Oregon governor appoints openly gay supreme court justice

BY admin

August 06 2003 11:00 PM ET

Oregon governor Ted Kulongoski appointed Oregon court of appeals judge Rives Kistler to the Oregon supreme court on Monday. Kistler will be the first openly gay member of the state high court. "It's obviously something that matters, but ultimately, I think, what really is important is how you can contribute to the work of the court," Kistler said Tuesday. "Having that diversity on the court helps people see things they might miss otherwise. And there's a value in that. But there's all sorts of diversity people bring to the court. And I assume the governor took those things into consideration."

Kistler was appointed to the 10-judge court of appeals in February 1999 and was elected in 2000 to a six-year term. Before that, he spent 11 years as an Oregon assistant attorney general handling appeals. He also practiced law in Portland and taught state constitutional law at Northwestern Law School in
Portland. Kistler's appointment has upset some women's groups, as it makes Oregon one of only two states with no women on its highest court. "It's infuriating," said Katherine O'Neil, founding president of Oregon Women Lawyers. "It's not like there wasn't a woman of equal caliber and equal qualifications
available."

Kulongoski is a former state supreme court justice, and a top aide said that experience gave him a unique perspective in filling the vacancy left by Susan Leeson, who resigned in January. "There will never be anybody smarter or more talented on the court than Rives Kistler," said Peter Bragdon, Kulongoski's chief of staff. "He's a top-notch person and lawyer and judge."

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