About Justice Courts
Since the elected position of Sherman County Justice of the Peace is contested this year it provides an ideal opportunity for Sherman County residents to learn a little bit more about the history of Justice Courts in Oregon and Sherman County.
The following text of this paragraph is excerpted from a presentation that Ron gave to the Association of Oregon Counties County College in 2017. Justice Courts in Oregon predate statehood, with the first Justice Court being established in what would become Oregon in 1847. The territorial acts that set forth the creation and operation of Justice of the Peace Courts were essentially adopted as state statutes when the State of Oregon was created in 1859. Justice Courts were created and their powers vested under Article VII (amended) of the Oregon Constitution. In 1916, in Webster v. Boyer, the Oregon Supreme Court found that Justices of the Peace are “Judges”, and Justice Courts are “Courts” under Article VII, Sections 1 and 2 of the Oregon Constitution. While Justice Courts are “state courts” by virtue of being part of the judicial branch of state government, they are not part of the Oregon Judicial Department.
Soon after Sherman County was formed in 1889, a Justice of the Peace district was created for each voting precinct that existed at the time. In 1948, the number of Justice of the Peace districts was reduced to one, encompassing the entire county. Records indicate that over the most recent 70 years, 9 persons have served as Justice of the Peace, including Ryland Scott, Ben Galloway, Darwin Van Gilder, Keith McDonald, Bob Davis, Darlene Thenell, Cathie Martin, Kate Martin, and Ron McDermid.