Salem, OR (STL.News) Governor Kate Brown announced today that she will appoint Jennifer Gardiner and Erious Johnson to the Marion County Circuit Court. Gardiner is currently a hearings referee in Marion County, and will fill the vacancy created by the retirement of Judge Cheryl Pellegrini. Johnson is an attorney in private practice, and will fill the vacancy created by the retirement of Judge Susan Tripp. Both appointments are effective immediately.
“Both of these talented individuals bring deep legal experience to the bench, as well as important perspectives on the different ways judges can work to improve access to justice and reduce systemic barriers in our legal system,” said Governor Brown. “I am excited to see them take their places on the Marion County bench.”
Gardiner was born in Klamath Falls and earned her bachelor’s degree from Stanford University in 1994. After college, Gardiner worked as a staff and legislative assistant for Congressman Esteban Torres of California. She then went on to earn her law degree from the University of Notre Dame Law School in 2000. Upon graduation, Gardiner worked for two years as a litigation associate for the San Francisco law firm of Sheppard Mullin Richter & Hampton. She then moved to Oregon, where she served as a deputy district attorney in Yamhill County for six years, as a senior assistant attorney general at the Oregon Department of Justice Criminal Justice Division for one year, and as a deputy district attorney in Marion County for seven years.
Since 2018, Gardiner has served as one of Marion County’s hearings referees, presiding over thousands of cases, making her well positioned to hit the ground running in her new role. As part of her work as a referee, Gardiner presides over the TOT treatment court, which strives to connect pregnant mothers with a history of drug addiction to services to help support healthy pregnancies. Gardiner is active in the community, serving on the bench’s LGBTQ Workgroup, the State Family Law Advisory Committee, as a Willamette Law Student Mentor, and has served as a Mock Trial Team Instructor at West Salem High School. Gardiner is a member of the Marion County Bar Association, the local Inn of Court, and Oregon Women Lawyers, and has given a number of training presentations for the Department of Justice, the Marion County Sheriff’s Office, and the Salem and Keizer police departments.
Johnson grew up in Queens, New York, and graduated from the John Jay College of Criminal Justice in 1991. After receiving his law degree with honors from Howard University School of Law in 2002, Johnson spent two years as a litigation associate at the major New York law firm of Sullivan and Cromwell, then went on to work for four years as a litigator and trial attorney in the New York City Law Department in the torts division. Johnson then clerked for the New York State Supreme Court (the trial-level court for that state) for nearly three years before moving to his wife’s hometown of Salem, Oregon and opening a solo practice. He went on to work as the Civil Rights Director for the Oregon Department of Justice for three years, and then resumed his solo practice in Salem in 2017, which he has maintained ever since, doing primarily criminal defense and plaintiff-side civil rights cases. He also served as chief legislative director for Representative Janelle Bynum during the 2018 legislative session.
Johnson is active in the community. He mentors law students, volunteers for the classroom law project, serves as a volunteer fee arbitrator through the Oregon State Bar, and is a frequent speaker and writer on topics related to civil rights. Johnson is a member of the Willamette Valley American Inn of Court, the Marion County Bar Association, the Oregon Criminal Defense Lawyers Association, the Marion County Association of Defenders, and the OSB board of delegates. Johnson is also a board member for the Oregon Trial Lawyers Association, and co-chairs that organization’s civil rights section. He lives with his wife in Salem, where in their spare time they raise chickens.