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Nation's first openly gay state supreme court justice to retire

By
Mike Faulk

Sept. 14 (UPI) -- The nation's first openly gay state supreme court justice is stepping down at the end of the year.

"I hope that, in my time as a judge, I have contributed to the development of the law by providing reasoned, practical and understandable opinions consistent with the limited role of the courts in our system of government," Oregon Supreme Court Justice Rives Kistler announced Thursday in a news release.

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Kistler, 69, of Portland, was appointed to the court in 2003 by Gov. Ted Kulongoski and won a retention election in 2004 against a conservative opponent.

"I didn't want to be known as the gay judge," Kistler told Newsweek in 2004. "I would hope to be known as the good judge."

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A spokesman for the Oregon Judicial Department did not provide a reason for Kistler's retirement, but said the justice would serve as a senior judge for the court - a retired justice who oversees cases as needed and assigned by the Oregon Supreme Court's chief justice.

"Justice Kistler is a brilliant thinker who cares deeply about the law and the people it affects," Oregon Supreme Court Chief Justice Martha Walters said in a news release.

Oregon Gov. Kate Brown, a Democrat, will appoint Kistler's replacement.

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Kistler previously served four years on the Oregon Court of Appeals. Prior to his time as a judge, he clerked for former U.S. Supreme Court Justice Lewis Powell, worked in private practice in Portland, and was an Oregon assistant attorney general specializing in appellate cases.

In an interview printed by Portland's Multnomah Bar Association in 2004, Kistler said his personal background was just one part of what made a well-rounded bench of justices in the Oregon Supreme Court.

"Your background is important to help you see and understand things about the nature of a case. When justices share their perspectives, it makes the court richer," Kistler said in the interview. "There are many types of diversity. Trial lawyers and defense counsel. Gender diversity. Geographic diversity. Each is a piece of the puzzle."

Kistler is one of three LGBT justices to have served on the Oregon Supreme Court. Virginia Linder was elected in 2006 as the first lesbian to serve openly on a state supreme court anywhere in the nation. She announced her retirement in 2015. Justice Lynn Nakamoto, elected in 2015 as the state's first Asian-American Supreme Court justice, is also part of the LGBT community.

About a dozen openly LGBT justices have served or still serve on state supreme courts around the nation since Kistler's appointment in 2003.

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