Oregon Law to host Oregon Supreme Court

Oregon Supreme Court Justices sitting at the bench

The University of Oregon School of Law first hosted the Oregon Supreme Court for oral arguments in 1977. Thursday, March 12, will mark the 45th year of observing this tradition. During an annual visit that has become one of the highlights of the law school calendar, the Court will hear oral arguments before an audience of first-year law students, Lane County Bar members, and the general public.

This year, the Court will hear two cases: State of Oregon v. Justin Alan Link and Albany and Eastern Railroad Company v Michael Martell. Retired Oregon Supreme Court Justice Jack Landau will preview the cases for students on March 11.

Chief Justice Martha Walters, who received her JD from Oregon Law in 1977, says the event is a great opportunity for both students and members of the public to see for themselves how the court conducts oral arguments. 

“There is no substitute for that direct experiential learning,” Walters said, “Students learn how challenging it is for lawyers to persuasively present their arguments and respond to the questions posed by the court.  They also have the opportunity, at the close of argument, to pose questions to the lawyers, as well as to the court.” 

In the first case State v. Link, the Court will hear arguments on whether the Eighth Amendment to the United States Constitution permits the state legislature to mandate a minimum sentence of life imprisonment, with the possibility of parole after 30 years, for a juvenile convicted of aggravated murder.

The second case, Albany and Eastern Railroad v. Martell, addresses a real property issue. The Court will determine whether the defendant homeowners’ long-term adverse use of a railroad crossing to access their properties created a prescriptive easement, thus giving them the legal right to use the crossing.

Following the arguments, justices will answer questions from the audience. In the past, questions have touched on judicial approaches to statutory interpretation, career paths, and post-graduate clerkship opportunities.

Walters says the event provides members of the court a wonderful opportunity to interact with students and the local bar association; inform the community about the workings of the court; and learn what both the trial and appellate courts can do to better serve their communities. 

“It is important to the courts, our system of justice, that law students, lawyers, and members of the public understand the role of the courts in our democracy,” Walters said. “These visits are a terrific way to ensure support for the rule of law.” 

The public may attend the March 12 hearings, which begin promptly at 9:00 a.m. in Room 175 of at the Knight Law Center. An RSVP to Barbi McLain at bmclain@uoregon.edu is required.

After the hearings, the Lane County Bar Association will host a luncheon in the law school Commons. Bar members should register for the luncheon via the Lane County Bar website as soon as possible. Space is limited.

School of Law Communications