Oregon Supreme Court Chief Justice Martha Walters has announced that she will retire at the end of the year.
Walters, 71, said in a statement Tuesday that Oregonians can be proud of those in the courts and the decisions they make every day. Walters was the court’s first female chief justice.
“I am grateful: grateful for the opportunities I have had to study and decide the law, and grateful for the opportunities I have had to advocate for our courts and the cause of justice they serve,” Walters said.
Walter’s retirement comes two months after she fired all nine members of the Public Defense Services Commission, overhauling it after frustrations with its director who was later fired and who disagreed on ways to make up for a lack of public defenders. According to the Associated Press, hundreds of defendants charged with crimes in the state and who cannot afford an attorney have been unable to obtain public defenders to represent them.
Stephen Singer, the fired Public Defense Commission director, sued Walters last week, saying he was a whistleblower that faced retaliation.
Walters was appointed to the Oregon Supreme Court by Gov. Ted Kulongoski in 2006 after 30 years of private practice in Eugene. In 2018, she was unanimously elected as chief justice and worked on improving services to Oregonians and implemented legislation to reduce bail amounts.
“Chief Justice Martha Walters has been an incredible advocate for Oregonians seeking access to justice, showing steadfast leadership as the first woman to serve as chief justice of the Supreme Court,” Gov. Kate Brown said in a statement. “She has been collaborative and fearless in helping to seek solutions to some of the state’s most pressing and complex issues. I appreciate her dedicated service to Oregon and wish her the very best.”
The Supreme Court unanimously voted Justice Meagan A. Flynn to replace Walters as chief justice. Brown appointed Flynn, 55, to the Oregon Supreme Court in 2017. Flynn had previously served on the Oregon Court of Appeals since November 2014.
Brown said she intends to fill a judicial vacancy created by Walter’s retirement. The deadline for applications for the judicial appointment process is Wednesday at 5 p.m. Qualifications for the positions can be found at bit.ly/3MJ1BHr.
The governor’s office already is conducting an appellate judicial appointment process to fill a vacancy created by the previously announced retirement of Justice Thomas Balmer. Applicants who are part of the candidate pool from that process also will be considered for the vacancy created by Walters’ retirement.