Alumna Martha Walters Elevated to Chief Justice of Oregon Supreme Court

Oregon Supreme Court panel at the UO law school

The Oregon Supreme Court has unanimously elected Martha Walters, Class of 1977, to serve as Chief Justice. Walters is the first woman to serve in this role in the state’s history. She also presides over a majority female-identified court.

Professor Emerita Caroline Forrell studies women and the law. She shared that in 2005, the lack of women on the Oregon Supreme Court encouraged her to speak out in the media. “Thirteen years later, the majority of the court is female and my esteemed friend Martha Walters is Chief Justice,” said Forrell.

Chief Justice Martha Walters chats with students at the annual Oregon Supreme Court luncheon
Chief Justice Martha Walters chats with students at the annual Oregon Supreme Court luncheon following the court's oral arguments at UO Law on March 8, 2018.

Walters was appointed to the Oregon Supreme Court in October of 2006 and served as the court’s only female jurist that year.

“We are so proud of Chief Justice Walters,” said Marcilynn Burke, Dean of UO Law. “As a jurist, she listens intently, thinks critically, writes precisely, works collegially, presses forward diligently, and cares immensely.”

After being named to the Order of the Coif upon commencement at UO Law, Walters began practicing law in Eugene with a firm then known as Johnson, Johnson and Harrang. She eventually opened her own firm, known best as Walters, Chanti and Zennache with members of the UO Law Class of 1988, Suzanne Chanti and Charles M. Zennache. (Both of whom are now judges for Lane County Circuit Court for the 2nd Judicial District.) In her practice, Walters generally concentrated on employment law, but also served client needs related to contracts, real property, personal injury, family law, municipal law, and civil rights. She had also taught classes in insurance law at UO Law.

Walters begins her 6-year tenure as Chief Justice of the Oregon Supreme Court on July 1, 2018.