Gurdon graduate appointed federal judge

Published online with permission from The Southern Standard

A Gurdon High School graduate has been appointed by President Joe Biden to serve as a federal district court judge in Oregon.

According to an article by Oregon Public Broadcasting, the U.S. Senate recently confirmed the nomination of Adrienne C. Nelson, an associate justice on the Oregon Supreme Court, to serve as a federal district court judge.

The 52-46 vote was bipartisan, though just barely, with Democrats voting to confirm Nelson and Republicans largely voting in opposition. Biden nominated Nelson last summer.

U.S. District Judge Adrienne Nelson

Nelson is the first black woman jurist in Oregon to become a federal judge.

“I approach each case with an open mind and treat everyone fairly, impartially, because to the litigants their case is the most important case in the world,” Nelson told the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee during a hearing last October. “I try to communicate all decisions clearly, so that they can be understood. And if I’m so fortunate to be confirmed, I would continue to do that.”

Prior to being named to the Oregon Supreme Court in 2018 by then-Gov. Kate Brown, Nelson spent more than a decade as a Multnomah County Circuit Court judge. She also worked in private practice and as a public defender for Multnomah Defenders Inc., one of two nonprofit public defense firms in Portland. Through a spokesperson, Nelson did not provide any comments following Wednesday’s vote.

“I would like to acknowledge the spirits of my late father, grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins and dear friends who are no longer with us here on earth, but who are always with me,” Nelson told the judiciary committee last year. “I feel their presence in the room today. I hope to make everyone proud.”

According to Internet sources, Nelson was born in Kansas City, Missouri, in 1967, and grew up in Gurdon, graduating from GHS in 1985 as the first black valedictorian since integration. Nelson’s mother, a teacher in the Gurdon district, successfully sued to allow Nelson to be valedictorian after the school initially named a white student with a lower GPA to be valedictorian instead.

Nelson graduated summa cum laude from the University of Arkansas in 1990, with a BA in criminal justice and English. She completed a J.D. degree at the University of Texas School of Law in 1993. That same year Nelson moved to Portland, Oregon, to be closer to her mother, who had previously relocated to the state.

Adrienne C. Nelson High School, named after Nelson, opened in 2021 in the North Clackamas School District.

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