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Oregon Capitol building

The government of the U.S. state of Oregon, as prescribed by the Oregon Constitution, is composed of three government branches: the executive, legislative, and judicial. These branches operate in a manner similar to that of the federal government of the United States.[1]

Oregon also has a system of commissions, wherein private citizens are appointed by the Governor and confirmed by the Senate; these commissions have the authority to hire and fire the heads of the agencies they govern, and must confirm changes to the permanent rules governing those agencies.[2]



In 1857, leaders of the Oregon Territory gathered at the Oregon Constitutional Convention and drafted a constitution for Oregon.[3] On November 9, 1857, Oregon voters approved its first constitution that then became effective upon statehood on February 14, 1859.[3] The constitution was unchanged for the remainder of the 19th century, but has been amended numerous times since 1902. The changes include the introduction of a direct legislation system, which enabled numerous popular decisions via initiative, both to the constitution and to the Oregon Revised Statutes.

The current document contains eighteen sections, beginning with a bill of rights.[4] Oregon’s bill of rights contains most of the rights and privileges granted in the United States Bill of Rights and the main text of the United States Constitution. The remainder of the Oregon Constitution outlines the divisions of power within the state government, times of elections, designating the state capitol, the state boundaries. The original implementation provisions included a vote excluding African-Americans from the state.[4]

Executive branch

Legislative branch


Oregon System

Judicial branch

The Oregon Supreme Court Building

Oregon's state level judicial branch of government consists of the Oregon Judicial Department (OJD) which operates four state run court systems. Two of these courts are primarily trial level courts, while the other two are primarily courts of appeal. The chief executive of the OJD is the Chief Justice of the Oregon Supreme Court.[6] At the local level are some justice courts, municipal courts, and county courts.[7]

The Oregon Supreme Court is located in the Oregon Supreme Court Building in Salem. It consist of seven judges that are elected to six year terms in state-wide popular elections, with vacancies filled by appointment by the Governor of Oregon. As the highest court in the state, it is the final authority on state law and its decisions can only be overturned by the United States Supreme Court. The court is headed by the Chief Justice, who is elected to a six year term by fellow justices.[6]

Oregon’s Court of Appeals is an intermediate court of appeals hearing appeals from decisions of both civil and criminal cases decided at the trial court level. This court has ten judges that in most cases sit in three judge panels to determine the outcome of appeals. The judges are also elected state-wide to six-year terms, with vacancies filed by appointment of the governor. The Oregon Supreme Court’s Chief Justice appoints one of the ten judges to serve as Chief Judge, who acts as the head of the Court of Appeals. Appeals from decisions of this court go to the Oregon Supreme Court.[6]

The OJD operates the Oregon Circuit Courts, which are 27 trial level court districts across the state that receive both civil and criminal court cases. As of January 2007, the courts had 173 judges spread over the 27 districts that cover the state’s 36 circuit courts. The majority of appeals from the Circuit Courts go to the Oregon Court of Appeals. Some limited cases go directly to the Oregon Supreme Court if appealed from at the trial court level.[6]

Cases involving issues of taxation are handled primarily through the Oregon Tax Court. This court has two divisions, with the Magistrate Division being an informal process appearing more like alternative dispute resolution. The Regular Division is a formal court headed by a single Tax Court judge elected to six-year terms on a state-wide basis. Appeals from the Magistrate Division go to the Regular Division, and appeals from decisions of this court go directly to the Oregon Supreme Court.[6]

State agencies


  1. ^ "Constitution or Oregon: Article III". Retrieved 2007-08-22.  
  2. ^ Russell Sadler (February 5, 2005). "A Recent History of Oregon's Citizen Boards and Commissions". West by Northwest.  
  3. ^ a b Oregon Blue Book: Constitution of Oregon. Oregon Secretary of State, accessed October 19, 2007.
  4. ^ a b Constitution of Oregon: 2005 Edition. Oregon Legislature, accessed October 19, 2007.
  5. ^ Oregon Secretary of State Archives Division
  6. ^ a b c d e An Introduction to the Courts of Oregon. Oregon Judicial Department. Retrieved on August 25, 2007.
  7. ^ Other Courts. Oregon Judicial Department. Retrieved on February 18, 2009.

External links


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