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Gavel on desk with scales of justice

About the Oregon Judicial Department

The Oregon Judicial Branch is a unified system of state circuit courts (trial courts), appellate courts (Oregon Supreme Court and Oregon Court of Appeals), and the Tax Court, known together as the Oregon Judicial Department (OJD). Its judges have the responsibility to enforce the rule of law by deciding criminal, civil, family, and other types of legal disputes; to interpret and apply the state and federal constitutions and statutes in decisions on cases; and to hold hearings and trials throughout the state. The role of the state courts is to ensure that all Oregonians receive fair and accessible justice by providing due process (respecting all legal rights that are owed to a person), protecting individual rights, and preserving community welfare.
All OJD judges – including those for the Supreme Court, Court of Appeals, the circuit courts, and the Tax Court are elected to six-year terms in non-partisan elections. The Chief Justice of the Oregon Supreme Court is the administrative head of OJD. The Chief Justice supervises the entire state court system; issues orders and adopts rules to ensure the effective administration of OJD; adopts procedural rules for the state courts; supervises the statewide fiscal plan and budget for all Oregon state courts; and appoints the Chief Judge of the Court of Appeals, the presiding judges of the circuit courts, the presiding judge of the Tax Court, and the State Court Administrator.
Like the United States government, Oregon has three separate but equal branches of government established by the Oregon Constitution to provide Oregonians with a civilized, safe, and fair society. The Legislative Branch creates laws – to ensure liberty, the Executive Branch administers and enforces the laws – to maintain order, and the Judicial Branch resolves disputes according to the law – to establish justice. Each of the three branches were given the power to perform different government functions (this is called the separation of powers), but they also have limited power over each other’s actions. The Legislature may pass a law, but the Governor of the Executive Branch can veto the law, and the Judicial Branch has the power to decide if the law violates the state constitution. This ensures that our state government has a system of checks and balances to prevent any one branch or official from becoming too powerful. 
The Constitution also gives citizens the power to participate in checks and balances of the government, using constitutional rights like the right to vote; the right to seek, receive, and pass on information to make voting decisions; the right to draft laws (called initiatives); the right to run for public office themselves; and the right to lawfully protest and engage in free speech to demonstrate dissatisfaction with how government is performing its duties.



Judicial Branch Affiliates 

The following affiliates are not part of the state court system:
Creates, reviews, and amends the Oregon Rules of Civil Procedure that govern procedure and practice in all Oregon circuit courts (except small claims)
Office of Public Defense 
Provides lawyers for qualified people who cannot afford a lawyer in criminal, juvenile, and mental commitment cases
Investigates complaints about the conduct of judges conduct and recommends discipline
Regulates the practice of law and lawyer conduct in Oregon

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