Arno H. Denecke

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Arno H. Denecke
37th Chief Justice of the Oregon Supreme Court
In office
Preceded byKenneth J. O'Connell
Succeeded byBerkeley Lent
73rd Associate Justice of the Oregon Supreme Court
In office
Preceded byHarold J. Warner
Succeeded byWallace P. Carson, Jr.
Personal details
Born(1916-05-07)May 7, 1916
Rock Island, Illinois
DiedOctober 20, 1993(1993-10-20) (aged 77)
Salem, Oregon
Spouse(s)Selma Denecke, Marguerite L. Gahr

Arno H. Denecke (May 7, 1916 – October 20, 1993) was an American jurist born in Illinois. He served on the Oregon Supreme Court from 1963 to 1982, and as the 37th Chief Justice of the court from 1976 until leaving the bench. The World War II veteran retired from the United States Army at the rank of colonel in 1974.

Early life[edit]

Denecke was born May 7, 1916, in Rock Island, Illinois.[1] This small city lies on the border of Iowa. In 1939, he graduated from the University of Illinois College of Law with his law degree.[1] He then went to work with Chicago based Montgomery Wards from 1939 to 1941 in both Chicago and Oakland, California.[1]

Then with the outbreak of World War II, Denecke joined the Army and served with the 70th Infantry Division from 1941 to 1945.[1] After the war he served in the Army Reserve.[1] He retired as a colonel after 28 years in 1974.[1] In 1945, Arno was married to Selma Jane Rockey, of Portland, Oregon. They had five children, Ginger, David, Will, John, and Anne.[2]

Legal career[edit]

After the war, Denecke moved to Portland, Oregon and joined the firm of Mautz, Souther, Spaulding, Denecke & Kinsey in 1947.[3] The firm is now known as Schwabe, Williamson, Wyatt.[3] While in private practice Denecke argued in front of the U.S. Supreme Court as attorney for Ross Island Sand & Gravel in a worker's compensation case, Hahn v. Ross Island Sand & Gravel Co., 358 U.S. 272 (1959).[4] During this time he served as a member of the Portland School Board in the 1950s. Denecke left the firm in 1959 when he was appointed as circuit court judge for Multnomah County by Governor Mark Hatfield.[1]

In 1983 he was a member of the American Bar Association Commission on Evaluation of Professional Standards that drafted the Model Rules of Professional Conduct.[5] As an educator Arno Denecke taught at the University of Oregon School of Law,[3] Northwestern School of Law,[3] Army Judge Advocate General School,[1] and Willamette University.[1] In 1993, he was awarded the Oregon State Bar Association's Award of Merit.[6]

Additionally, Denecke was a trustee for both the Oregon Graduate Center (now part of OHSU) and Reed College in Portland. He also served as chairperson for the YMCA Youth & Government program, and served as an overseer to Lewis & Clark College.

Judicial career[edit]

In 1962, Arno Denecke was elected to the Oregon Supreme Court.[7] He then served starting in 1963 until he resign from the bench on June 30, 1982.[7] He was re-elected in 1968, 1974, and 1980.[7] Denecke was selected as chief justice in 1976, and served in that capacity until he resigned in 1982.[7] While on the bench he wrote many opinions including Seattle-First National Bank v. Oregon Pacific Industries, 262 Or. 578, 500 P.2d 1033 (1972) and Gustafson v. Payless, 269 Or. 354, 525 P.2d 118 (1974). As chief justice he was involved with reforms of the court that centralized many administrative tasks under that position.[1]

Later years and family[edit]

After leaving the court he was an advocate for school reforms[8][9] and led an investigation of Oregon's State Accident Insurance Fund.[10] Denecke was married to Marguerite L. Gahr. He had two stepchildren, Michael Potter and Shirley Potter.[1] Arno Denecke died on October 20, 1993 in Salem, Oregon, at the age of 77.[1] The Marion County Bar Association gives the Arno Denecke Award annually to attorneys for pro bono work.[11]


  • Author of, The Judiciary Needs Your Help Teachers, 22 J. LEGAL EDUC. 197, 203 (1969).[12]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l "Retired Chief Justice Arno Denecke dies". The Oregonian. Oregonian Publishing Co.: E01 October 21, 1993.
  2. ^ "Selma Jane Rockey Denecke". Statesman Journal. October 13, 2009. Retrieved 10 December 2013.
  3. ^ a b c d Our Portland Office. Schwabe, Williamson, Wyatt. Retrieved on April 17, 2008.
  4. ^ Hahn v. Ross Island Sand & Gravel Co., 358 US 272. FindLaw. Retrieved on April 17, 2008.
  5. ^ Model Rules of Professional Conduct. American Bar Association. Retrieved on November 26, 2007.
  6. ^ Award of Merit and President’s Awards. Oregon State Bar. Retrieved on November 26, 2007.
  7. ^ a b c d "Earliest Authorities in Oregon - Oregon Supreme Court Justices" (PDF). Oregon Blue Book. Oregon Secretary of State. Retrieved 2007-02-21.
  8. ^ School panel readies improvement report. The Oregonian, June 4, 1991.
  9. ^ Hoover, Erin Schraw. Bill would break teacher domination of school councils. The Oregonian, May 24, 1993.
  10. ^ McCarthy, Nancy. Commissioner accuses SAIF Corp. of unjustly denying benefits. The Oregonian, February 14, 1992.
  11. ^ de Carbonel, Dan. County Bar gives awards. Statesman Journal, January 26, 2001.
  12. ^ Marlow, George D. "From black robes to white lab coats." St. John's Law Review, Spring 1998. Retrieved on April 17, 2008.