PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Oregon’s Chief Supreme Court Justice Martha Walters is retiring at the end of the year amid controversy over the state’s public defender shortage.
In a release on Tuesday, Gov. Kate Brown announced that her office is working to fill another seat on the court ahead of Walters’ “planned retirement.” Walters’ last day is slated for Dec. 31, and her appointee will reportedly start immediately there after.
On Aug. 15, Walters notified the state’s public defense commission, she was removing all nine members by noon the next day as the state struggles to deal with an ongoing shortage of public defenders. The letter was sent more than a month after Walters told the commission they had an obligation to provide lawyers for people who have a constitutional right to representation.
“Systemic change is necessary to fulfill that mission, and it is my responsibility to appoint a Commission that can effectively lead this change,” Walters wrote in the letter delivered via email to the commissioners. “Unfortunately, it is now clear that it is time to reconstitute the current Commission.”
The Public Defense Services Commission voted 4-4, as one member was gone, against removing the executive director of the Office of Public Defense Services last week, Oregon Public Broadcasting reported.
Earlier this month, Justice Thomas Balmer also revealed he was retiring. Brown’s office said it’s been working to gather a list of potential candidates. The candidates pooled for that appointment process will also reportedly be considered for Walters’ position.