The Honorable Eric Dahlin
Multnomah County Circuit Court Judge
by Jason Posner
Court Liaison Committee

Multnomah County’s lawyers’
engagement with the nonprofit
community is legend. Here are
two chances for you to extend
your support for local nonprofits
- at no cost and very little
commitment of time:
1. Suggest to nonprofits you
know and admire that
they apply to participate
in Willamette Week’s 2017
Give!Guide. Participation
offers a huge opportunity
for organizations to
procure funding and
generate recognition in our
community. Applications
will be accepted during the
month of June and can be
found at
The guide itself publishes
in early November, with
giving continuing through
midnight, December 31.
2. You may know someone
under the age of 36 who
does fabulous work for a
local nonprofit. Give!Guide
has something for them,
too - $4,000 and a big party.
At least four Portlanders will
receive the Skidmore Prize
award this year, recognizing
young professionals who are
making an impact in Portland.
You can nominate someone
for a Skidmore Prize, also at during the
month of June.
Willamette Week’s Give!Guide
started in 2004 with modest
ambitions. That first year
raised $25,252.50 for 28 local
nonprofits, and was considered
a remarkable success. Never in
Give!Guide’s wildest dreams
could anyone have anticipated
that a dozen years later it would
raise $4,248,928 - 168 times as
much - for 141 nonprofits.
To put this in perspective:
the gold standard for this sort
of newspaper-inspired giving
is set by The New York Times’
Neediest Cases Fund. It raises
about $6 million each year and
runs for a longer period of time.
Given how many more readers
the Times has than Willamette
Week and how much wealthier
New York City is, Portlanders’
outsized performance shows the
depth and breadth of generosity
in our city - and, ultimately, our
commitment to our community.
This year, the plan is to have
somewhere between 140 and 150
local nonprofits participating.
Criteria are general and reflect
Willamette Week’s desire to
have the Give!Guide develop
the annual-giving habit in
younger Portlanders: Does the
nonprofit engage in activities
consistent with Willamette
Week’s Portland and of interest
to younger residents? On top of
this, Give!Guide offers significant
incentives to donors.
Your support for the
nonprofit community helps
make Portland the amazing city
it is today. If you have questions,
feel free to contact Give!Guide’s
Executive Director, Mahala Ray,
at 503.445.3640 or
Encourage a Local Nonprofit to
Participate in Willamette Week’s
2017 Give!Guide
The Benefit to Them: Money and Recognition
by Mahala Ray
Executive Director, Willamette Week Give!Guide
A new judicial vacancy has been
announced with the retirement of Judge
Diana Stuart. The judge appointed to this
position will be assigned to the Multnomah
County Circuit Court’s Family Law
Those interested in applying should
submit their MBA application to Pamela
Hubbs by June 12 to be considered by the
MBA Judicial Screening Committee.
For more information and to download
the MBA application, visit
or contact Pamela (503.222.3275,
Nineteen NBA seasons ago,
Eric Dahlin began working
for the Portland Trail Blazers
on game nights at the scorer’s
table, running the game clock,
shot clock or scoreboard. He
continues in that hobby, albeit
on a substitute basis, even after
Governor Kate Brown appointed
him to the bench in August
2016. Whatever his job may be, it
requires patience, focus, and an
adherence to the rules.
Judge Dahlin arrived in
Oregon by way of the heartland.
He grew up in Rock Island and
then Decatur, Illinois, where
he graduated high school. His
next stop was Iowa, one state
to the west. There, he attended
Grinnell College and graduated
in 1989 with an economics
degree. The idea of being a
lawyer was “on the radar,” but
adventure called. Dahlin first
went to Martha’s Vineyard to
work for the summer. There,
he was a bellman at a hotel and
worked in a restaurant. He then
moved to Maui for the winter,
waiting tables, parking cars and
driving limousines. Traveling
in Australia and New Zealand
came next. His wandering
then brought him to a summer
job at Denali Park in Alaska
and to a winter job in Naples,
Florida. With the money he
saved in Florida, he purchased a
Volkswagen van. Over the next
3+ months, he drove it across the
United States, visiting all of the
major league baseball stadiums
and a number of national parks.
Next came Cleveland and a
stretch working in the Cavaliers’
public relations department for
a season. He then worked at
a summer camp in Northern
Wisconsin before deciding to
move to Oregon.
Although Judge Dahlin
thought about teaching and liked
the idea of coaching, the legal
world grabbed his attention.
With his itinerant life over,
he enrolled at the University
of Oregon School of Law. He
graduated in 1996 and then
clerked for a year for the Hon.
Procter Hug, Jr., at the United
States Court of Appeals for
the Ninth Circuit. In 1997, he
began at Davis Wright Tremaine
as a litigator. He excelled at
disentangling complex business
disputes within the legal context.
His former law partner, Andy
McStay, remembers, “There was
no one more generous with his
time and experience to help a
colleague trying to work through
a knotty problem.”
Judge Dahlin has always
loved the law and had been
interested in the idea of being a
judge ever since law school, but
after a decade of practice he also
wondered how much he was
just idealizing the position. He
figured the best way to decide
if he wanted to become a judge
was to serve as a judge. He saw
another adventure, one where
his knack for focus and patience
would help. In 2007, Judge
Dahlin started as a pro tem judge
and arbitrator in Multnomah
County. As with the Blazers,
he enjoyed the idea of helping
others through a combination
of perseverance and loyalty to
the rules of the game - in this
case, the legal system. Still, the
weight of his new, part-time
roles hit hard. For litigants, the
psychological and financial risks
were enormous. Judge Dahlin
reports feeling tremendous
satisfaction in honoring the
gravity of their situation and
in helping to disentangle their
disputes. Judge Dahlin also
talked with other judges to
try to get realistic insight into
their jobs, and even pointedly
asked them to “talk him out of
becoming a judge,” but none
could do so. By and large, they
cherished their work. Judge
Dahlin was hooked.
As he reflects on his short
time on the bench, Judge Dahlin
understands his position as one
whose faithfulness to the system
is crucial. He can’t be a crusader,
and he won’t come to a decision
and then “decide how to get
there.” He is grateful that the law
generally leads to the rightful,
fair result, but he’s keenly aware
of those moments when the
legally correct result is not the
best result. Those make for the
hardest of days.
When a systematic failure
dictates poor outcomes, Judge
Dahlin has watched the court
and fellow judges institute
organizational changes that lead
to better outcomes. In most
criminal cases, for example,
the court deals with alcohol,
drugs, or crumbling mental
health. Judge Dahlin has
admired the court’s emphasis
on addressing these underlying
issues as well as the violence
they fuel. Understanding that
answers are hard to come by,
the court, its staff, and judges
provide treatment opportunities
through drug court, intensive
supervision, cooperation with
parole offices, and weekly or
monthly hearings to check
on a defendant’s status. Judge
Dahlin believes this broader
approach leads to successes
that punishment-only process
cannot achieve.
As Judge Dahlin continues
to immerse himself in the ebb
and flow of the courthouse,
he’s discovered, like many
new judges, an increasing
appreciation for the criminal
docket. The attorneys
are helpful, pleasant, and
particularly professional,
creating a congenial atmosphere
Judge Dahlin attributes to their
seeing one another frequently in
court. Judge Dahlin hopes that
such face-to-face encounters
spread to all practice areas and
would love to see opposing
counsel sitting down with one
another over lunch or coffee.
He’s confident such meetings
will reduce unnecessary
disputes, save court and litigant
resources, and more effectively
lead to just resolutions.
Judge Dahlin met his wife,
ironically, while both served on
jury duty in 2001. They have two
daughters and live in Northeast
Portland. Judge Dahlin devotes
most of his non-work hours to
his family, but he still tries to
enjoy the outdoors on weekends,
and he bikes to and from work
each day.