the most important case in the world. I try to communicate all decisions clearly so that they can be understood. And if I’m so fortunate to be confirmed, I would continue to do that,” Nelson said, according to OPB.ORG.

Nelson, a native of Kansas City, began her legal career after her mother sued her high school to allow her to be valedictorian instead of a white student with a lesser GPA who was first chosen. She went on to receive a law degree from the University of Texas at Austin School of Law after graduating from the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville.

After graduating, she relocated to Portland to work as a contract attorney and later as a public defender. Three years later, she joined Bennett, Hardman, Morris & Kaplan LLP before being nominated to the Multnomah County Circuit Court by Governor Ted Kulongoski. From 2002 to 2005, she was also an adjunct professor at Lewis & Clark Law School.

Several accolades have been bestowed upon her over her distinguished career as a jurist. According to Texas Law, she was recognized a Woman of Influence by the Portland Business Journal and a Woman of Achievement by the Oregon Commission on Women.

In addition, the Thurgood Marshall Legal Society at Texas Law awarded her with the Loftus C. Carson II Trailblazer Award in 2019. Adrienne C. Nelson High School will be dedicated in her honor by the North Clackamas School District in 2021.

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