(Caleb Wolf/Special to Salem Reporter)
Gov. Kate Brown announced Wednesday she will will appoint two judges to fill vacancies in the Marion County Circuit Court.
Jennifer Gardiner, a hearings referee in Marion County, will fill the vacancy left after circuit Judge Cheryl Pellegrini's retirement. Erious Johnson, a Salem-based discrimination and civil rights attorney in private practice, will fill the vacancy created after circuit Judge Susan Tripp retired, according to a news release. Both retirements took effect Oct. 31.
Gardiner's and Johnson's appointments were effective Wednesday morning.
“Both of these talented individuals bring deep legal experience to the bench, as well as important perspectives on the different ways judges can work to improve access to justice and reduce systemic barriers in our legal system,” Brown wrote in the news release. “I am excited to see them take their places on the Marion County bench.”
Gardiner, born in Klamath Falls, graduated from Stanford University in 1994 before working as a staff and legislative assistant for Congressman Esteban Torres in California. She earn a law degree from the University of Notre Dame Law School in 2000 and then worked for two years as a litigation associate for a San Francisco-based law firm before moving to Oregon. She was a Yamhill County deputy district attorney for six years, a senior assistant attorney general at the Oregon Department of Justice's Criminal Justice Division for a year, and a deputy district attorney in Marion County for seven years.
Gardiner has been a hearing referee for thousands of cases in Marion County since 2018. She oversees a treatment court which helps get pregnant mothers with histories of drug addiction get connected with services "to help support healthy pregnancies," the news release said. She also serves on the bench's LGBTQ Workgroup and the State Family Law Advisory Committee, is a Willamette Law student mentor and has been a mock trial team Instructor at West Salem High School. She is a member of the Marion County Bar Association, the local Inn of Court and Oregon Women Lawyers, and has given training presentations to the Oregon Department of Justice, Marion County Sheriff’s Office, and Salem and Keizer police departments.
Johnson, who grew up in Queens, New York, graduated from the John Jay College of Criminal Justice in 1991 and earned a law degree with honors from Howard University School of Law in 2002. He worked for two years as a litigation associate at a New York law firm and four years as a litigator and trial attorney in the New York City Law Department's torts division, the release said.
Johnson clerked for the New York State Supreme Court for around three years and then moved Salem, his wife's hometown, and opening a solo practice. He worked for three years as the justice department's civil rights director before returning to his private practice in 2017, "doing primarily criminal defense and plaintiff-side civil rights cases," according to the news release. Johnson was also chief legislative director for Rep. Janelle Bynum, D-Happy Valley, for the 2018 legislative session.
Johnson mentors law students, volunteers for the classroom law project, is a volunteer fee arbitrator through the Oregon State Bar and "a frequent speaker and writer on topics related to civil rights," the news release said. He is a member of the Willamette Valley American Inn of Court, Marion County Bar Association, Oregon Criminal Defense Lawyers Association, Marion County Association of Defenders and OSB board of delegates. He is a board member for the Oregon Trial Lawyers Association and co-chair of its civil rights section.
"He lives with his wife in Salem, where in their spare time they raise chickens," the news release said.