Our Attorneys

Mary Skjelset 

Mary Skjelset



Mary specializes in civil rights and discrimination litigation with a particular emphasis on the rights of children in state custody. Since 2014, she has teamed with the firm on a variety of cases, including multi-million dollar civil rights, medical malpractice, tort and contract claims in both federal and state courts. Most notably, Mary was integral to the firm's advocacy in the A.G., et al v. DHS, et al case, which culminated in the largest DHS payout in state history—a $15 million award to the child plaintiffs abused in foster care.

Mary takes seriously her responsibility of zealous advocacy and approaches each case with competence and curiosity. She enjoys learning, and relishes the opportunity to understand the ins-and-outs of the organization, industry or science at issue in each case. She also has a knack for identifying and securing experts in any field, but above all Mary prioritizes client communication and rapport. She knows that litigation can feel daunting and difficult, especially for people who have experienced significant hardship, loss or abuse.  

Mary understands the impact of systemic abuse, because she started her legal career at the Juvenile Rights Project, Inc. (now Youth Rights and Justice), the state’s pre-eminent nonprofit legal advocacy firm dedicated exclusively to improving the lives of vulnerable children and families. In her many years at YRJ, she defended children in delinquency proceedings, advocated for children and families in dependency cases, coordinated with schools to craft appropriate Individual Education Plans (IEPs), fought school expulsions of indigent youth, challenged conditions of confinement in youth correctional facilities, helped transition young inmates into the community, handled probate guardianships on behalf of grandparents, filed successful Special Immigrant Juvenile Status (SIJS) petitions on behalf of abused, undocumented children, and wrote successful clemency petitions for children of color who received inordinate adult sentences.

When not representing children in need, Mary prefers to spend time outdoors with her family, camping, hiking, backpacking, fishing and clamming. She also plays soccer around town and has a regular yoga practice.

Bar Admissions and Professional Memberships

  • Oregon State Bar
  • United States District Court, Oregon
  • Oregon State Bar Civil Rights Section
  • Oregon State Juvenile Law Section
  • American Bar Association

Relevant Published Works and Presentations

  • Presenter, Oregon Youth Authority Panel, OSB Spring Juvenile Law Seminar, 2009
  • Presenter, It Ain’t Over ‘Til It’s Over: Appeals, Post-Adjudication Relief, Clemency and Other Post-Dispositional Proceedings in Delinquency and Dependency Proceedings, OSB Spring Juvenile Law Seminar, 2008
  • Author, Youth Rights in State Custody, Oregon State Bar Juvenile Law CLE, 2007
  • Editor, Youth Faces the Law, 2006, 2008

Non-legal Published Books

  • Author, Hiking Mount Rainier National Park, Falcon Guide, 1999, 2006, 2014, 2018
  • Author, Best Easy Day Hikes Mount Rainier, Falcon Guide, 1999, 2006, 2014, 2018


  • Pro bono attorney for VAWA petitions through VRLC, 2017-present
  • Volunteer yoga instructor for incarcerated youth through Living Yoga, 2015-2017

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