Thomas Balmer is a Justice of the Oregon Supreme Court. He served as Chief Justice from 2012 to 2018. He was first appointed to the Supreme Court by Governor John Kitzhaber in 2001; he was elected in 2002 and re-elected in 2008, 2014, and 2020. Justice Balmer practiced with the Portland law firm of Ater Wynne LLP and its predecessor firm, Lindsay, Hart, Neil & Weigler from 1982-93 and 1997-2001, and also served as Managing Partner. He was Deputy Attorney General of Oregon (1993-97) under Attorney General Theodore R. Kulongoski. Earlier in his career, he was an associate with Wald, Harkrader & Ross (Washington, D.C.) (1980-82), a Trial Attorney with the Antitrust Division of the U.S. Department of Justice (1979-80), and an associate with the Boston firm of Choate, Hall & Stewart (1977-79). As a lawyer, Justice Balmer handled antitrust and business cases and other civil disputes; advised government agencies and private sector clients on trade reguation and antitrust; and briefed and argued appeals in the Oregon and federal courts, including arguing before the United States Supreme Court.
Justice Balmer received his J.D. from the University of Chicago Law School in 1977 and his A.B. from Oberlin College in 1974. He received the Oberlin College Distinguished Achievement Alumni Award (2010) and the Oregon Legal Citizen of the Year Award (2018).
Justice Balmer has been as an Adjunct Professor of Law at Lewis & Clark Law School and Willamette University College of Law and an Adjunct Professor of Political Science at Lewis & Clark College. He is the author of numerous articles on antitrust, constitutional law, legal history, Oliver Wendell Holmes, and other topics. His articles on antitrust and state constitutional law have been widely cited and followed, including by the United States Supreme Court.
Justice Balmer’s law-related activities include serving as Chair (1992-93) and Board Member (1989-93) of Multnomah County Legal Aid Service, Inc.; Chair (2007-09) and Board Member (1999 to 2020) of Classroom Law Project; and Board Member (2004-11) of the Oregon Law Institute. He currently serves on the Advisory Committee of the Campaign for Equal Justice. Justtice Balmer was elected to the American Law Insitute in 2018.
Justice Balmer has participated in various international legal programs, including lecturing on judicial ethics in Tashkent, Uzbekistan (under the auspices of the United Nations); working with judges and schools on law-related education in Zagreb, Croatia, and speaking to judges and court administrators through the Russian-American Rule of Law Consortium.
During his time as Chief Justice, Justice Balmer served on the Board of Directors of the Conference of Chief Justices and was Chair of the Civil Justice Improvements Initiative, a broad-based two year project that studied and made recommendations to reduce cost and delay in civil litigation.
In the wider community, Justice Balmer was an overnight volunteer for two decades with the Goose Hollow Family Shelter (now Portland Homeless Family Solutions) and served as a founding Board Member (2000-01) of the Portland Parks Foundation and Board Member of Chamber Music Northwest (1997-2003).
Justice Balmer was raised in Portland and attended Portland Public Schools. He is married to Mary Louise McClintock, Senior Education Strategy and Policy Advisor for the Oregon Community Foundation. They have two adult children.