James Edmonds was appointed to the Marion County Circuit Court in February. (Courtesy/ James Edmonds)

James Edmonds wanted to become more involved in public service and serve the community he’s lived in his entire life.

That’s what he hopes to accomplish as he takes on the role as Marion County Circuit Court judge, following the retirement of Judge Mary James.

As he ascends to the bench, Edmonds will put away his civil litigation briefcase after nearly 35 years dealing with those who are suing or being sued.

Gov. Kate Brown announced Edmonds’ appointment, effectively immediately, in a news release on Feb. 23.

“The Marion County Circuit Court manages a diverse and complex caseload, and I am pleased to appoint two experienced litigators who will hit the ground running. Like other courts around the state, Marion County will face a backlog of trials, particularly civil trials, as we emerge from the pandemic,” Brown said in a statement.

Edmonds was born and raised in Marion County, attending South Salem High School. He got his bachelor’s degree from the University of Oregon in 1982, and graduated with his law degree from George Washington University Law School in 1986. After graduating from law school, he entered private practice as a civil litigation attorney with Clark, Marsh, Lindauer and McClinton in Salem, rising to be a managing partner with that firm.

Since 2008, he has been a partner and managing partner at Fetherston Edmonds LLP in Salem.

His firm’s website said he takes the lead on professional negligence litigation and product liability defense.

Edmonds told Salem Reporter he enjoyed the intellectual challenges of civil law which are sometimes more complicated and as a result more challenging.

“Civil law can be everything from contracts to personal injury to probate and state matters to real estate to environmental issues. It’s just a wider set of circumstances,” he said.

Edmonds said he’s dealt with cases where people are very emotional about the issues involved, and it’s given him a great understanding of patience and respect. He said those qualities are important in a judge.

“You get cases where people are being sued for a lot of money and there’s issues that come up where people are worried about losing their homes, ability to make a living. As a result, that really creates kind of a heightened awareness of the need to be patient and respectful of everyone,” he said.

Edmonds said his former law partners served as mentors for him when he came into the practice.

“A big part of what I learned from those three is to always try and be a professional in a sense,” he said.

He said lawyers have a duty to be honest and maintain their reputation within the community.

Edmonds said he’s recently started scaling back on his community involvements as he learns the new job. He also doesn’t want any perception that his involvement in certain groups would influence his decision making.

He’s an adjunct law professor at Willamette University and is on the board of directors at the Marion County Board of Defenders.

He has been on the board of directors of the United Way of the Mid-Willamette Valley since 2009, and was on the board at the Salem Multicultural Institute from 2009 to 2011.

For almost 20 years, he was a youth basketball coach.

From 2008 to 2016, Edmonds served as a Pro Tem Judge in Truancy Court, dealing with students with school attendance issues.

He has four children and said a lot of he and his wife’s time has been spent around family the last 35 years.

When he’s not working, Edmonds said he likes to hike, ski and golf.

“My goal is to be of more service to the community,” he said. “Since I’ve lived here for nearly all my life it’s something I want to give back.”

 Have a tip? Contact reporter Saphara Harrell at 503-549-6250, [email protected]

Salem Reporter counts on community support to fund vital local journalism. You can help us do more.

SUBSCRIBE: A monthly digital subscription starts at $5 a month.

GIFT: Give someone you know a subscription.

ONE-TIME PAYMENT: Contribute, knowing your support goes towards more local journalism you can trust.