Otto Richard Skopil Jr.

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Otto Richard Skopil Jr.
Otto Richard Skopil.jpg
Skopil in 2007
Judge of the Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit
In office
September 26, 1979 – June 30, 1986
Nominated by Jimmy Carter
Preceded by Seat established
Succeeded by Edward Leavy
Judge of the District Court for the District of Oregon
In office
June 2, 1972 – September 26, 1979
Nominated by Richard Nixon
Preceded by Alfred Goodwin
Succeeded by Owen Panner
Personal details
Born Otto Richard Skopil Jr.
(1919-06-03)June 3, 1919
Portland, Oregon, U.S.
Died October 18, 2012(2012-10-18) (aged 93)
Portland, Oregon
Political party Republican
Spouse(s) Jan Skopil
Alma mater Willamette University

Otto Richard Skopil Jr. (June 3, 1919 - October 18, 2012), was an American attorney and judge in the state of Oregon. The native Oregonian actively served on the court from 1979 to 1986. Previously, Skopil served on the federal district court in Oregon from 1972 to 1979, and was the chief judge of that court from 1976 to 1979. Of German ancestry, he was a veteran of World War II and received both his undergraduate education and law degree from Willamette University.

Early life[edit]

Skopil was born in Portland, Oregon, on June 3, 1919.[1] His parents, Otto Richard Skopil and Freda Martha Boetticher were working-class German immigrants who lived in the Salem, Oregon, area.[2] Around age one, the family returned to Salem where Otto Jr. was raised.[2]

In high school at Salem High School, Otto played basketball and earned a full-ride scholarship to Willamette University in Salem.[2] At Willamette he served as class president his freshman year.[2] He earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in economics in 1941.[1] Otto then dropped out of law school after two years to enlist in the United States Navy along with two classmates.[3] He served during World War II as a Lieutenant in the Navy.[1] He was in that service’s supply division from 1942 to 1946.[1] Otto returned to school in 1945, and in 1946 he graduated from Willamette University College of Law with an LL.B. degree and entered private legal practice in Salem where he remained until 1972.[1][2] The school created a special class to allow him and other veterans to start mid-term and resume where they had left off before the war.[3] While in private practice in 1967 he represented State Farm Insurance in a case that reached the United States Supreme Court.[4]

Judicial career[edit]

On March 22, 1972, President Nixon nominated Skopil to replace Alfred T. Goodwin on the bench of the United States District Court for the District of Oregon.[1] He was confirmed by the Senate three days later and received his federal commission on June 2, 1972.[1] He continued on that court until October 20, 1979, serving as chief judge from 1976 to 1979.[1]

United States Supreme Court Chief Justice Warren Burger appointed Skopil in 1979 as chairman to the National Magistrates Committee.[2] This committee worked to expand the powers of federal magistrate judges.[2] Skopil was appointed due to his work at the federal district court in Oregon to expand the role of these lower level judges in the federal court system.[2] On the committee he worked with United States Attorney General Griffin Bell, which helped Skopil earn a nomination to the United States Court of Appeals, the last court before the Supreme Court of the United States.[3]

President Jimmy Carter nominated Skopil for a new seat on the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit on June 14, 1979.[1] Skopil was confirmed on September 25, 1979 by the United States Senate and received his commission the following day.[1] He is one of only a few federal judges to be nominated by U.S. Presidents from both the Republican and Democratic political parties.[2] Otto Skopil became a senior judge for the court on June 30, 1986.[1]

Later life and family[edit]

From 1968 until 1974 he served on the board of trustees for Willamette, and in 1983 received an honorary doctorate from the school.[3] After assuming senior status on the court, Skopil has continued to work on the bench.[2] In 1990, he was appointed to the Long Range Planning Committee of the federal court system by Chief Justice William Rehnquist.[2]

Both his son Otto III and his daughter, Shannon Skopil, were attorneys.[2] Otto and his wife Jan also had children named Casey and Molly Skopil. At the beginning of his time in private practice he partnered with his attorney uncle Ralph Skopil.[2] Otto had a younger brother named Robert.[2] Otto Richard Skopil Jr. died on October 18, 2012, at the age of 93 at home in Portland.[5]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k Otto Richard Skopil Jr. at the Biographical Directory of Federal Judges, a public domain publication of the Federal Judicial Center.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n Zusman, Kelly. Profiles in the Law: Otto Skopil Jr. Helps Shape a Friendlier, More Efficient Judiciary, Oregon State Bar Bulletin: April 2007. Retrieved on September 4, 2007.
  3. ^ a b c d Zusman, Kelly A. An Exemplar of Outstanding Judicial Service. Willamette Lawyer, Fall 2007.
  4. ^ State Farm Fire & Cas. Co. v. Tashire, 386 U.S. 523 (1967)
  5. ^ "Longtime federal judge dies". The Spokesman-Review. October 21, 2012. Retrieved 2012-10-21. 

External links[edit]

Legal offices
Preceded by
Alfred Goodwin
Judge of the District Court for the District of Oregon
Succeeded by
Owen Panner
New seat Judge of the Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit
Succeeded by
Edward Leavy