Judicial elections occur May 20, 2008. The Oregon State Bar folded like a cheap suit in refusing to provide the public with formal statewide judicial evaluations proposed in 2004. So, where do you go to find information as to who is running and their judicial qualifications? The simple dance in Oregon is for the governor to appoint judges before the election so they can run as incumbents. For the incumbents, a statewide judicial evaluation program would provide a meaningful tool for the public to use to decide if the local judges running for election are worth their salt. CONSEQUENTLY, HERE ARE MY JUDICIAL EVALUATIONS YOU WILL GET NO WHERE ELSE!
Where to find the information? The first logical place to go might be the major newspaper, the Oregonian. There you will find only an article where a prosecutor is trying to replace a public defender appointed by the governor. The article points out how seldom anyone challenges an incumbent. You can also go to OregonLive. com-news-politics&elections-voter guide. The next place is the Secretary of State which publishes the voter's guide. Stumbling there one finds out an interesting fact. Certain incumbent judges do not have to run in the primary under Oregon law. Next, one could try the Oregon Judicial Department. They apologize that their website will be revised soon and tell you to go to the Oregon State Bar website. But, wait, aren't they (the Oregon State Bar) the ones who chickened out on judicial evaluations? Moreover, their site -- 2008 OSB judicial candidate voting guide -- is edited by Kateri Walsh who is the PR person for the Oregon State Bar and used to work for the Oregonian. Smell a rat? There is the Oregon Blue Book which provides nice pictures of the incumbent judges. Finally, many judges may be in wikipedia and may be googled by listing their name and the words 'oregon lawyer' or 'oregon judge' in the google bar.
Who is Running? By my count there are 58 judicial positions up for election just now. There is even one Oregon Supreme Court position and one Oregon Court of Appeals judge position open. Sadly, of the 58 judicial elections in play only three are contested. That means the incumbent automatically wins in fifty five judicial elections. How do you know whether they are any good or whether they should keep their job?
My Evaluations: There is a reason no lawyer in their right mind would give you unvarnished information on the worth of the local judge on the record. It is occupational suicide. (I have already died, so I can tell you what I think.) We need a statewide system of judicial evaluations so lawyers can provide that candid information to a neutral body in confidential form. Then voters will have competent information to go on. Currently, Oregon's Worker's Compensation judges receive these sort of evaluations, but they are administrative judges, not elected judges. The American Bar Association formally recommended in 2005 that all states provide a statewide judicial evaluation program for these very reasons. Here are my evaluations:
- Oregon Supreme Court -- Thomas A. Balmer : Not qualified even to serve on Oregon's Supreme Court which is dysfunctional. Poor courtroom demeanor and uneven reasoning skills. Wikipedia discloses the insidious internecine aspect of Oregon's judiciary. Justice Balmer used to work for Governor Ted when they were both at the Attorney General's office. When Governor Ted later left the Oregon Supreme Court, he secured his position on the Oregon Supreme Court to his former inge'nue, Justice Balmer.
- Oregon Court of Appeals -- David Schuman: Not qualified. Apparently, failed to file for his first election in time, but the authorities that be gave him a pass. He wrote a law review article to try to elevate himself. A careful reading of that article and his opinions prove he is not qualified.
- Oregon Court of Appeals -- Walt Edmonds: Qualified and tries hard. Not a sterling scholar.
- Multnomah County -- Julie Frantz: Very qualified. Very professional lawyer and former President of the Oregon State Bar (quite an accomplishment in that male bastion).
- Multnomah County -- Kristena A. LaMar: Not qualified. Judge LaMar retired into the easiest judicial job available years ago as the settlement judge. Puts very little effort or intellect into what she does. This judicial position needs new blood.
- Multnomah County -- Henry Kantor: Not qualified. Has no judicial skills nor acumen for the job. He may even be dangerous in that position.
- Multnomah County -- Michael Marcus: Very qualified. Wrote a excellent self-help book on Landlord - Tenant law. Almost always really cares about the cases before him. In danger of burnout.
- Multnomah County -- John Wittmayer: Not qualified. Intoxicated by the black robe power trip. Self styled expert on courtroom decorum of which he is missing himself. Should be turned out of office.
- Clackamas County -- Robert Selander: Extremely qualified. Probably one of the best judges in the state. Should be tapped for higher office.
- Clackamas County -- Deanne Darling: Very qualified. Excellent courtroom skills. (She could also have excelled as a speaker/comedian for any occasion.) Should be looked at for higher office.
- Columbia County -- Steven Reed: Very qualified. Brings the skills of a long time local lawyer into the courtroom.
- Columbia County -- Ted Grove: Extremely qualified. One of the hardest working judges in the state. No judge tries harder to be fair along with the application of excellent cerebral skills than Judge Grove.
- Washington County -- Kirsten Thompson: Barely qualified. Unfortunately, Judge Thompson falls in that ever-expanding class of lawyers who want to be a judge after failing in private practice.
- Washington County -- Keith Raines: Not qualified.
- Washington County -- Contested race between Keith Rogers, public defender and Andy Erwin prosecutor. There is a pattern of the DA's office in Washington County always challenging any public defender seeking a judge position. Who says there is no bias in the criminal courtroom?!?
- Washington County -- Steven Price: Very qualified. Oddly, Judge Price comes from that cadre of lawyers from failed private practice that became a very good judge. Excellent intelligence if occasionally mercurial.
- Washington County -- Marco Hernandez: Not qualified. Prime example of hubris overcoming competence. Scariest of all , Judge Hernandez is appearing on short lists for higher office. He is crippled by not knowing what he doesn't know. Judge Hernandez declined to furnish biographical information to the Oregon Live source mentioned above. Should be turned out of office.
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