Media Room

REMARKS AS PREPARED

Investiture for Xiomara Torres
June 2, 2017

I’m so grateful to be here with you all today.

I am of course thrilled to celebrate Judge Torres’ remarkable career in public service and her transition to the bench.  She will be an outstanding judge.  As a – for the moment, part-time – resident of Multnomah County, I am glad to have her on my Circuit Court.

I am also deeply appreciative of this opportunity to celebrate and to lift up the incredible work the judges and referees of the Multnomah County Circuit Court do day in and day out for the people of Multnomah County and for all Oregonians.

I have always thought it strange that in academic and judicial writings, trial courts are often referred to as “inferior courts.” For anyone paying attention, it is obvious that Oregon’s circuit courts perform many of the essential and indispensable functions that are foundational to our civic society. There is nothing “inferior” about your work; to the contrary, there is likely no more important role in our entire judicial system.

The judges of the Multnomah County Circuit Court are called on every day to provide swift, impartial resolutions for some of the most difficult and personal disputes in our community.  You are expected to close the open wounds in our social fabric in principled and consistent ways, while still accounting for the individual circumstances of every litigant who comes before you.  You are asked to treat unrepentant doers of great evil with the same fairness and respect you show to innocents thrown into tragic circumstances.  And you are expected to do so in public, in real time, with no do-overs and no instant replays.

I cannot think of another time in my life when that role has been needed more.  In these days when social tensions are high, and when the most basic traits of civic decency appear to be under attack, this court shows up for work every day and seeks to provide equal justice for all who come before it.  In these challenging and difficult times, that work reminds us all that our founding principles endure.

I grew up as a lawyer practicing before the judges of the Multnomah County Family Court.  I was usually there representing the interests of a child, and sometimes it felt like I was the first person in this child’s life who had ever taken that responsibility seriously.  Until I walked into the courtroom.  And there I always found an overworked, under-staffed judge who – notwithstanding the dozens of other cases that he or she would be hearing that week – would invariably focus entirely on my young client, and his or her needs.

That ability to focus on the need to provide justice to the most vulnerable members of our community has proven a constant example to me for my entire career in public life.

How fitting, then, that we are here to celebrate Xiomara Torres’ taking her place among such an impressive and hard-working bench.  I have known Xiomara for a long time, and throughout those years she has never wavered in her commitment as a champion for justice and for Oregon’s most vulnerable children.  She has devoted her career not just to public service, but to seeking justice for those unable to speak for themselves.

She is smart, she is funny, she is fair, she is fearless.

She is exactly the judge I would want to appear before, as a lawyer or as a party.

There is a quote that has been around for a long time, attributed to an unnamed judge: “Justice is open to everyone, just like the Ritz Hotel is.”
I thank you all for working so hard and so well to ensure that our courts are not like the Ritz Hotel, that the doors of the Multnomah County Courthouse are actually open for everyone, and that they truly do lead to justice for all who come to seek it.

Congratulations, Judge Torres.  Thank you for volunteering to serve your community in this critical way, and for joining with all of your colleagues who have done the same.

You all have my deepest admiration and gratitude.