Adrienne Nelson

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Adrienne Nelson
Associate Justice of the Oregon Supreme Court
Assumed office
January 2, 2018
Appointed byKate Brown
Preceded byJack Landau
Personal details
Born1967 (age 51–52)
Alma materUniversity of Arkansas
University of Texas School of Law

Adrienne Nelson (born 1967) is an American lawyer and judge who is an associate justice of the Oregon Supreme Court.[1] She previously served as a judge on the Multnomah County Circuit Court from 2006 to 2018.[1]

Early life and career[edit]

Nelson was born in Kansas City, Missouri in 1967, and grew up in southwest Arkansas.[2] She graduated from Gurdon High School in Gurdon, Arkansas in 1985.[3] Nelson's mother successfully sued her school district to allow Nelson to be valedictorian, after her high school initially named a white student with a lower GPA to be valedictorian instead.[4]

Nelson completed a bachelor's degree at the University of Arkansas in 1990, with majors in criminal justice and English. She completed a law degree at the University of Texas School of Law in 1993.[5][6]

Nelson moved to Portland, Oregon in 1993, to be closer to her mother, who had previously relocated to the state.[3][6] Nelson was a contract analyst for an insurance company for two years.[6] She then worked as an attorney in private practice in Portland, with Multnomah Defenders Inc, a non-profit public interest law firm, from 1996 to 1999, and for the law firm Bennett, Hartman, Morris & Kaplan LLP from 1999 to 2004. Nelson was a senior attorney in Student Legal and Mediation Services for Portland State University from 2004 to 2006.[5]

Nelson has been a member of the American Bar Association House of Delegates and the ABA Commission on Disability Rights. She received the Oregon Women Lawyers (OWLs) Judge Mercedes Deiz Award in 2003, and the Oregon State Bar President's Public Service Award in 2007.[2] She has also served as president of the Multnomah Bar Foundation and president of the Oregon State Bar Foundation Board.[7]

Judicial service[edit]

The Governor of Oregon Ted Kulongoski appointed Nelson as a judge on the Multnomah County Circuit Court in February 2006, to replace Sidney Galton.[2][6] She was re-elected to a new six-year term in 2012.[8]

Governor Kate Brown appointed Nelson to the Oregon Supreme Court in January 2018, to replace justice Jack Landau, who retired on December 31, 2017.[1] Justice Nelson's term on the Supreme Court ended in January 2019, but she was elected to a full six year term in November 2018.[9]

Nelson is the first African-American to serve on the Oregon Supreme Court, or on any kind of appellate court in Oregon.[1]

In 2018 a naming committee appointed by the North Clackamas School District School Board proposed to name its newest high school Adrienne C. Nelson High School in her honor, but the Board initially voted to reject the name.[10]. On May 9, 2019, after months of contentious debate, and a change in the membership of the School Board, the vote was 5-2 to name the new school Adrienne C. Nelson High School.[11] The high school is projected to open in fall 2021.[12]


  1. ^ a b c d Woodworth, Whitney (January 2, 2018). "First African-American, Adrienne Nelson, appointed to Oregon Supreme Court". Statesman Journal. Salem, Oregon. Retrieved January 2, 2018.
  2. ^ a b c "Biography: Adrienne Nelson" (PDF). ABA Commission on Disability Rights. American Bar Association. 2017. Retrieved January 2, 2018.
  3. ^ a b Dawn, Eden (September 13, 2017). "Meet Adrienne Nelson, the Second Black Female Judge in Oregon History". Portland Monthly. Portland, Oregon. Retrieved January 2, 2018.
  4. ^ "Governor Brown Appoints Adrienne Nelson to Oregon Supreme Court". Governor's Office Newsroom. State of Oregon. January 2, 2018. Retrieved January 2, 2018.
  5. ^ a b Brown, Kate (January 27, 2012). "Candidate Information 2012". Oregon Secretary of State. State of Oregon. Retrieved January 2, 2018.
  6. ^ a b c d Lewton, Michael (July 2006). "Judge Adrienne Nelson". Multnomah Lawyer. Portland, Oregon. Retrieved January 2, 2018.
  7. ^ "New Faces". Reed magazine. Reed College. June 2014. Retrieved January 2, 2018.
  8. ^ Brown, Kate (May 2012). "Official Results, May 15, 2012, Primary Election" (PDF). Oregon Secretary of State. State of Oregon. p. 55. Retrieved January 2, 2018.
  9. ^ "Oregon Supreme Court". October 9, 2018. Retrieved 10 February 2019.
  10. ^ Gutierrez, Simon (June 21, 2018). "North Clackamas School District struggles to name new high school in Happy Valley". Retrieved 29 January 2019.
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Legal offices
Preceded by
Jack Landau
Associate Justice of the Oregon Supreme Court