Judge Darlene Ortega honored for work with minorities

Judge Darlene Ortega will be honored by the Oregon Women Lawyers Foundation on March 11.Her work to promote minorities in the legal profession earned the Honorable Darlene Ortega, a judge on the Oregon Court of Appeals since 2003, recognition from the Oregon Women Lawyers Foundation this spring.

Ortega, a 1984 graduate of George Fox University and 1989 graduate of the University of Michigan Law School, was presented the 19th annual Judge Mercedes Deiz Award at the OWL Foundation’s 2011 Robert Deiz Awards Dinner on Friday, March 11, at the Governor Hotel in Portland.

The award annually recognizes an individual who has made an outstanding contribution to promoting minorities in the legal profession and in the community. The recipient of the award “is a person who has influenced minorities to pursue legal careers, opened doors for minority attorneys, or advanced opportunities for minorities within the profession,” according to the OWL website. It is named for Judge Deiz, who, in 1960, was admitted to the bar and became the first black woman lawyer to practice in Oregon.

Judge Ortega has been described as a “fearless advocate” for minority law students. She consistently dedicates herself to helping ethnic and minority students and practicing attorneys, hosting weekly debriefing sessions for minority law students at Oregon’s law schools.

In doing so, she provides a forum and safe environment for those seeking advice and discussing their feelings and experiences as minority law students. Her work has inspired these students to excel in law school and to take leadership roles.

“She is approachable, supportive, and gives generously of herself,” said one nominator of Ortega. “Judge Ortega’s warmth and generosity as a person has provided a generation of minority law students with a compassionate and brilliant mentor. Her passion to support, provide opportunities and open doors for minority law students is evident in everything she does.”

After graduating from law school, Ortega practiced law in Detroit before returning to Portland, Ore., where she specialized in complex civil cases and appeals. In 2003, Governor Ted Kulongoski appointed her as a judge on the Oregon Court of Appeals, where she currently serves. She is the first woman of Hispanic heritage and the first woman of color to serve on the court.