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MailTribune.com
  • WOMEN IN POWER

    Women hold top state, local criminal justice posts

    They hold top spots in Oregon, Jackson County criminal justice
  • For the first time, the top places in criminal justice in Oregon and Jackson County are held by women.
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  • For the first time, the top places in criminal justice in Oregon and Jackson County are held by women.
    Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum, U.S. Attorney Amanda Marshall and Jackson County District Attorney Beth Heckert all ascended to their posts this year.
    Heckert is joined by Kris Allison, Central Point's first female police chief, and two judges on the Circuit Court, Lisa Greif and Pat Crain, not to mention several prosecuting attorneys who are women.
    While the women acknowledge this represents a gender shift from decades past, they say more progress is needed in professions that continue to be predominantly male.
    "We're all where we are because we deserve it," says Marshall. "But it would seem ungrateful not to acknowledge this significant change."
    Nominated for the position by President Barack Obama, Marshall, 43, assumed office in October 2011. She's one of 21 female U.S. attorneys, who make up 23 percent of the 93 attorneys throughout the nation and its territories.
    "In my mind, we still have a long way to go," she says.
    Ellen Rosenblum, 62, graduated law school in the mid-1970s. It has taken decades for women to ascend to the top leadership positions in the state, she says, because newly fledged attorneys were acquiring the necessary work experience while society slowly shifted its perspective on the professional female.
    "I'm really pleased to be the first" female attorney general in Oregon, Rosenblum says. "But I'd be more pleased to be the 10th."
    Heckert, 50, handily beat her two male candidates in the 2012 primary election. She has been with the DA's office for her entire 25-year career, during which she's seen "big changes."
    "When I first started, there weren't any women judges, and only two women police officers," Heckert says, adding she was often mistaken for a secretary in her early days as a prosecutor.
    Now the DA's office is one-third female, and about half of law school attendees are women, Heckert says.
    "But I remember those early days where I'd be talking to someone about a case, and they'd say, 'OK, honey, that's very nice. But I'd like to talk to the lawyer now,' " Heckert says, shaking her head.
    "I don't know if I was really offended. But I do remember saying, 'Sir, you have been talking to the lawyer.' "
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