Judge Leslie Roberts

Multnomah County Circuit Court Judge Leslie Roberts

Judge Roberts is the daughter of Frank and Mary Roberts. Her father was one of the founding faculty of Portland State University, serving from its inception as Vanport Extension Center in 1946 to his retirement in 1982. Leslie grew up in West Linn and graduated from West Linn High School in 1965.

Leslie attended Reed College in Portland and earned her Bachelors of Arts in History in 1969. She was elected to membership in Phi Beta Kappa. Following Reed, she attended Yale Law School, entering in the fall of 1969 and graduated with a JD degree in 1972. Others in the group of approximately 20 women who matriculated in that class included Kris Olson, former US Attorney for Oregon; Susan Graber, Judge of the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals; and Senator Hillary Clinton.

In the fall of 1972, following the OSB Exam, Leslie began a clerkship for the late Arno Denecke. Justice Denecke, a former judge of the Multnomah County Circuit Court, served on the Oregon Supreme Court from 1963 to 1982, and as its Chief Justice from 1976 to 1982. Leslie served as his clerk until the fall of 1974.

Following the clerkship, Leslie began the practice of law. Over the years, she practiced in a two person partnership, Lyon & Roberts, and then with Kell Alterman & Runstein, which she joined as a partner in 1975. In 1985, she joined the newly formed firm of Josselson, Sullivan, Roberts, Johnson & Kloos, emphasizing real estate and land use issues. She continued with that firm, which became Josselson, Potter & Roberts, until assuming the bench in January 2007, after her election to the circuit court in November 2006. During her later practice years, she focused on litigation in contract, business and securities. She also provided representation to municipal government special districts.

During her years in practice, Leslie served on the Multnomah County Circuit Court Arbitration Commission; Multnomah County Rural Fire Protection District 10, as a Director; and as a member of the US District Court mediation panel. She is a former Co-Chair, Multnomah County Small-Firm Committee, of the Campaign for Equal Justice; a member of the Court Appointed Special Advocates Association; a former Board Member, ACLU, national board and Oregon affiliate board; and a former president of Northwest Environmental Defense Center. She chaired the Arbitration and Mediation Section, the Health Law Section, and the Ethics Committee of the OSB, served on the Disciplinary Board and was an editor for the OSB CLE, Arbitration and Mediation, from its first publication in 1996.

A biographical statement about Judge Roberts cannot be complete without focusing briefly on her marriage and family. In 1984, she married Rex Armstrong, who was also practicing at Kell Alterman & Runstein. He was elected in 1994 to a vacancy on the Oregon Court of Appeals, following the retirement of Judge Kurt Rossman, and continues to serve on that court. Judge Armstrong and Judge Roberts have two children by birth, and eight others by adoption. All of the adoptions have been of children from the Peoples Republic of China and occurred from 1996 through 2007. Most of the children have been able to accompany Rex and Leslie to China for each adoption. "China is endlessly fascinating," Judge Roberts says. She speaks enough Mandarin to get by in China, but her constant concern is that the adopted children retain their native language as well as learn English. She comments that children are "chameleons for language" at the young ages of the adoptions and pick up English with amazing ease; but constant work is required to be sure they retain their native Cantonese or Mandarin.

Judge Roberts and Judge Armstrong are active in the adoption community. They are also active in Families with Children from China, a nondenominational organization of families who have adopted children from China.

Originally authored by Doug Bray and printed in the April 2007 Multnomah Lawyer
Updated for the Internet in 2012