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June 14, 2024

Cross-Collaboration and Inclusivity: Oregon Judges Association

Hon. Juliet Britton

In 1984, the Oregon Municipal Judges Association (OMJA) was formed to serve the municipal court judges of the State of Oregon. OMJA was primarily focused on educating judges who preside in courts of limited or specialized jurisdiction. Throughout the years, the organization developed a robust education program, hosting two multi-day conferences per year and a discussion forum that judges could post questions and scenarios for other judges to respond to in a “what would you do” format. In 2022, Judge Juliet Britton was elected as OMJA’s President and immediately noticed the fact that a small number of non-municipal judges were attending the conferences, including Justices of the Peace, tribal judges and state court judges. This fact was emphasized when a Board member who presided in a municipal court near one of Oregon’s nine federally recognized tribes approached her about a continuing legal education session on cross-collaboration between municipal and tribal courts, as he had recently collaborated with a tribal judge on a criminal case to best address the needs of the defendant.

It was an obvious light bulb moment for her that OMJA in name and practice needed to change. In her first year as President, Judge Britton planned a strategy to expand OMJA’s membership to accurately reflect the judges who it served and to make OMJA more inclusive to all judges of specialized jurisdiction. During the second year, this plan was put into action to make the necessary changes to do this. This included updating the by-laws, articles of incorporation, organizational name and ensuring that the Board of Directors had representation from all the types of courts of its members, including tribal courts. Now known as the Oregon Judges Association, its voting members now include tribal judges.

Almost a year after these changes, Judge Britton reflects on her initiative to improve inclusivity within Oregon’s judicial community. “Far too long attorneys and judges in Oregon have failed to educate themselves and do outreach to tribal judges to develop relationships and policies to collaborate on issues of mutual interest. My hope is that by taking these steps to create a forum and opportunity to learn and collaborate from one another, we will better serve not only the judges but also Oregon’s native population.”

Hon. Juliet Britton

President, Oregon Judges Association

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