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Oregon Court of Appeals



In the 1960s, the number of appeals had risen to a level that began to overwhelm the Oregon Supreme Court, creating a substantial backlog.1 A1968 report estimated that the Oregon Supreme Court's workload in 1966 and 1967 required 12 justices to handle it adequately, while 15 justices would have been needed to meet the projected appellate caseload for 1972.2 To address the growing number of appeals, the Judicial Council of Oregon recommended that the Legislature create a five-judge Court of Appeals.3 The new Court of Appeals, the Judicial Council recommended, should take on roughly 40 to 45% of the appeals being heard by the Supreme Court. To transfer the appropriate numbers of cases, the Judicial Council recommended that the Court of Appeals be given jurisdiction over only a limited range of appeals. As the appellate caseload expanded, the Court of Appeals could be expanded to take on more cases.4


The Legislature accepted the recommendation of the Judicial Council, and in 1969 enacted the appropriate legislation.5 As recommended, the Legislature created a Court of Appeals of five judges, with exclusive appellate jurisdiction over a limited category of appeals.6 The first five judges of the Court of Appeals were Herbert Schwab (who became Chief Judge), Edward Branchfield, Robert H. Foley, William S. Fort, and Virgil H. Langtry.7


In 1973, the Legislature added one judge to the Court of Appeals, making the total complement six.8 Jacob Tanzer was the first judge appointed to the newly created position.9


In 1977, the Legislature expanded the court to its current complement of 10 judges.10 Appointed to fill the four new judgeships were John H. Buttler, George M. Joseph, W. Michael Gillette, and Betty Roberts.11 The appointment of Betty Roberts made her the first woman appellate judge in Oregon history.12


Also in 1977, the Legislature ended the specific limitations on the jurisdiction of the Court of Appeals.13 Where previously the Court of Appeals had been given jurisdiction over a specific list of matters, the Legislature now generally granted jurisdiction over all appeals to the Court of Appeals, except when otherwise provided by Constitution or statute. That general grant of appellate jurisdiction remains substantially unchanged today.14


In 2007, the Supreme Court considered an argument that the Court of Appeals had not been lawfully created.15 A party contended that Article VII (Amended) had not been lawfully adopted, and the Legislature lacked authority to create a Court of Appeals under Article VII (Original).16 The Court rejected the argument, however, concluding that 10 subsequent amendments to Article VII (Amended) had implicitly validated any irregularities in its adoption.17


Today, the Oregon Court of Appeals is one of the nation's busiest intermediate appellate courts, whether measured by the number of appeals per capita or by number of appeals per judge.18 In 2006, the Court of Appeals had 3,518 case filings, and the ten judges of the court issued 420 written opinions.19



FN1. Herbert M. Schwab and Robert D. Geddes, Expediting Disposition of Criminal Appeals in Oregon, 51 Or L Rev 650, 651 (1972); Second Biennial Report of the Judicial Council of Oregon 14-16 (December 2, 1968).
FN2. Second Biennial Report of the Judicial Council of Oregon 16 (December 2, 1968). 
FN3. Id. at 18-19.
FN4. Id. at 19-20. 
FN5. Or Laws 1969, ch 198. 
FN6. Id. at §§ 1,4. 
FN7. Governor Appoints Five Judges to New Court of Appeals, Oregon State Bar Bulletin, June 1969, at 10; Judges of the Court of Appeals, 1 Or App [ii] (1969-70).
FN8. Or Laws 1973, ch 377, § 1. 
FN9. Judges of the Court of Appeals, 14 Or App [ii] (1973). 
FN10. Or Laws 1977, ch 451, § 1. 
FN11. Judges of the Court of Appeals, 31 Or App [ii] (1977). 
FN12. Fred Leeson, Rose City Justice: A Legal History of Portland, Oregon 197 (1998). Roberts went on to become the first woman justice of the Oregon Supreme Court in 1982. Id. at 198.
FN13. Or Laws 1977, ch 158, §§ 2, 4. 
FN14. See ORS 2.516 (current jurisdictional statute).
FN15. Carey v. Lincoln Loan Co., 342 Or 530, 157 P3d 775 (2007). 
FN16. Id. at 534-35. 
FN17. Id. at 541-42. See the discussion of the adoption of Article VII (Amended) in 1910, supra. 
FN18. Court of Appeals 2006 Annual Report, at 5 (available online at <>). 
FN19. Id

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