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Governor Kate Brown Appoints Judges to the Clatsop and Columbia County Circuit Courts

SALEM – Governor Kate Brown announced today that she will appoint Kirk Wintermute to the Clatsop County Circuit Court and Denise Espinoza Keppinger to the Columbia County Circuit Court.

Wintermute is currently a criminal defense attorney in Clatsop County and will fill the vacancy created by the retirement of Judge Cindee S. Matyas. Keppinger is a deputy district attorney focused on treatment courts in the Columbia County District Attorney’s office and will fill the vacancy created by the retirement of Judge Ted E. Grove. Both appointments are effective immediately.

“Both of these talented individuals bring deep legal experience to the bench, as well as important perspectives on the different ways the justice system can work to protect the community, while at the same time supporting our most vulnerable Oregonians,” said Governor Brown. “I am excited to see the contributions they will make to the Clatsop and Columbia County Circuit Courts.”

Kirk Wintermute (Clatsop County)

Wintermute grew up in Astoria and attended local public schools. He earned his bachelor’s degree and law degree from the University of Oregon. After graduating from law school, Wintermute returned to Astoria and has practiced criminal defense with the firm of Kaino and Wintermute ever since. As part of his work, Wintermute serves as the defense counsel representative for the Clatsop County Mental Health Treatment Court. In addition to his law practice, Wintermute has also served as a part-time pro tem judge for the City of Astoria Municipal Court since 2014, and as an instructor in the Clatsop Community College Criminal Justice Program. Active in his community, Wintermute serves as a member of the Clatsop County Public Safety Coordinating Council, the Clatsop County Pre-Trial Release Workgroup, the Clatsop Community College Criminal Justice Regional Advisory Committee, and the Jail Relocation Advisory Committee. Wintermute also serves as board president for both the local chapter of the National Alliance on Mental Health and local nonprofit LiFEBoat Services, is the vice president of the Clatsop County Bar Association, and is a member of the Rotary Club, ACLU of Oregon, and the Oregon Criminal Defense Lawyers Association.

Denise Espinoza Keppinger (Columbia County)

Keppinger was raised in Arizona, earned her bachelor’s degree from Loyola Marymount University, and obtained her law degree from the University of Oregon in 2003. Keppinger started her legal career at the Marion County District Attorney’s office. From there, she worked at St. Andrew’s Legal Clinic from 2005 to 2006, and was a deputy district attorney in the Columbia County District Attorney’s office. For three years, from 2014 to 2017, she operated her own firm that focused on family law, but ultimately returned to the Columbia County District Attorney’s office in 2018. As the Justice Reinvestment Prosecutor for the county, Keppinger has been instrumental in building and working in treatment courts to better serve the public. Keppinger is very involved in the Columbia County community. Among other things, she is a board member of SAFE of Columbia County, Columbia County Legal Aid, and the Columbia Community Mental Health Board. She is also a member of the Local Public Safety Coordinating Council, Local Behavioral Health Advisory Committee, Oregon Center on Behavioral Health and Justice Integration Steering Committee, and the Oregon Minority Lawyers Association. 

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