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Oregon Judicial Department (OJD) History

Oregon Law, Pre-Statehood

This document, written by Joe K. Stephens, documents the history of Oregon laws before statehood.

All documents on this page are presented through the links below in Portable Document Format (PDF) and can be viewed using free Adobe Reader software.

Oregon Territory Acts

Below is a link to the 1848 Federal "Act to Establish the Territorial Government of Oregon," also known as the "Organic Act."

Revised Statutes of the Territory of Oregon (1854)

Below are PDFs of the Revised Statutes of the Territory of Oregon.

Oregon Courts Under the Provisional Government

This paper is the first in a two-part series on the history of the Oregon Judicial Department. The first part discusses the history of Oregon's courts prior to statehood in 1859, and includes the adoption of the Oregon Constitution. The second part of the history, written by Stephen P. Armitage, Staff Attorney, Oregon Supreme Court, begins just after statehood, and continues through today.

Part Two: History Post-Statehood

OREGON'S COURTS UNDER THE PROVISIONAL GOVERNMENT 

By Joe K. Stephens
Law Librarian 

OREGON’S COURTS UNDER THE TERRITORIAL GOVERNMENT

This paper is the second in a two-part series on the history of the Oregon Judicial Department. The first part, written by Joe K. Stephens, Law Librarian, State of Oregon Law Library, discussed the history of Oregon's courts prior to statehood in 1859, and includes the adoption of the Oregon Constitution. This, the second part of the history, begins just after statehood, and continues through today.

HISTORY OF THE OREGON JUDICIAL DEPARTMENT, PART 2: AFTER STATEHOOD

By Stephen P. Armitage
Staff Attorney, Oregon Supreme Court1

Table of Contents

Link to download PDF

1862--Supreme Court Expanded to Five Justices, and Fifth Judicial District Created. 
1878--Supreme Court Justices Separated from Circuit Court Judges, and Supreme Court Reduced to Three Justices.

1907 -- Legislature Created Office of Commissioner to the Supreme Court. 
1909 -- Office of Commissioner Ended; Supreme Court Again Expanded to Five Justices.

1910 -- Adoption of Amended Article VII to Oregon Constitution.

1913 -- Legislature Created District Court, First New Court under Authority of Article VII (Amended). 
1913 -- Supreme Court Expanded to Seven Justices.

1914 -- Examinations for Admission to Oregon Bar No Longer Administered by Supreme Court.

1914 -- Interlude on Judicial Elections: Justice Charles McNary Loses Nomination by One Vote.

1929 -- End of "At Large" Elections to Supreme Court. 
1931 -- End of Partisan Judicial Elections for All Courts.

1961 -- Creation of Oregon Tax Court.

1969 -- Creation of Oregon Court of Appeals.

1981 -- Unification of Judicial Department.

1998 -- Consolidation of Circuit Courts and District Courts.

2009 -- The Oregon Judicial Department Today.

Footnotes:

FN1. The author wishes to thank a number of people for their gracious assistance with research, ideas, and suggestions, great and small. In alphabetical order:

  • The Hon. Thomas A. Balmer, Associate Justice, Oregon Supreme Court
  • Mary Bauman, Editor, Publications Section, Oregon Judicial Department
  • Cathryn Bowie, Electronic Services Librarian, State of Oregon Law Library
  • The Hon. Henry Breithaupt, Judge, Oregon Tax Court
  • Meredith E. Debus, Law Clerk to Judge Breithaupt, Oregon Tax Court
  • Mary Dougherty, Law Clerk to the Magistrate Division, Oregon Tax Court
  • Keith Garza, attorney;
  • Lora Keenan, Staff Attorney, Oregon Court of Appeals;
  • The Hon. Rives Kistler, Associate Justice, Oregon Supreme Court;
  • Jim Nass, Appellate Commissioner, Oregon Court of Appeals;
  • Becky Osborne, Appellate Court Administrator, Oregon Judicial Department;
  • Francine Shetterly, Staff Attorney, Oregon Court of Appeals;
  • Joe Stephens, Librarian, State of Oregon Law Library
  • The Hon. Jill Tanner, Presiding Magistrate, Oregon Tax Court.

1862 -- SUPREME COURT EXPANDED TO FIVE JUSTICES, AND FIFTH
JUDICIAL DISTRICT CREATED
1878 -- SUPREME COURT JUSTICES SEPARATED FROM CIRCUIT COURT
JUDGES, AND SUPREME COURT REDUCED TO THREE JUSTICES

1907 -- LEGISLATURE CREATED OFFICE OF COMMISSIONER TO THE
SUPREME COURT
1909 -- OFFICE OF COMMISSIONER ENDED; SUPREME COURT AGAIN
EXPANDED TO FIVE JUSTICES

1910 -- ADOPTION OF AMENDED ARTICLE VII TO OREGON CONSTITUTION

1913 -- LEGISLATURE CREATED DISTRICT COURT, FIRST NEW COURT
UNDER AUTHORITY OF ARTICLE VII (AMENDED)
1913 -- SUPREME COURT EXPANDED TO SEVEN JUSTICES

1914 -- EXAMINATIONS FOR ADMISSION TO OREGON BAR NO LONGER
ADMINISTERED BY SUPREME COURT

1914 -- INTERLUDE ON JUDICIAL ELECTIONS: JUSTICE CHARLES McNARY
LOSES NOMINATION BY ONE VOTE

1929 -- END OF "AT LARGE" ELECTIONS TO SUPREME COURT
1931 -- END OF PARTISAN JUDICIAL ELECTIONS FOR ALL COURTS

1998 -- CONSOLIDATION OF CIRCUIT COURTS AND DISTRICT COURTS

History of the Oregon Reports

2012 marked the 150th anniversary of the Oregon Reports and this important series has grown to 350 volumes, supplemented by 248 volumes of the Court of Appeals reports and 18 volumes of the Tax Court reports. These collections of judicial opinions are an important resource, documenting the social history of the Territory and the State of Oregon. In their pages one can trace the development of Oregon's political and economic institutions; its family structures, murders, and real estate deals; acts of discrimination, as well as acts of redress and remedy.

Please join us in celebration of these remarkable documents of social history by reading the story of how they came to be. Chief Justice Thomas A. Balmer has graciously provided the Law Library with his two-part essay on the history of the Oregon Reports. Part one, The Oregon Reports, 1862-1900: A Brief History (2006), discusses the beginnings of the Oregon Reports, including the work of John G. Wilson and the controversial switch to state control over printing the Reports beginning in 1889. A Brief History of the Oregon Reports (Part 2 of 2) (2008), provides an examination of the Oregon Reports from 1900 forward. This second part focuses on competing publications in the early 20th Century, Bancroft-Whitney's 18-year tenure as publisher of the Oregon Reports, and the how control over publication of the Reports has evolved to present day. 

Chief Justice Balmer's essays on the history of the Oregon Reports are provided by following the links below. These essays were originally published in 1 Oregon Appellate Almanac 157 (2006) and 3 Oregon Appellate Almanac 163 (2008).

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Supreme Court History--Judges

FOREWORD

The material assembled in these two volumes represents a brief history of the Oregon judiciary for the past, century.

Biographical sketches and photographs of all judges, past and present, who have served upon the Supreme Court of Oregon from the days of the provisional government are included, with one exception. We were unable to locate a picture of Osborne Russell, who served as Judge of the Supreme Court from November 1843 to May 14, 1844, and presided at the first trial recorded in the journal of the Court, however, there is a short and interesting biography.

The biographical material has been compiled from a variety of sources and in some instances it has taken much time and effort locating copy that was informative and adapted to the purpose of preparing short biographies. Photographs have also been a difficult problem, especially with regard to some of the judges of pioneer days. Many pictures loaned to us had to be rephotographed, and some were copies from daguerreotypes, books and group pictures. We are indebted to the Oregon Historical Society for the use of many old and valuable photographs; also to Dr. Arthus S. Beardsley, Law Librarian, University of Washington, Seattle, who favored us with several copies of rare old photographs.

To Miss Dorothy L. Cornelius credit is given for efficient work in compiling the historical and biographical material, also in supervising the necessary photographic copying.

During the past one hundred years many outstanding men have served with distinction upon the Oregon Supreme Court, and they have helped guide the destinies of its people through the maze and wilderness of modern life and a fast developing country. As time goes on perhaps this record of judicial careers may be continued and prove useful for reference purposes.

Nov. 7, 1945

Arthur F. Benson
Clerk, Supreme Court of Oregon.

Arthur F. Benson's Foreword Document

Volume I Index

The Supreme Court of Oregon

THE SUPREME COURT OF OREGON

Supreme Court Reporters

SUPREME COURT REPORTERS

Early Judges of the Supreme Court

EARLY JUDGES OF SUPREME COURT - 1841 to 1849,

Judges of the Supreme Court

Supreme Court of the State of Oregon 1915

First session of 1915 Term, Monday, Jan. 4th

Henry L Benson, Thomas A. McBride, George H. Burnett, Frank A. Moore, Robert Eakin, Lawrence T. Harris and P.H. Raymond, Bailiff

 

Supreme Court of the State of Oregon c. 1917

Lawrence T. Harris, George H. Burnett, Frank A. Moore, Wallace McCamant, Henry L. Benson, Thomas A. McBride and Henry J. Bean

 

Supreme Court of the State of Oregon c. 1929

Percy R. Kelly, John L. Rand, George M. Brown, Harry H. Belt, Henry J. Bean, Oliver P. Coshow and George Rossman

 

Supreme Court of the State of Oregon c. 1940

Hall S. Lusk, Percy R. Kelly, Harry H. Belt, John O. Bailey, John L. Rand, Henry J. Bean and George Rossman

 

Supreme Court of the State of Oregon c. 1941

Hall S. Lusk, Percy R. Kelly, Harry H. Belt, John O. Bailey, John L. Rand and James T. Brand

 

Supreme Court of the State of Oregon c. 1943

James T. Brand, Percy R. Kelly, Harry H. belt, John O. Bailet, George Rossman, Hall S. Lusk and Arthur D. Hay

Dr. Ira L. Babcock Biography

Dr. Ira A. Babcock

Osborne Russell Biography

Osborne Russell Biography

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James W. Nesmith Biography

James W. Nesmith

Peter H. Burnett Biography

Peter H. Burnett

J. Quinn Thornton Biography

J. Quinn Thornton

Columbia Lancaster Biography

William P. Bryant Biography

William P. Bryant

Orville C. Pratt Biography

Oliver C. Pratt

Thomas Nelson Biography

George Henry Williams Biography

George Henry Williams

Obadia B. McFadden Biography

Obadia B. McFadden

Cyrus Olney Biopgraphy

Cyrus Olney

Matthew P. Deady Biography

Matthew P. Deady

Aaron E. Wait Biography

 

 

Reuben P. Boise Biography

Reuben P. Boise

Riley E. Stratton Biopraphy

Riley E. Stratton

Paine P. Prim Biography

Paine P. Prim

Erasmus D. Shattuck Biography

Erasmus D. Shattuck

Joseph G. Wilson Biography

Joseph G. Wilson

William W. Page Biography

William W. Page

Alonzo A. Skinner Biography

Alonzo A. Skinner

John Kelsay Biography

John Kelsay

William W. Upton Biography

William W. Upton

Andrew J. Thayer Biography

Andrew J. Thayer

Benoni Whitten Biography

Benoni Whitten

Lewis L. McArthur Biography

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Benjamin F. Bonham Biography

Lafayette F. Moser Biography

Lafayette F. Moser

James F. Watson Biography

James F. Watson

John Burnett Biography

John Burnett

James K. Kelly Biography

James K. Kelly

William P. Lord Biography

William P. Lord

Edward B. Watson Biography

Edward B. Watson

William W. Thayer Biography

William W. Thayer

John B. Waldo Biography

John B. Waldo

Reuben S. Strahan Biography

Reuben S. Strahan

Robert S. Bean Biography

Robert S. Bean

Charles E. Wolverton Biography

Charles E. Wolverton

Frank A. Moore Biography

Frank A. Moore

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Thomas G. Hailey Biography

Thomas G. Hailey

Robert Eakin Biography

Robert Eakin

William R. King Biography

William R. King

Woodson T. Slater Biography

Woodson T. Slater

Thomas A. McBride Biography

Thomas A. McBride

Henry J. Bean Biography

Henry J. Bean

George H. Burnett Biography

George H. Burnett

William M. Ramsey Biography

William M. Ramsey

 

Charles L. McNary Biography

Lawrence T. Harris Biography

Lawrence T. Harris

Henry L. Benson Biography

Henry L. Benson

Wallace McCamant Biography

Wallace McCamant

Charles A. Johns Biography

Charles A. Johns

Conrad P. Olson Biography

Conrad P. Olson

Alfred S. Bennett Biography

Aflred S. Bennett

John McCourt Biography

John McCourt

George M. Brown Biography

George M. Brown

John L. Rand Biography

Oliver P. Coshow Biography

Oliver P. Coshow

Harry H. Belt Biography

Harry H. Belt

George Rossman Biography

George Rossman

Percy R. Kelly Biography

Percy R. Kelly

James U. Campbell Biography

James U. Campbell

John O. Bailey Biography

John O. Bailey

Hall S. Lusk Biography

Hall S. Lusk

James T. Brand Biography

James T. Brand

Arthur D. Hay Biography

Arthur D. Hay

Walter C. Winslow Biography

Walter C. Winslow Biography

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