Obama Nominates Openly Gay Judge Michael McShane For Federal Court

Human Rights Commission Law Fellow Ian Wilhite reported that Judge Michael McShane, a Multnomah County Circuit Judge, was nominated by President Obama on September 19th for a seat on Oregon’s Federal District Court. McShane would be moving into the seat vacated by Michael R. Hogan, one of two U.S. district judge posts in Eugene, Oregon, who has moved to senior status. If McShane is confirmed, he will be the first openly gay federal judge in Oregon.

Senators Jeff Merkley and Ron Wyden both support McShane’s nomination. Senator Merkley said, “Widely known for his service to the community, [McShane] has made Oregon a better place.” Senator Wyden noted that McShane is an “excellent choice” and that his “background as a judge, a public defender and adjunct law professor makes this a well-earned appointment that I believe deserves quick confirmation by the Senate”.

Aimee Green at The Oregonian notes that both Multnomah County District Attorney Mike Schrunk and Clackamas County District Attorney John Foote have written a personal letters of recommendation for his nomination, even though McShane is a former public defender who might have squared off against Schrunk and Foote before. Green explains:

The job would be a lifetime appointment and [McShane] would take on larger constitutional questions than he does now, including free speech, government search and seizure powers, the Endangered Species Act and more.

When he heard his nomination had been announced, McShane beamed and accepted congratulations from attorneys in his courtroom. But he declined comment, noting that he hasn’t been confirmed yet.

McShane spent nearly a decade representing indigent criminal clients as a public defender at the Office of the Metropolitan Public Defender in Portland and worked as a judge pro tempore from 1997 to 2001 before becoming a judge in Multnomah County Circuit Court. He has processed one of the highest volumes of cases in the courthouse — easily a few hundred a month.

Multnomah County Circuit Judge Eric Bergstrom said he thinks McShane has presided over more death penalty cases than another other judge in the state. Bergstrom said both prosecutors and defense attorneys seek out McShane to handle their cases. “I think it speaks volumes that a former public defender is admired by the DA’s office,” Bergstrom said.

You can read more about Judge McShane in a bio published by Mike Bloom of the Multnomah Bar Association:

In the community, Michael attempts to play rugby, bike and travel. He sits on the board of St. Andrew Nativity School, an inner city middle school for disadvantaged youth. He is a member of the adjunct faculty at Lewis & Clark Lw School. Michael’s courtroom is a favorite for school children visiting with the Classroom Law Project and on Fridays he teaches a courtroom course for a local alternative school. Michael is a favorite CLE speaker on trial practice issues such as cross-examination and voir dire.

The HRC elaborates: “Michael McShane has been a successful practicing attorney for over 24 years. He attended Lewis & Clark Law School in Portland and after graduation McShane spent many years representing indigent criminal clients as a public defender in the Office of the Metropolitan Public Defender in Portland. McShane later went on to become a judge pro tempore and then a Multnomah County Circuit Court judge.”


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