Judge Diana StuartMultnomah County Circuit Court Judge Diana Stuart
Judge Stuart was formerly a partner at Goldberg Mechanic Stuart Gibson LLP. She spent almost 30 years as a civil, labor and domestic relations litigator and as a public defender. She was appointed by Governor Ted Kulongoski in early 2007 to replace Judge Douglas Beckman.
Judge Stuart grew up in Penn Yan, NY, a small village in the northwestern corner of the state. She received her high school diploma from Penn Yan Academy and spent two years at St. Lawrence University in Canton, NY . She received her Bachelor of Arts degree in political science from Drew University in Madison, NJ , where she graduated summa cum laude. A professor on sabbatical from Willamette University got Stuart interested in Oregon during her senior year at Drew. "He told me, 'you're political, you'd love Oregon." At the time, National Geographic Magazine had just run an article about how Governor Tom McCall was reclaiming the west bank of the Willamette River. Oregon seemed like a dynamic place where Stuart could help transform 1970s ideals into positive social change. Stuart was sold. She moved to Oregon, sight unseen. When her plane landed in Portland, she asked the passenger next to her, "Does it rain much?" The entire cabin burst into laughter.
Stuart attended law school at Willamette University. After graduating in 1977, she began her legal career as a staff attorney at Prisoner's Legal Services of Oregon in Salem, where she was hired by Gene Mechanic, her future law partner. Stuart's most significant experience was working on a number of prison conditions cases. Some of the cases addressed the lack of treatment for inmates suffering from mental illness. This work impressed upon Stuart the importance of ensuring that all prisoners and criminal defendants have adequate legal representation to protect their rights.
In 1980, Judge Stuart joined the Washington County office of Metropolitan Public Defender (MPD), where she worked as a staff attorney for three years. She spent the next five years in the Multnomah County office of MPD. Stuart was a senior felony attorney for two years, during which time she second-chaired with new attorneys in child abuse and rape prosecutions. Stuart's last two years at MPD were spent training new staff in the tri-county area. After a short stint in the Federal Public Defender's office, she decided to try out private practice on the civil side. In 1990, she joined Gene Mechanic and Steven Goldberg as an associate. She worked on union-side labor, employment discrimination and family law cases. Stuart became a partner in 1995 and eventually specialized in family law in what became known as Goldberg Mechanic Stuart Gibson LLP.
Stuart has served on numerous MBA and OSB boards and committees. Prior to her appointment, she served on the MBA Board of Directors and previously was chair of the MBA Court Liaison Committee. Stuart was the MBA Board liaison to the Legal Aid Services of Oregon and Oregon Law Clinic Pro Bono Coordinating Committee and served on the MBA Public Outreach Committee. She volunteered to take a pro bono case each month for the Domestic Violence Project at LASO as part of the MBA Volunteer Lawyers Project. Stuart also served on the OSB Mandatory CLE Committee, the OSB Indigent Defense Task Force II and the OSB Judicial Administration Committee. Her efforts were recognized in 2001 when she received the OSB President's Membership Services Award for "volunteer law-related services on behalf of Oregon's lawyers."
After many years of working together, Stuart and her partners decided in 2007 to part ways and pursue other career interests. When asked why she was interested in the bench, Stuart responds that she wants "to give back." She quickly adds that those words do not adequately capture the reason she decided to pursue a career in the judiciary. Stuart explains: "I realized while working with the Hosford Middle School teaching the 'We the People' curriculum [sponsored by the Multnomah Bar Foundation and the Classroom Law Project], that 33 years ago, I went to law school because I believed in the 'social contract' - that citizens agree to be governed in exchange for the government protecting fundamental human rights. I still believe that the courtroom is where people go to have these rights upheld. And judges are the protectors of those fundamental rights, ensuring that all voices are heard and the playing field is level. I am honored to join our state's trial bench and will do my very best to meet this public trust."
Judge Stuart was assigned to a new tenth position in family court. She hopes to never lose sight of the lessons she learned as lawyer, including how tough the job can be. In addition to her obligations in the courtroom, she hopes to become involved in judicial outreach to the public. "We need to win the hearts and minds of people so that every time another ballot measure comes up that would affect funding of the judiciary or judicial independence, judges and lawyers aren't repeatedly having to spend so much energy to help the public understand the critical nature of these issues."
Outside her professional life, Stuart is an avid dragon boater. She has been a member of the OWLS team - the Dragon Flies - for six years. Stuart was on a women's national grandmaster (age 50+) team which won the right to represent the US in an international competition September 2007 in Sydney, Australia.
Originally authored by Rob Kline and printed in the July/August 2007 Multnomah Lawyer
Updated for the Internet in 2012