Judge Maureen McKnight

Multnomah County Circuit Court Chief Family Court Judge Marureen McKnight

Judge McKnight grew up in a family shaped by her father's career as an officer in the United States Navy. She lived the early years of her life in Hawaii, Southern California, Washington, D.C., and Japan as the family moved with her father's career. Finally, the family settled back in Southern California for her teenage years, where she attended a small Catholic high school.

She was an avid reader as a child; reading was so fundamental a source of enjoyment in her life that family discipline consisted of locking up her library card. Academic study was encouraged by a parental policy of no television on school nights _ a deprivation she remembers to this day.

In 1971, Maureen entered Loyola University of Los Angeles, her father's alma mater. She finished her baccalaureate degree, in history, in three years. She graduated summa cum laude in 1974, earning the Dockweiler Medal for Excellence in History. During her final year, she applied for the Jesuit Volunteer Corps, a Jesuit program similar to the Volunteers In Service To America (VISTA), focused on social justice. She was accepted and selected Portland.

Maureen arrived in Portland in August 1974. Her placement with JVC was to be a staff assistant for the Metropolitan Public Defender (MPD), where she was assigned to be the trial assistant to attorneys Ancer Haggerty and Gregory Hawkes. It was an extraordinary year for a young woman from a Catholic home and education. She learned to overcome her "culture shock" and is grateful to this day to U.S. District Court Judge Ancer Haggerty for his patience and coaching as one of her supervising attorneys. When her year with the JVC was completed, she stayed on at MPD for a second year.

Judge McKnight subsequently enrolled at the U of O School of Law. In her second year there, she signed up for the Legal Aid Clinic, taught by Ellen Rosenblum, who was then a Eugene attorney and a fairly recent graduate of the U of O School of Law, and now is a judge with the Oregon Court of Appeals. Maureen continued volunteering for Lane County Legal Aid Services through her third year of law school and graduated in 1979.

After graduation, Judge McKnight was hired by Lane County Legal Aid Services, where she remained for one year. She moved to Portland and worked, in succession, for Oregon Legal Services, Multnomah County Legal Aid Services, and Legal Aid Services of Oregon. At the time of her appointment to the circuit court, she was the Director of the Multnomah County office for Legal Aid Services in Oregon.

Judge Marilyn Litzenberger has said, "Maureen McKnight's name is synonymous with public service." Judge McKnight has served significantly in the areas of domestic violence and family law on the council, committee, commission and task force levels, throughout the state. She has served as a member, co-chair and chair of these various groups.

In 2000, Judge McKnight received the "Justice Betty Roberts Award for Promoting Women in the Legal Profession and the Community" from OWLS, and the "Public Service Award" from the OSB. She has been given "Legal Advocate" recognition by the ABA's Commission on Domestic Violence and she received the "Child Support Advocate of the Year" award by the Western Interstate Child Support Enforcement Commission.

Judge McKnight believes that taking the bench is very humbling and very rewarding. While always comfortable dealing with pro se parties, she has noted her appreciation for the professionalism and the patience of the trial bars, especially in areas of law newer to her. She is also grateful to Dale Koch, Presiding Judge, and Elizabeth Welch, former Chief Family Court Judge, for their support since coming onto the bench. As an attorney, Maureen made it a part of her life to mentor new lawyers. As a judge, she has received the same assistance from her colleagues on the circuit court and from members of the bar. She is grateful for that help and excited by being in a position to bring competing parties together to address an issue from a problem-solving standpoint. She feels very fortunate to be a circuit court judge and looks forward to each day of service.

Originally authored by Doug Bray and printed in the December 2002 Multnomah Lawyer
Updated for the Internet in 2012