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My Ballot: Judge of the Supreme Court Position 1


Location: Unknown

Thomas A. Balmer

Biographical Information

Age: 56
Religion: United Church of Christ
Marital Status: Married
Family: Married to Mary Louise McClintock; two children (Rebecca, 21; Paul, 18)
City/Town: Portland
Birthplace: Longview, Washington
Education/Degrees: Andrew Jackson High School, Portland, 1970; A.B., Oberlin College, 1974; J.D., University of Chicago, 1977
Experience: Private law practice with firms in Boston (1977-79) and Washington, D.C. (1980-82); Trial Attorney, Antitrust Division, U.S. Dept. of Justice, Washington, D.C. (1979-80); Associate and then partner with Lindsay, Hart, Neil & Weigler and successor firm Ater Wynne LLP (1982-92; 1997-2001); Deputy Attorney General, Oregon Dept. of Justice (1993-97)
Military Experience: NA
Community Involvement: Multnomah County Legal Aid Service (Board Member, 1989-93; Chair 1992-93); Classroom Law Project (Board Member, 1999-present; Chair, 2007-present); Chamber Music Northwest (Board Member, 1997-2003); Oregon Law Institute (Board Member, 2005-present); Overnight Host, Goose Hollow Family Shelter (1995-present); Portland City Club, Steering Committee on Homelessness (1985), Program Committee (1986-87); Volunteer Soccer and Lacrosse Coach

Prior to becoming a judge, what was the general character of your legal practice? Indicate the nature of your typical clients and mention any legal areas in which you concentrated.

Thomas A. Balmer: As a lawyer in private practice, I focused on civil litigation, including business disputes, government regulation, and appeals. I handled cases involving securities law, antitrust law, energy, employment, intellectual property, legal malpractice, and business contracts. My clients ranged from individuals to small businesses to international corporations, and I represented both plaintiffs and defendants in civil litigation. I also represented individuals in several "white collar" criminal investigations.

I have represented organizations and low-income individuals on a pro bono basis.

As Deputy Attorney General, I represented the State of Oregon and various state agencies and officials in matters involving state and federal constitutional law, criminal law, election law, and financial and regulatory matters.

List your judicial experience, including as a pro tem, and/or service on an administrative tribunal, or justice, municipal, tax, circuit, or appellate court.

Thomas A. Balmer: I was appointed to the Oregon Supreme Court by Governor John Kitzhaber in 2001 and was elected to a six-year term in 2002.

Have you ever been convicted of or pleaded guilty to a violation of any federal, state, county or municipal law, regulation or ordinance? If so, please give details. Do not include parking offenses or traffic violations for which a fine of less than $500 was imposed.

Thomas A. Balmer: No.

Have you ever been the subject of a formal disciplinary proceeding as an attorney or judge? If so, please give the particulars and the result. Include formal proceedings only.

Thomas A. Balmer: No.

Briefly describe your philosophy of the judicial role, the qualities that are most important for the role, and the greatest challenges to the role.

Thomas A. Balmer: Judges take an oath to support the federal and state constitutions and to faithfully discharge the duties of a judge. To me, that means that judges are to decide cases by applying, as best they can, the relevant constitutional provisions and statutes. A judge puts aside his or her personal views of the parties to the case and of the wisdom of the statutes or constitutional provisions at issue and seeks faithfully to apply the law to the facts of each case.

A good judge should have (or strive for) the following qualities: intelligence; expertise in the law; open-mindedness; analytical rigor; humility; a sense of humor; an understanding of people and institutions; courage; common sense. I also believe that good judges have a quality that has been called "prudential wisdom" -- the ability to look at and resolve legal problems in a way that is at the same time practical, principled, and wise.

Briefly describe a case, or a legal issue on which you worked, of which you are particularly proud, or which is reflective of your legal ability, work ethic, judicial philosophy, or temperament.

Thomas A. Balmer: I have been fortunate to have had a varied legal career, including working on complex business cases, trying a jury case in a rural Oregon county, and defending Oregon's "Death with Dignity" law at trial and on appeal in federal court. I also had the unique opportunity to brief and argue an environmental case before the United States Supreme Court.

However, small cases can be equally satisfying. I once represented pro bono a woman who had been sued by a hospital for medical expenses for her daughter, who had been treated at the hospital after attempting suicide. My client had a limited income and had been paying small amounts on the bill when she could, sometimes $10 a month. When she could no longer pay, the hospital sued. I determined that the daughter was 18 when she incurred the expenses (so my client was not automatically liable for them) and that there appeared to be no agreement signed by my client regarding payment. I was eventually able to convince the opposing lawyer that the hospital had no legal basis for its claim, and he finally dismissed the case.

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