Judge Henry Kantor

Multnomah County Circuit Court Judge Henry Kantor

Judge Kantor loves being a trial judge. He smiles broadly when he says, "I would be happy being a trial judge as long as I can do it." He enjoyed the role of managing the medical malpractice docket, but he now is a generalist judge. His ideal month: a mix of civil and criminal, simple and complex, trials or major motions to decide. He likes it all.

But Henry did not set out to be a trial judge - the opportunity was a long time coming. He was born in Newark and grew up in its suburbs, in the fifties and sixties. He says the opening scene in the Sopranos TV series pans a street three miles from his boyhood home, and his neighborhood was just like that. Henry went to public high school in Newark and in the early seventies went to college at Penn (U. of Pennsylvania), in the heart of Philadelphia, a silver dollar's throw from Jersey. He graduated with honors in December of 1975 with a degree in History and an emphasis on Russian studies and headed for Europe by himself with a backpack and a passport.

All the time Henry was growing up, there was a family business that Henry's uncle was grooming him to take over, back in New Jersey. A textile mill - where Henry, during high school and college, had cleaned looms, supervised production and kept the books and records. But as a child, Henry had spent over a month in Oregon, when a family vacation turned into a hospital stay for one of the children. He loved Oregon ever after. His mother wanted him to go to law school and Henry had applied to several before he left on his European adventure. The first one that accepted him was Lewis & Clark Law School, right here in River City.

His mother could not reach Henry (no cell phone in those days, and no email either), so she sent in an acceptance for Henry, and paid the $250 forfeiture fee. When Henry learned this upon his return, he felt obligated to not waste the money, and so he came to Portland to go to law school. During his first year of law school, he worked for Portland attorney Jim Neill doing mostly administrative law (a few months was enough), and during his second year for Robert Stoll, on consumer class action issues. But then Henry got a chance to work for Ninth Circuit Judge Ted Goodwin during his third year of law school.

Henry's uncle and the textile business were still beckoning, but Henry was smitten with Portland, the law as a profession and with a Lewis & Clark College student. Henry chose Portland and the law over Newark and the textile business. Now, his mother and sister live in Portland, too.

Henry got a chance to work for Oregon's leading class action plaintiffs' lawyer, Henry Carey, through contacts with classmate Michael Hanlon, who was already working there and liking it. And so in 1979, Henry's career as a litigator and trial lawyer began. Class actions were a major part of his practice always, but he spent more than half his time on business litigation, probate and legal malpractice cases as well. For the first four years, Henry worked as an associate attorney for Henry Carey. Then in 1984, he formed his own firm, Delo, Kantor and Stamm. He became of counsel to the Pozzi, Wilson personal injury firm in 1987, and in 1992 again formed his own partnership, Kantor and Sacks, where he practiced until he ascended to the bench.

Henry took office as judge in January, 1995 and was subsequently elected in 1996 to a full term.

Lawyers know Judge Kantor will work late and start early to make a trial work right when he has to, especially to help settle cases. At the end of his many years of experience as a trial lawyer and trial judge, he says the most important thing a judge can do is to help the parties settle the case. He believes the court and the lawyers should always be exploring the possibility of settlement.

Judge Kantor likes to help new lawyers learn what they can do better. He often talks with them after a trial or hearing if they ask.

He has been and is still active in many professional organizations as well as bar and court committees. He has served on the Commission on Judicial Fitness and Disability, the District of Oregon Gender Bias Committee and the ABA Litigation Section Class Actions Committee. Before he became a judge, he served six years, the last two as Chair, on the Council on Court Procedures. The list of past and present bar related activities and duties is extensive. He was also instrumental in helping British Columbia draft its first class action rules and statutes, working as a consultant with Canadian lawyers and the British Columbia Attorney General.

The judge has a firm opinion about the courthouse modernization issue: Oregon needs a new, modern courthouse, designed for 21st century technology and for the court's complex, highly varied case load. Judge Kantor points out that Multnomah County Circuit Court is where the people of Oregon choose to bring most of their major legal cases. It is the court of choice for most major businesses in the state. We should have a courthouse befitting the critical, state-wide public role the local court plays.

Originally authored by Michael Williams and printed in the April 2002 Multnomah Lawyer
Updated for the Internet in 2012