W. Michael Gillette

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W. Michael Gillette
W. Michael Gillette bar ceremony 2009.JPG
Gillette in 2009
86th Justice of the Oregon Supreme Court
In office
1986 – December 31, 2010
Appointed byVictor G. Atiyeh
Preceded byBetty Roberts
Succeeded byJack L. Landau
Judge on the Oregon Court of Appeals
In office
Appointed byRobert W. Straub
Preceded bynew position
Succeeded byMary J. Deits
Personal details
Born (1941-12-29) December 29, 1941 (age 81)
Seattle, Washington, U.S.
ResidenceWilsonville, Oregon

W. Michael Gillette (born December 29, 1941) is an American attorney and retired judge in the state of Oregon. He was a justice of the Oregon Supreme Court, where he served from 1986 until 2010. A graduate of Harvard Law School, he was previously a judge on the Oregon Court of Appeals from 1977 to 1986.

Early life[edit]

Gillette was born on December 29, 1941, in Seattle, Washington,[1] and grew up in the Eastern Oregon city of Milton-Freewater.[2] In 1963, Gillette graduated cum laude with a bachelor's degree in arts from Whitman College in Walla Walla, Washington. He then went on to Harvard Law School where he graduated with a bachelor of law degree in 1966.[3]

Legal career[edit]

Gillette passed the Oregon State Bar in 1966 and joined the Portland, Oregon law firm of Rives and Rogers. The next year he moved on to become a Deputy District Attorney for Multnomah County, staying until 1969. Following this he was an Assistant Attorney General in American Samoa and Oregon for two years. Gillette joined the Consumer Protection Division as chief counsel, serving until 1973 when he became Chief Trial Counsel for the Oregon Department of Justice. That same year he then became Solicitor General for the state of Oregon, a position he held until 1977.[4]

In 1977, Gillette joined the Oregon Court of Appeals and served on that court until 1986.[4] He served as a presiding judge on that court from 1980 until the end of his tenure.[4] In 1980, he began serving on the board of directors for the Oregon Law-Related Education Project, remaining until 1988.[4] Gillette left the Court of Appeals after appointment to the Oregon Supreme Court in 1986 by then Republican Governor Vic Atiyeh.[4] Atiyeh appointed Gillette to fill the vacancy created when Justice Betty Roberts left the bench.

Gillette was then elected to a full six-year term in 1986 and re-elected in 1992, 1998, and 2004.[5] Gillette is a faculty member of National Judicial College.[3] On the bench he has authored many opinions, and was one of the leading opinion writers in the 1990s on the court.[6] Gillette wrote the majority opinion in Lehman v. Bradbury that invalidated 1992's Measure 3 that had enacted term limits in Oregon,[7] and the majority decision in Li & Kennedy vs. State of Oregon that invalidated same-sex marriages approved by Multnomah County in 2004.[8] He also wrote the opinion of the unanimous court for the 2008 edition of Williams v. Philip Morris, Inc., a case that had already been to the United States Supreme Court twice.[9] The opinion upheld the punitive damages award against the tobacco company.[9] He declined to run for re-election in 2010 and his term ended on December 31, 2010.[10][11]

Later years[edit]

In the past he served as a faculty member of Willamette University, and as an instructor at Portland State University.[4] Gillette served on the Board of Trustees from 1977 to 1980 for the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry.[4] He worked on the Advisory Committee of Scholars for the Constitution Project starting in 1984, and in 1991 was named Classroom Law Project's Legal Citizen of the Year.[4] The following year Gillette received an honorary LL.D. degree from Whitman College.[3] In 2006, he was awarded the V. Robert Payant Award in 2006 for teaching excellence from the National Judicial College,[3] and named one of the 500 Leading Judges in America in 2006 by Lawdragon.[12] A basketball player in high school, he serves as a referee for high school games when away from court.[13] The Wilsonville resident returned to private practice after leaving the bench, joining Portland law firm of Schwabe, Williamson & Wyatt in January 2011.[11]


  1. ^ Who's who in the West: A Biographical Dictionary of Noteworthy Men and Women of the Pacific Coast and the Western States. A.N. Marquis Company. 2004. p. 225. ISBN 9780837909356.
  2. ^ "Gillette". The Oregonian. June 27, 1993. pp. B1.
  3. ^ a b c d "Hon. W. Michael Gillette". Legalspan.com. Retrieved 2007-01-06.
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h "The Honorable W. Michael Gillette". Supreme Court. Oregon Judicial Department. Archived from the original on 2006-12-20. Retrieved 2007-01-06.
  5. ^ "Earliest Authorities in Oregon - Oregon Supreme Court Justices" (PDF). Oregon Blue Book. Oregon Secretary of State. Retrieved 2006-12-21.
  6. ^ West, Michael (June 22, 2000). "Arrested development: an analysis of the Oregon Supreme Court's freespeech jurisprudence in the post-Linde years". Albany Law Review. Albany Law School. 63 (4): 1237. ISSN 0002-4678.
  7. ^ Green, Ashbel S.; Lisa Grace Lednicer (January 17, 2002). "State High Court strikes term limits". The Oregonian. p. A1.
  8. ^ Kershaw, Sarah (April 15, 2005). "Oregon Supreme Court Invalidates Same-Sex Marriages". The New York Times. p. A12.
  9. ^ a b Burtka, Allison Torres (April 1, 2008). "Oregon Supreme Court upholds punitive damages against Philip Morris". Trial. American Association for Justice Trial. 44 (4): 16(2). ISSN 0041-2538.
  10. ^ "Probe adds spice to primary". The Dalles Chronicle. Associated Press. April 26, 2010. Retrieved 29 April 2010.
  11. ^ a b Manning, Jeff (January 6, 2011). "Retired Oregon Supreme Court justice Mick Gillette joins Schwabe Williamson & Wyatt". The Oregonian. Retrieved 7 January 2011.
  12. ^ Justice Michael Gillette '63 Named to Lawdragon's Best 500 Judges in America. Whitman College. Retrieved November 26, 2007.
  13. ^ Steves, David; Claude Offenbacher (March 20, 2000). "Oregon Justice's Interest in Law Came Early". The Register-Guard.