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Oral history interview with Betty Roberts

This oral history interview with Betty Roberts was conducted by Katherine Huff O'Neil at Roberts' home in Portland, Oregon, from October 24 to November 16, 2005. In addition to the audio recording of the interview, the collection includes 50 digital photographs depicting Roberts' childhood, family, and later judicial career and activities. The collection also includes an index to the photographs.

In the interview, Roberts discusses her family background and early life in Texas, including her father's disability and the financial strain her family suffered during the Depression. She also talks about her early education, including playing on a girls football team. She talks about attending Texas Wesleyan College; meeting Bill Rice and their subsequent marriage; and moving to Southern Oregon in 1946. She describes raising a family, and returning to college late in life to pursue a teaching career. She then talks about getting involved in Democratic politics while attending Portland State University; the difficulty of balancing school, work, politics, and family; and her 1962 marriage to Frank Roberts. She also discusses some of the discrimination she faced due to her age and gender. She talks about studying law at Northwestern College of Law, including her professors and fellow students.

Roberts discusses serving in the Oregon House of Representatives from 1965 to 1968. She talks about her experience as one of the few women in the Legislature, some of the legislation she worked on, and passing the Oregon bar in 1967. She talks about meeting Keith Skelton in the Legislature and their subsequent marriage in 1968. She then talks about serving in the Oregon Senate from 1969 to 1977. She describes the lack of a women's restroom in the Senate and other forms of discrimination she faced. She speaks at length about some of the legislation she worked on, particularly bills focusing on abortion and allowing married women to choose their names. She talks about other women legislators and the formation of the women's caucus in 1973, as well as much of the legislation on women's rights they worked on. She also discusses her committee assignments, practicing law in Portland while serving in the Legislature, and the formation of the Oregon Court of Appeals in 1977.

Roberts discussing serving as a judge on the Oregon Court of Appeals from 1977 to 1982. She discusses her appointment; her fellow judges, particularly Herb Schwab; and the sexism she faced. She then discusses serving as a justice on the Oregon Supreme Court from 1982 to 1986. She talks about her appointment, her fellow justices, and her experience as the first woman on the court. She also talks about some of the cases she heard and precedents set by her opinions. She then talks about her reasons for retiring in 1986, as well as her work as a mediator. Roberts and O'Neil close the interview by discussing the formation of Oregon Women Lawyers and some of that organization's activities.

Roberts, Betty, 1923-2011

Oral history interview with Lee Johnson

This oral history interview with Lee Johnson was conducted by Clark Hansen at Johnson's home, as well as his office, in Portland, Oregon, from April 20 to September 29, 1992. In this interview, Johnson discusses his family background and early life in Toledo, Oregon, during the Depression; he likens Toledo to a company town. He talks about moving to Portland at the age of 11, then attending prep school in New Jersey, and Princeton after that. He discusses how his education at Princeton changed his political outlook, and talks about volunteering for the Navy after the Korean War. He then talks about studying law at Stanford, including his interest in antitrust law, his involvement with the Law Review, and starting a family with his wife, Dorothy Marie Miller. He goes on to discuss his brief stint as a trial lawyer for the Department of Justice in Washington, D.C., under both the Eisenhower and Kennedy administrations, as well as practicing law in Portland. He briefly describes many of the judges before whom he argued cases. He talks about his involvement with the Trumpeters and the Republican Party.

Johnson discusses serving in the Oregon House of Representatives from 1965 to 1968, including campaigning, advocating for a sales tax, and his views on decriminalizing drugs. He also talks about some of the legislators he served with, including Monte Montgomery and Harry Boivin. He also speaks about Governor Mark Hatfield's administration; reapportionment; and the constitutionality of the Beach Bill. He then discusses serving as attorney general for Oregon from 1969 to 1975, particularly his campaigns. He also discusses some of the cases he prosecuted, his staff, and recruiting lawyers. He also speaks at length about the passage of the Bottle Bill. He discusses working in Governor Tom McCall's administration, as well as Governor Bob Straub's; his rivalry with Clay Myers; and working with George Van Hoomisen. He also talks about his work on cases regarding welfare reforms, particularly to help single mothers; antitrust law; regulation of fisheries; and crime prevention. He speaks often about the working relationship the district attorney's office had with the Oregon Legislature. He also describes his DUI arrest and the resulting trial; the gun control debate; the prison system and capital punishment; and whistleblower protections.

Johnson discusses his partial term as a judge on the Oregon Court of Appeals from 1977 to 1978, including his campaigns, the role of the judiciary, and working with juries. He also discusses judges he worked with, including Jacob Tanzer, Jason Lee, Hans Linde and Herb Schwabe. He talks about judicial decisions, including on abortion; procedures of the court; continuing education; the relationship between courts of different levels; and his views on the role of judges. He speaks at length about his time working for the administration of Governor Vic Atiyeh, as well as changes in the Legislature. He then talks about serving on the Multnomah County Circuit Court of Appeals from 1983 up to the time of the interview in 1992, including cases he worked on, his colleagues, and staff. He talks about how legislation has affected the job of judges, including the war on drugs, liability laws, and sentencing guidelines. He closes the interview with a discussion of the members of the Oregon delegation to Congress.

Johnson, Lee (Robertson Lee), 1930-2009

Oral history interview with Betty Roberts

This oral history interview of Betty Roberts was conducted by Clark Hansen from March 24, 1992, to September 19, 1994, at Roberts' home in Portland, Oregon. In the interview, Roberts describes her early life and family background, including growing up in Texas during the Depression and her father's alcohol poisoning. She also discusses meeting her first husband, John Willard "Bill" Rice, as well as their marriage and starting a family in Oregon. Roberts discusses attending Portland State College and the strain it put on her marriage to Rice; discrimination she encountered as an older woman student; and pursuing a master's degree at the University of Oregon. She also talks about her divorce from Rice due to his objection to her working outside the home, the divorce's effect on her children, and her subsequent marriage to Frank L. Roberts. She also discusses her divorce from Frank Roberts in 1965.

Roberts discusses her career as an educator, including teaching at high schools in East Portland; serving on school boards; and her activity in the Oregon Education Association. She talks about meeting her third husband, Keith Skelton; civil liberties; her involvement in the Democratic Party; and practicing law. She then talks about her experiences in the Oregon House of Representatives from 1965 to 1968, including campaigning, sexist media coverage, and teaching high school and attending law school at Northwestern College of Law while in the Legislature. Roberts discusses legislation she worked on during her time in the House, primarily on education, including sick leave for teachers and universal kindergarten.

Roberts also discusses her 1968 campaign for the Oregon Senate against Tom Mahoney, as well as the 1968 presidential campaign, including the debate around the Vietnam War and her attendance at the Democratic National Convention in Chicago, Illinois, with U.S. Senator Wayne Morse. She then discusses her experience in the Oregon Senate from 1969 to 1977, including legislation on taxes, particularly sales taxes; women's rights; abortion; environmental issues; rape shield laws; and child custody. She discusses working with Debbs Potts, John D. Burns, and Gracie Peck, and and talks about running for governor against Bob Straub in 1974. She also discusses her run for the U.S. Senate against Bob Packwood the same year. She talks about the various forms of sexism she encountered while in the Senate, the formation of the Women's Caucus in 1973, and support for the Equal Rights Amendment.

Roberts talks about her time as a judge on the Oregon Court of Appeals from 1977 to 1982, and about working alongside judges Herbert Schwabe and W. Michael Gillette. She describes being appointed to the Oregon Supreme Court by Governor Vic Atiyeh and the encouragement she received from Norma Paulus. She discusses several cases from the years 1982 to 1986, including cases regarding sex discrimination and misuse of taxpayer monies. She also talks about her law clerk, Maureen Leonard, and about working alongside judges Jacob Tanzer and Mercedes Deiz. Roberts relates her opinion on the efficacy and procedures of the judicial system in Oregon. She discusses her activities after resigning from the court, including her involvement with Oregon Women Lawyers and the Bob Packwood sexual harassment scandal.

Roberts, Betty, 1923-2011

Oral history interview with Robert Y. Thornton

This oral history interview with Robert Thornton was conducted by Jim Strassmaier at the Oregon Historical Society in Portland, Oregon, from May 21 to September 10, 1990. In this interview, Thornton discusses his family background and early life in the Ladd's Addition neighborhood of Portland. He talks about his education, including his study of Japanese and music, and attending Stanford University. He also describes his experiences during the Depression and how it and the New Deal shaped his political views. He then discusses studying law at the University of Oregon and George Washington University. He discusses his career path, from working for Congress, the Court of Appeals, and the Interior Department in Washington, D.C., to his return to Oregon, where he practiced law in Medford and Tillamook. He briefly discusses some of the cases he worked on before he joined the U.S. Army in 1941. He talks about his military experience during World War II, particularly his work teaching Japanese and conducting interrogations of Japanese prisoners of war. He then talks about returning to law practice in Tillamook after his discharge in 1946. He mentions his continued occasional intelligence work for the U.S. Army throughout the interview.

Thornton discusses his political career, beginning with his term in the Oregon House of Representatives from 1951 to 1952. He talks about his involvement with the Democratic Party, his campaign, and his constituency. He discusses legislation he worked on, including on law enforcement, fishing, and relations with Japan. He also discusses some of his fellow legislators, including Dick Neuberger and Maurine Neuberger, and Rudie Wilhelm. He then discusses his service as Oregon attorney general from 1953 to 1967. He discusses his campaigns, his relationships with district attorneys throughout Oregon, and working with various Oregon governmental agencies. He talks about some of the cases he prosecuted, including on vice, particularly the Jim Elkins case. He also talks about his efforts toward a crime prevention program, as well as his observations on the corruption of law enforcement. He briefly talks about running for other offices during his term as district attorney, including his 1962 campaign for governor. He also discusses the court case surrounding his re-election defeat by Lee Johnson in 1966. He goes on to discuss his service as a judge on the Oregon Court of Appeals from 1971 to 1983. He speaks about the role and procedures of the judicial branch in Oregon. He also talks about his fellow judges, including George Joseph and Betty Roberts. He also gives his opinions on national politics of the 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s, including the John F. Kennedy administration, the Vietnam era, and the economic policies of the Ronald Reagan administration. He closes the interview with a discussion of recent U.S. Supreme Court cases, particularly regarding gun control.

Thornton, Robert Y.

Oral history interview with Owen Panner

This oral history interview with Owen Panner was conducted by Michael O'Rourke in Panner's chambers in Portland, Oregon, from November 24, 1994, to June 1, 1995. In this interview, Panner discusses his family background and early life in rural Oklahoma, including his experiences during the Depression and the Dust Bowl, and his interest in playing golf. He also discusses the racism he observed during his childhood. Panner then talks about attending the University of Oklahoma and his service in the Army during World War II, including meeting his first wife, Agnes Gilbert, and moving to New York at the end of his service. He then discusses returning to the University of Oklahoma and studying law. Panner describes moving to Oregon and practicing law in Bend from 1950 to 1979, including his impressions of the area and people, and several cases he tried during his law career. He speaks at length about representing the Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs, particularly on cases regarding fishing rights at Celilo Falls, the development of Kah-Nee-Ta, and the termination of the Klamath tribe. Panner discusses national political events such as the Vietnam War, the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, and the Nixon administration, as well as local politics in Bend, including the divorce of Oregon State Representative Al Ullman. Panner then describes his experience as a judge on the U.S. District Court in Portland from 1980 to 2018, including cases on civil rights, federal power, financial regulations, electrical utilities, and Tonya Harding. He also discusses the O.J. Simpson trial, mandatory sentencing, and the war on drugs. Panner discusses working with judges Otto Skopil, Robert Belloni, Gus Solomon, Jim Redden, and Edward Leavy. He also describes the relationship between the District Court and the Court of Appeals; the law system on the Warm Springs Reservation; and the day-to-day workings of the District Court. Panner closes the interview by discussing the modernization of the courts and his life outside the courtroom.

Panner, Owen Murphy, 1924-

Oral history interview with Herbert M. Schwab

This oral history interview with Herbert M. Schwab was conducted by John C. Beatty on January 17, 1994. In this interview, Schwab discusses his early life in Portland, Oregon. He discusses his early jobs and attending Northwestern College of Law. He also talks about his service in the U.S. Army Reserves in India during World War II under General George E. Stratemeyer. He then talks about practicing law in Portland from 1947 to 1959. He briefly discusses his other activities during that time, including serving on the Portland School Board. He talks about serving on the Multnomah County Circuit Court and the Oregon Court of Appeals. He briefly describes his fellow judges. He goes on to talk about his activities since his retirement in 1980, including serving on the Northwest Power Planning Council and as mayor of Cannon Beach. He closes the interview by talking about Governor Bob Straub, Monroe Sweetland, Dorothy McCullough Lee and Dick Neuberger.

Schwab, Herbert M., 1915-2005

Oral history interview with George M. Joseph

This oral history interview with George M. Joseph was conducted by Michael O'Rourke at Joseph's home in Portland, Oregon, from August 7 to November 7, 2001, and on February 25, 2002. The portion of the interview recorded on February 25, 2002, was conducted at the Friendship Health Center in Portland, where Joseph was recovering from a broken leg. The first tape of this 27-tape interview features a brief overview of Joseph's entire life and career.

Beginning from Tape 2 of this interview, Joseph discusses his family background and early life in Boise, Idaho, including a store his mother ran in Boise, and the early death of his father from tuberculosis of the bone. He also describes a 1938 visit from Franklin D. Roosevelt to Boise; his awareness of the Depression; the Mormon community in Boise; and his family's own Catholicism. He also speaks about contracting polio as a child and the lifelong physical issues it caused, as well as his memories of the internment of Japanese-Americans and other events during World War II. He then discusses his education, including attending Menlo School in Atherton, California, and Boise Junior College (now Boise State University) in Boise, Idaho; hitchhiking home; and his social life. He also discusses attending the University of San Francisco and Reed College in Portland, Oregon, including his social life and the development of his political views. He speaks at length about a recurrence of polio during his senior year at Reed and the extensive treatment and physical therapy he undertook as a result. He then talks about studying law at the University of Chicago, including his divorce from his first wife, Elizabeth Kalisher, and his subsequent marriage to Elizabeth Starr, as well as coming to the realization that he did not want to be a lawyer. He describes Elizabeth Starr's family background and early life, as well as their wedding and honeymoon. He also talks about his involvement with the Democratic Party, particularly acting as an alternate delegate for the 1956 Democratic National Convention.

Joseph discusses his return to Oregon in 1955 and his early legal career as a law clerk for Oregon Supreme Court Justice George Rossman. He briefly describes the judges on the Oregon Supreme Court at that time, as well as some of the cases Rossman presided over. He discusses teaching law at many different universities outside Oregon, including Ohio Northern University. He then describes working in the Multnomah County district attorney's office under George Van Hoomisen, as well as his ambitions of becoming a judge. He talks about several cases he prosecuted and making a name for himself as a criminal appellate prosecutor; the focus of the district attorney's office on vice cases, including an undercover operation that Joseph compromised; and civil rights cases he was involved with, particularly involving the people with mental illnesses. He talks about the creation of the Oregon Court of Appeals and the subsequent increase in the workload of the district attorney's office; Jacob B. Tanzer and other county-level judges; and his relationship with Multnomah County sheriff, and later Multnomah County commissioner, Don E. Clark. He then talks about his brief career as a lawyer in various private law firms in Portland, his involvement in the passage of the Multnomah County Home Rule Charter, and his ongoing attempts to become a judge. He speaks at length about Multnomah County politics and Don Clark's accomplishments as county commissioner. He talks about serving as Multnomah County counsel, including working on public power and city-county consolidation. He also discusses briefly teaching at Lewis & Clark College.

Joseph next discusses serving as a judge on the Oregon Court of Appeals from 1977 to 1992. He describes the other judges on the court, including Robert Y. Thornton, Herbert M. Schwab, Betty Roberts, Jason D. Lee and William L. Richardson. He talks about writing opinions, the types of cases he heard, and his staff. He also describes the procedures and operating practices of the court. He shares his observations on the changes in the Oregon Supreme Court since the creation of the Oregon Court of Appeals. He talks about serving as chief judge from 1981 to 1992. He closes the interview by discussing his service on the Board of Bar Examiners and his involvement in the creation of a uniform bar exam, as well as reforms that have been made to the Oregon court system.

Joseph, George Manley, 1930-2003

Oral history interview with Betty Roberts

  • SR 9066
  • Collection
  • 1980-10-29 - 1980-11-14

This oral history interview with Betty Roberts was conducted by Linda S. Dodds in Portland, Oregon, from October 29 to November 14, 1980. At the time of the interview, Dodds' name was Linda S. Brody.

In the interview, Roberts discusses her early life in Texas, including her memories of the Depression and her childhood activities. She then talks about attending Texas Wesleyan University for a year; meeting Bill Rice and their subsequent marriage; and her early years as a housewife in Oregon, where she and Rice moved after World War II. She talks about returning to college in 1955 at Eastern Oregon College of Education (now Eastern Oregon University), then transferring to Portland State University. She talks about the difficulty of balancing school, a part-time job, and family life; her interest in both a teaching career and politics; and her involvement with the Lynch School Board from 1960 to 1966. She also talks briefly about studying at Northwestern College of Law.

Roberts discusses her service in the Oregon House of Representatives from 1965 to 1968, and in the Oregon Senate from 1969 to 1977. She also talks about her unsuccessful campaigns for the House in 1962 and her successful one in 1964. She discusses some of the legislation she worked on, including on universal kindergarten and victims' rights, and particularly regarding women's rights. She talks about her experiences as a woman in the Legislature. She describes her 1968 primary campaign against incumbent Senator Tom Mahoney; the casual sexism she observed; and the formation of the women's caucus in the 1973 legislative session. She discusses her committee assignments, including the judiciary committee and Ways and Means. She also gives a brief history of the coalition of Republicans and Conservative Democrats that controlled the Senate throughout the 1950s and 1960s. She then talks about her unsuccessful campaigns for governor in 1974, and the U.S. Senate later that same year. She describes the passage of the Bottle Bill in 1971 and the opposition the legislation faced.

Roberts closes the interview by discussing her service as a judge on the Oregon Court of Appeals from 1977 to the time of the interview in 1980.

Roberts, Betty, 1923-2011