Judge Eric Butterfield

Washington County Circuit Court

Judge Eric Butterfield was appointed in March, 2010 to the Washington County Circuit Court by Governor Kulongoski to fill the seat vacated by Judge Mark Gardner.

In trying to set up an interview with Judge Butterfield for this profile, my first clue that he defies convention came when he repeatedly insisted that he be called "Eric." Clue number two came when he suggested that we meet for lunch at a sleepy McMenamins on Old Cornelius Pass Road. On motorcycles. My third clue was when he arrived on a black Buell XB12Ss, not a ride for the timid.

Judge Butterfield's journey from small-town Connecticut to circuit court judge has been as unpredictable as my initial introduction to him. Judge Butterfield was born in Waterbury, Connecticut in 1965, where he lived until third grade and learned to play hockey. His father was an academic, and the Butterfields moved to Kansas City, Kansas for six years until he was a freshman in high school. The family then moved again to Seattle, Washington, where Butterfield attended Nathan Hale and Roosevelt high schools.

After high school, Judge Butterfield attended undergraduate school at the University of Washington. He enlisted in the US Marine Corps Reserve after graduating with a degree in political science and spent the summer between college and law school at boot camp. Although his childhood vision of being a fighter pilot was waylaid by not having the eyesight to match the dream, Judge Butterfield was activated during his final year at Willamette University College of Law by the Marines for duty in the (first) Persian Gulf War. He served as a combat engineer in Saudi Arabia and Kuwait and finished as a sergeant in 1994.

After returning from active duty, Judge Butterfield completed his law degree and became a member of the OSB in 1992. Not one to shy away from challenge or adventure, Butterfield moved to Guam with his wife and took a job at the firm of Baumann & Hull, doing primarily criminal defense. He spent four years in Guam, and despite living in a house with a tempting view of the surf, he and his wife decided to move back to Oregon to start a family.

Back in Oregon, Judge Butterfield began working at the Washington County office of Metro Public Defenders. He worked there 11 years, ultimately becoming a chief attorney. He and his wife, Lisanne, have two daughters and a son. Butterfield has taken an active role in parenting and has spent countless hours coaching youth athletics.

When Governor Kulongoski appointed Butterfield to fill the seat vacated by Judge Gardner, the Governor made special mention of Butterfield's "stellar reputation with judges, prosecutors, public defenders, other attorneys and law enforcement in Washington County." Since being sworn in, Butterfield has dived into the position with the same passion and distinctiveness that he brings to his family and personal pursuits.

Judge Butterfield has predominantly worked the criminal docket as a new judge. His experience as a lawyer has given him a thorough understanding of the strengths and weaknesses of the criminal justice system, and he has a keen interest in seeing that system run efficiently and effectively. He has taken the time and effort to visit with the sheriff's department and jail programs' staff to understand how his judicial decisions affect those agencies that implement sentences, from incarceration to probation, to rehabilitation and counseling.

He also derives great satisfaction when the justice system improves the lives of those in it. He takes special interest and pleasure in trying to motivate people in front of him to correct their behavior and become better citizens. At the Washington County Jail, one is just as likely to find him talking to a deputy about jail operations as to see him talking to a sentenced criminal about his or her probation.

Judge Butterfield's judicial philosophy is measured and practical. He respects lawyers who can focus on the primary issues that need to be decided. He appreciates counsel who can zealously represent their clients in a professional manner, and who do not feel compelled to advocate extreme positions. He also strives to respect the time of all parties involved who appear before him and works diligently to run a timely courtroom.

The filing deadline for a candidate to challenge Judge Butterfield's seat has passed without any opposition being filed. If he is reelected in November, his term will be extended for six more years. When not spending time with his family, he enjoys skiing, bicycling and riding his Buell on winding country roads.

Originally authored by Carson Bowler and published in the October 2010 issue of the Multnomah Lawyer