Thomas Balmer

Profile Updated: May 16, 2024
Residing In Portland, OR USA
Spouse/Partner Mary Louise McClintock
Occupation Judge
Children Rebecca Balmer, born 1986 (Oberlin 2009); Paul Balmer, born 1990

After graduation, I went to law school at the University of Chicago, graduating in 1977. That summer, Oberlin classmate Velia Fowler and I got married in California, and I started my legal career at a Boston law firm, while she continued working on her PhD in cell biology at Harvard. After about two years, we moved to Washington DC where I worked first at the US Dept of Justice and then at a DC firm, and Velia had a post-doc at NIH. The marriage didn't last.

In 1982, I decided to return to my hometown of Portland, Oregon, where I practiced for 20 years, mostly doing civil and business litigation, antitrust, government regulatory work, and appeals. I also taught antitrust law as an adjunct professor for several years and wrote newspaper op-eds and law review articles on an array of topics from antitrust to state and federal constitutional law, legal history, and O.W. Holmes. From 1993-97, I was fortunate to serve as Chief Deputy Attorney General of Oregon, supervising the state's legal work, advising elected officials on administrative and constitutional issues, defending Oregon's assisted suicide law, and arguing before the US Supreme Court.

Meanwhile, in 1984, I married Mary Louise McClintock, an Oregonian whom I had met in Washington, and who worked on child care, family leave, and related policy issues for the state and then for the Oregon Community Foundation, where she became a senior advisor on education policy and strategy.

Our daughter Rebecca was born in 1986 and graduated from Oberlin in 2009! After graduation, she joined the Peace Corps and spent several years teaching in Mozambique. On returning, she moved to NY to go into acting, while supporting herself as a nanny, waiter, etc. In her early 30s (despite, or maybe because of, studied parental neutrality) she decided to go to law school, graduated from Brooklyn Law School last year, and is now an associate at a large NY law firm, working on business immigration matters. She is married to Ben Reese, who does something in tech I don't understand.

Our second, Paul, was born in 1990, went to Pomona, and then spent five years as legislative aide to our member of Congress, Earl Blumenauer. He and girlfriend (now wife) Molly Johnson moved to California, where he went to Berkeley Law, and then back to Portland, where he is a litigation associate at a Portland firm. They had our first grandchild, Ansel Earnest Balmer, now two, and are expecting another boy in late June. We feel very fortunate to have them close by!

To wrap up the career saga . . . In 2001, I was appointed to the Oregon Supreme Court, where I served until Dec 2022, including six years (2012-2018) as Chief Justice. I ran for the seat (as required by law) in 2002 and had no opponent, and I was re-elected every six years until I retired. I loved the work of being an appellate judge (and also, as Chief Justice, the administrative head of the Oregon judiciary) which I like to think was a good fit for my skill set, and I feel lucky that the stars aligned for me serve in those roles.

I am now a senior judge, filling in on appellate or trial courts from time to time. I also do some private arbitration and mediation. And I am a member of the American Law Institute and its governing Council, which is intellectually engaging and (hopefully) useful work.

Mary Louise (also retired) and I love to travel, hike, run, bicycle, read, do the Connections puzzle in the NYT, and spend time with our children and grandchildren. I play tennis once or twice a week and get together with friends several times a year to play guitars and sing the classics -- Bob Dylan, Beatles, etc!

Likelihood of attending the 50th Reunion

Yes, for sure

Did you spend a semester (or more) away from Oberlin before graduating?

Yes. I spent my junior year in Edinburgh, Scotland (Tom Hamburger in our class was also in Edinburgh, and Tom McGowan was in Aberdeen).

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May 16, 2024 at 3:37 PM
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Apr 23, 2024 at 2:03 PM
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Tom and Mary Louise with our daughter Rebecca (OC '09) at her wedding in March 2022
Posted: May 11, 2024 at 1:46 PM