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If confirmed by the U.S. Senate, Nelson would be the first Black woman from Oregon to hold a federal judgeship.

COURTESY OREGON JUDICIAL DEPARTMENT - Justice Adrienne Nelson of the Oregon Supreme Court is one step closer to a vote by the full U.S. Senate on her nomination as a U.S. District Court judge in Oregon.Adrienne Nelson is one step closer to a vote on her nomination as a U.S. District Court judge in Oregon.

The Senate Judiciary Committee voted 12-10 on Thursday, Dec. 1, to advance her nomination to the full Senate. The committee considered her nomination on Oct. 12. Nelson, a justice of the Oregon Supreme Court and a Clackamas County resident, received several statements in favor, including both of Oregon's U.S. senators; none was filed in opposition.

Sens. Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley said this in a statement after the committee vote:

"We are pleased to see Justice Nelson's nomination clear this major hurdle.

"With a deep understanding of the law, an unparalleled work ethic, and a commitment to fairness and justice for all, Justice Nelson will be an excellent addition to the U.S. District Court. We look forward to casting our vote for her on the floor of the Senate, and we strongly encourage our colleagues on both sides of the aisle to join us."

The Senate has not yet scheduled a vote, but it is likely to come up during the current post-election session of Congress.

If it occurs before the end of this year, Nelson's departure would give Gov. Kate Brown a third seat to fill on the Oregon Supreme Court. Chief Justice Martha Walters and Thomas Balmer, currently the longest serving justice, have announced they will retire at the end of the year.

Brown will be in office until Jan. 9, when Democrat Tina Kotek is sworn in for a four-year term.

Nelson, 55, has been on the Oregon Supreme Court since January 2018.

She would be only the third Oregon justice in the past half century to sit on the U.S. District Court, following Alfred "Ted" Goodwin in 1969 and Robert E. Jones in 1990. Goodwin was elevated to the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in 1971; he has had senior status since 1991. Jones took senior status in 2000.

Susan Graber, also a former Oregon Supreme Court justice, went directly to a 9th Circuit judgeship in 1998. She took senior status at the end of 2021. (Senior status allows judges to draw full salaries and hear cases, but opens up their positions for new appointees.)

While Nelson would be the first Black woman to hold a federal judgeship in Oregon, she was preceded by Ancer Haggerty, who was a Multnomah County judge when President Bill Clinton named him to a U.S. District Court judgeship in 1994. Haggerty, who is Black, took senior status in 2009 but is inactive and does not take part in court business.

Nelson came to Oregon three decades ago after earning a bachelor's degree in English and criminal justice in 1990 from the University of Arkansas, and her law degree from the University of Texas at Austin in 1993.

She worked for Multnomah Defenders Inc. from 1996 to 1999, and the Portland firm of Bennett, Hartman, Morris & Kaplan from 1999 to 2004. She was senior adviser for student legal and mediation services at Portland State University from 2004 until Gov. Ted Kulongoski appointed her to Multnomah County Circuit Court in 2006. Gov. Kate Brown named her to the Supreme Court starting in 2018.

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