September 1 2021
Elisabeth Shepard, Communications Director
DA Mike Schmidt announces career defense attorney Ernie Warren as head of Justice Integrity Unit
PORTLAND, Ore. – Today, Multnomah County District Attorney Mike Schmidt announced that Ernest “Ernie” Warren, defense attorney of over 30 years and founder of first Black-owned defense law firm in Oregon has joined the Multnomah County District Attorney’s Office (MCDA). Warren will be leading the Justice Integrity Unit (JIU), which is a newly funded program to MCDA. Similar units can be found across the country in progressive prosecutors’ offices in an effort to rethink what justice looks like.
Warren has been vocal about holding the District Attorney’s office accountable to carrying out justice fairly and equitably as well as the deep racial disparities in our criminal justice system throughout his career. Warren’s move to dissolve his firm and work for MCDA is unprecedented given his track record of high-stakes wins in the courtroom as a defense attorney and is a bellwether to the bold reforms sought by the Schmidt administration.
“Working for the top prosecutor in the county and running the Justice Integrity Unit is not a departure from my zealous advocacy for accountability and fairness in the system or the roots I’ve grown in the community after 30 years of this work. Instead, this role is an inflection point in a career devoted to seeking justice, where I can do the most possible good for the greatest number of people impacted by the criminal justice system.” Warren stated.
Warren brings expertise in criminal defense and civil law, serving as General Counsel for Portland Community Reinvestment Initiatives (PCRI) Inc. prior to joining MCDA. He has been the managing partner of a successful law firm for 30 years, accruing several awards including this year’s Oregon State Bar Diversity Section’s Distinguished Service Award. Born and raised in Portland, Warren attended Willamette University earning a Bachelor’s degree in Economics, followed by the Atkinson’s School of Management before pursuing a law degree at Arizona State University. A veteran mentor to clients, gang-impacted youth, students, new attorneys and more Warren has dedicated himself to service well beyond his law practice.
“Justice doesn’t stop at the conclusion of a trial, it includes critically evaluating past convictions, ensuring current reliance on forensic evidence is well placed, re-examining old sentences that may no longer be necessary for the safety of the community, and giving people who have served their time a chance to move on with their lives by expunging past convictions and eliminating fines and fees that can keep people in downward debt spirals. This requires a mechanism within the justice system. The JIU provides that mechanism. Warren at the helm provides assurance it will be carried out with fairness and equity as a north star,” DA Mike Schmidt stated.