There is a conversation about race and privilege that I don’t think we’ve ever had openly in the Portland legal community. It’s a conversation we must begin with urgency—but also one we must begin with endurance, because meaningful change will take some time.
This conversation begins with a simple question: if you are a civil litigator, when was the last time you hired a private mediator from Oregon who isn’t white? It’s probably been a long time, and if you have spent your career litigating in Oregon, the answer could be never. The reality is that, more than occasionally, there have actually been no private mediators of color working civil litigation cases in Oregon.
Let’s begin the conversation now and not let ourselves off the hook because it’s an uncomfortable one–or because the historical, social, and economic explanations for why private mediators in Oregon are almost all white are complex—or because we don’t know how to solve this immediately. Traditional legal power structures here and elsewhere have typically benefitted experienced white lawyers and white mediators the most. Let’s just admit that we have a problem here in Oregon and say it out loud.
We all know that any good mediator with enough preparation can handle any kind of case, but sometimes you really need a mediator with a particular skillset, as well as a particular lived experience, to connect with your client and stand the best chance of being truly heard by both sides. As in the rest of life, race matters, representation matters, and life experience matters in resolving litigation. Lawyers and litigants need options for mediation that we are not currently offering them as a legal community. The lack of choice in Oregon extends to other mediators outside the dominant culture, such as LGBTQ mediators, mediators with disabilities, and mediators who are immigrants and first-generation Americans.
Our focus in 2021 is creating a pipeline of lawyers from outside the dominant culture who will train to become mediators with an eye to opening a mediation practice in the next five years.
Our efforts are modeled on the very successful Oregon Judicial Diversity Coalition, a project of legal affinity bars to recruit and support judicial candidates outside the dominant culture and those committed to diversity, equity, and inclusion principles for the bench.
The OMDP plans to offer a 40-hour mediation training in October and November to selected participants, each of whom will be paired with an established mediator or judge for mentorship and mediation shadowing. Applications for the training will be due in early June. If you are interested in the program, or want to nominate someone we should recruit for the program, please contact us!
MEET THE BOARD
JUDGE KATHARINE VON TER STEGGE
Multnomah County Circuit Court Judge
Circuit Court Judge Katharine von Ter Stegge was appointed to the bench by Governor Kate Brown in 2017, after a career trying both criminal and civil cases for Multnomah County and the State of Oregon. After graduating from the University of Virginia School of Law in 2002 and completing a federal district court clerkship, she began her career in Oregon as a Multnomah County Deputy District Attorney in 2004. A few years later, she took a job in the Trial Division of the Oregon Department of Justice, and later became a Senior Assistant Multnomah County Attorney. In her various roles as a government litigator she tried a broad spectrum of cases: criminal misdemeanors and felonies, juvenile dependency and delinquencies, as well as civil litigation in the areas of civil rights, employment discrimination, medical malpractice, wrongful death, guardianship, tax, and elections. She is proudest of her civil rights work representing Multnomah County in the successful 2014 challenge to Oregon’s constitutional provision banning gay marriage.
In her current work, Judge von Ter Stegge presides over a full docket of criminal and civil matters. She loves trials and settlement conferences. In her current work, she conducts judicial settlement conferences in a wide variety of civil cases, as well as major felony cases.
Bonnie has been practicing law since 1997 as a trial lawyer. She represents clients on a multitude of cases including legal and professional malpractice, trust and estate litigation, complex commercial litigation and insurance coverage disputes.
Bonnie currently serves as a board member of the Oregon Asian Pacific American Bar Association and has been an international representative for AFS Intercultural Programs - a nonprofit organization for cultural exchange. Bonnie is a national speaker on attorney legal malpractice and ethics, and she frequently presents at Continuing Legal Education seminars for attorneys for the Oregon State Bar, Multnomah Bar Association, the National Business Institute and many other organizations.
In 2016, The Multnomah Bar Association selected Bonnie as the recipient of its highest honor — the Professionalism Award. Bonnie has been selected for years as one of Oregon’s Super Lawyers®, where she is listed in the top 25 women lawyers in Oregon. In 2011, Bonnie received the Portland Business Journal award recognition for Forty Under 40 and in 2020, received the Portland Business Journal award recognition for Women of Influence. In 2009, Bonnie received the prestigious Multnomah Bar Association Pro Bono Award of Merit, recognizing her for exceptional legal services. Her commitment to justice was also acknowledged by the Oregon Trial Lawyers Association which featured Bonnie in the article "Making a Difference: Justice for Those in Need.”
ISELA RAMOS GONZALEZ
For over 15 years, Isela Ramos Gonzalez’s career has focused on labor and employment law, policy, and organizing. She is a graduate of Wellesley College and Northeastern University School of Law. She holds a Master’s degree in Public Policy. While in law school, Ms. Ramos Gonzalez was Co-Chair of the Latino Law Students Association, two-time recipient of the Peggy Browning Fellowship, and a judicial intern with the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit. Upon graduation, Ms. Ramos Gonzalez was selected into the Honors Attorney program with the National Labor Relations Board. Ms. Ramos Gonzalez is admitted to practice law in Oregon and her home state of California. She is proud of her experience as an immigration attorney with Innovation Law Lab’s Sheridan Pro Bono Project. She is a member of the Queen’s Bench Board of Directors (Oregon Women Lawyers Multnomah County). In 2020, she participated in the Hispanic National Bar Association’s Latina Leadership Academy and volunteered on the Oregon State Bar’s Covid-19 Pro Bono Panel. She recently joined the State of Oregon to help launch its new Paid Family and Medical Leave Insurance Program.
Jermaine Brown is an attorney at Markowitz Herbold PC. Prior to entering private practice, he served as an assistant attorney general at the Oregon Department of Justice where he primarily litigated consumer and child welfare cases. He also served as a special assistant counsel to former Oregon Governor John Kitzhaber where he represented multiple public bodies including Cover Oregon, the Office of the Governor, the Department of Human Services, the Department of Justice, the Department of Consumer and Business Services, and the Oregon Health Authority. Jermaine served as a law clerk for the Honorable Darleen Ortega of the Oregon Court of Appeals. Jermaine is a graduate of Harvard University and the University of Oregon School of Law.
Richard Vangelisti is a full time mediator based in Portland, Oregon. He has mediation experience in matters involving personal injury, employment, insurance, professional negligence, and business. Richard has mediation training from the National Judicial College and the United States District Court for the District of Oregon as well as negotiation training from the Harvard Law School Program on Negotiation. He has tried cases involving trade secrets, employment, wrongful death, landlord and retail premises liability, motor vehicle, bicycle, pedestrian, insurance, civil rights, medical care, and long‑term care. Richard is a former President of the Multnomah County Bar Association and the Oregon Chapter of the Federal Bar Association. He also is a former Chair of the Oregon Bench-Bar Joint Commission on Professionalism and Co-Chair of the Ninth Circuit Lawyer Representatives of Oregon to the Ninth Circuit Judicial Conference.
After graduating from Southern Methodist University Law School in 1995, where he was Editor-in-Chief of the SMU Law Review, he served as a law clerk to Chief Judge Richard A. Schell of the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Texas. Thereafter, Richard was an associate with Fulbright & Jaworski LLP (Dallas, TX) and then Stoel Rives LLP (Portland, OR) until 2003, when he began a fifteen-year career as a plaintiff’s lawyer.
Lawyer, Life Coach
Meredith Holley is a lawyer, life coach, and founder of Eris Conflict Resolution, where she helps professionals stop sexual harassment and keep their careers. Meredith is the author of two books: Career Defense 101: How to Stop Sexual Harassment Without Quitting Your Job and The Inclusive Leader's Guide to Healthy Workplace Culture. Early in her legal career, Meredith encountered sexual harassment that she was afraid could end her career. After, researching and looking for solutions for around a year, she found tools allowed her to encounter the harassment so differently that her harasser apologized, stopped touching her, and they worked together safely for years after. Now, Meredith teaches those tools in Career Defense Training.
Before becoming a lawyer, Meredith was a Peace Corps Volunteer in Ukraine. Meredith's favorite things are a long chat with a friend, a glass of wine, a metaphysical podcast, a bouquet of peonies, and her puppy Pema.