Justice Thomas Balmer Elected as Next Oregon Supreme Court Chief Justice

January 20, 2012
Contact: Phil Lemman, 503.986.5745

The Honorable Thomas A. Balmer has been elected as the 42nd Chief Justice of the Oregon Supreme Court, the court announced today. Balmer will succeed Chief Justice Paul J. De Muniz, who will step down as Chief Justice on May 1, 2012 before retiring from the bench in January 2013.

“Chief Justice De Muniz has been an innovative leader and a tireless advocate for open and accessible courts and promoting timely justice for the people who rely on courts to protect their rights and safety,” Balmer said. “I will continue his important initiatives and do everything I can to ensure that Oregonians can rely on their state courts for prompt and impartial decisions in the thousands of cases that come before Oregon judges every day.”

De Muniz said “Justice Balmer will face tremendous challenges during his tenure as Chief Justice. I am confident that he has the legal skills and the management experience to be a very effective Chief Justice."

De Muniz, who has served as Chief Justice since 2006, has worked to make courts more efficient and responsive to community needs, preserve access to justice in light of ongoing budget reductions, and using technology to modernize courts. De Muniz said that he is stepping down as Chief Justice before the end of his term on the court in order to promote a smooth transition in leadership for the judicial branch of government.

Balmer, 59, has served as an associate justice on the Supreme Court since 2001. Prior to joining the court, he served as Oregon’s Deputy Attorney General and was the managing partner of a major Portland law firm. His community service includes being on the boards of the Classroom Law Project, Oregon Law Institute, and Multnomah County Legal Aid Services, as well as volunteering at the Goose Hollow Family Shelter. He lives in Portland with his wife, Mary Louise McClintock, and has two adult children.

By statute, the seven Supreme Court justices elect the Chief Justice to a six-year term. The Chief Justice presides over the Supreme Court and assigns opinions to associate justices to write after oral arguments on cases. He also serves as the administrative head of the Judicial Department – the state court system consisting of 191 trial and appellate judges, 1,687 non-judge employees, and a biennial budget of $385 million.

Additional information about Chief Justice-elect Balmer is available at http://courts.oregon.gov/Supreme/BioBalmer.page?