Judge Kelly SkyeJudge Kelly Skye

Multnomah County Circuit Court Judge Kelly Skye

When appointing his then General Counsel Kelly Skye to the seat vacated by Judge Kristena LaMar, Governor Ted Kulongoski stated, "Kelly has been thoughtful and thorough in her counsel to me over the years ranging from legal and policy advice to legislative advocacy and conflict resolution. Her patience and balanced temperament, along with her knowledge of the law and justice system at every level, prepare her to continue serving the people of Oregon as a circuit court judge. I am sorry to lose her counsel but the citizens of Multnomah County are gaining an exceptional public servant."

Judge Kelly Skye is a native Oregonian, having attended Sunset High School and the U of O. She was drawn across the country to Northeastern University School of Law because of its excellent public interest law program.

Shortly after graduating from law school, Judge Skye returned to her home state and began to work in the Portland office of the Metropolitan Public Defenders. While there, Judge Skye handled all types of cases, from misdemeanors and felonies in the adult system, to juvenile delinquency and dependency cases. She represented clients involved in civil commitments, the STOP drug court and community courts as well. Her accomplishments led her to be promoted to a senior attorney at Metro, and ultimately to chief misdemeanor attorney,where she was responsible for training and supervising certified law students and misdemeanor lawyers who were generally new to the practice of law. During this time, Judge Skye was also an adjunct faculty member at Lewis & Clark Law School teaching the criminal clinical internship seminar.

It was also at Metro that Judge Skye met her husband. They have two children.

During the 2003 and 2005 Oregon legislative sessions, Judge Skye took some time off from trial work and lobbied on behalf of the Oregon Criminal Defense Lawyers Association. The 2003 session was famous for being Oregon's longest session to date. In 2005, Judge Skye worked with members of the House and Senate Judiciary Committees on key pieces of legislation including the methamphetamine packages and codifying new sentencing laws in light of the United States Supreme Court's ruling in Blakely v. Washington.

Not long after the 2005 session, Judge Skye was hired by Governor Kulongoski as deputy general counsel. Within two short years, she was general counsel. Judge Skye was a member of the governor's executive team, meeting with him regularly to discuss executive policy and budget issues. Day-to-day responsibilities included providing legal advice to the governor and his staff on a broad range of issues including constitutional executive authority and separation of powers, ethics, political restrictions on public employees, and public records and meetings laws. She worked with the Department of Justice to monitor and direct major state litigation of particular interest to Governor Kulongoski. Judge Skye was responsible for drafting executive orders, reviewing legislation (recommending bills for signature), overseeing the state's extradition program, clemency application processes, and the appointment processes for judges and district attorneys. She also sat on the Governor's Homeland Security Council and the Office of Administrative Hearings Oversight Committee.

She speaks fondly of many of the projects she worked on while at the governor's office, but a few really stood out during the interview. First, she was the governor's liaison to Oregon's nine federally-recognized Indian tribes. As a tribal member herself, Judge Skye thoroughly enjoyed meeting all of the tribal leaders in the state and working with them on varied policy areas from tribal gaming to hunting and fishing rights as well as jurisdictional issues.

Judge Skye staffed the Governor's Task Force on Equality, assisting in drafting their final report and the two bills the task force sponsored - HB 2007 creating domestic partnerships and SB 2, prohibiting discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. She also worked with the legislature on reforms to state ethics laws and updating the Oregon Tort Claims Act after Clarke v. OHSU.

In her spare time Judge Skye enjoys skiing, hiking, camping, running rivers, reading, coaching her kids' soccer teams and running. She ran (and finished!) the Eugene marathon in 2009.

When asked what an attorney appearing before her for the first time should know, Judge Skye was thoughtful and remembered the advice she used to give to the attorneys she supervised at Metro. "Nothing is more important than always acting with professionalism - all you have is your integrity."

Authored by Heidi Moawad and originally published in the March 2010 Multnomah Lawyer

Updated for the Internet in 2012