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  • Governor seeks local attorneys to fill two judicial positions

  • Gov. John Kitzhaber is looking for a couple of local attorneys to fill two soon-to-be-vacant judicial positions on the Jackson County Circuit Court bench.
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  • Gov. John Kitzhaber is looking for a couple of local attorneys to fill two soon-to-be-vacant judicial positions on the Jackson County Circuit Court bench.
    Judge Daniel L. Harris departs on July 1, and Judge G. Philip Arnold is slated to leave on Sept. 1, according to a news release from the governor's office.
    Current Jackson County judges Benjamin Bloom and Tim Gerking were appointed by then-Gov. Ted Kulongoski in 2010 to replace retiring judges Mark Schiveley and Ray White, respectively.
    White's term was set to expire Jan. 1, 2013; Schiveley was to serve until 2015.
    Bloom, a former partner at the Medford law firm of Hornecker, Cowling, Hassen & Heysell, was a judge pro tem and an attorney for local municipalities, primarily in Jackson and Josephine counties. He had practiced civil litigation since 1993 with a focus on professional negligence defense.
    Kulongoski said at the time that he selected Bloom because of his "diligence, intelligence, integrity and good reputation in the Oregon legal community."
    Oregon statutes require judges who receive judicial appointments to run in the next general election to retain their seats. Jackson County Deputy District Attorney David Orr also had applied for Schiveley's or White's seat, but was not selected. In 2012, Orr ran a self-funded campaign against Bloom and what he called "the good old boy" appointment system.
    Throwing down a public challenge against the status quo of governor-appointed judges and campaign donations from attorneys, Orr voiced opposition to what he described as a "biased system" of governor appointees, which he said should be limited to instances in which a judge cannot finish his term because of ill health or other circumstances.
    Retiring judges routinely resign before the expiration of their term, and the appointment system stymies the public's right to elect judges, Orr said. Appointed judges are then endorsed in the next election by all of the other sitting judges and local government officials, completing a "circle of power," he said.
    Because of this practice, a sitting judge has not been voted out of office since the 1970s, Orr said.
    Bloom retained his seat, garnering 54 percent of the total 59,308 votes counted. Orr had 46 percent.
    Orr did not return calls to the Mail Tribune on Wednesday asking whether he would apply for either of the two upcoming judicial slots.
    Kitzhaber said he is seeking applications from "lawyers with a wide variety of backgrounds and experiences," adding he will fill the judicial vacancies "based on merit."
    Harris was the 2010 recipient of the Oregon State Bar Wallace P. Carson Jr. Award for Judicial Excellence. The award is given each year to a member of the judiciary who is a model of professionalism, integrity and judicial independence, said his colleague, Arnold, in a news release. Arnold was the court's presiding judge in 2010.
    Those interested in filling either position must submit an Interest Form for Judicial Appointments to the governor's office by 5 p.m. June 26.
    Oregon statutes require that at the time of appointment to the court, a candidate must be a citizen of the United States, a resident of Oregon and a member of the Oregon State Bar. The candidate also must be a resident of or have a principal office in Jackson County.
    After the application deadline, the bar will conduct a preference poll asking its local members to rate the candidates who apply for the positions.
    Questions or comments about the Oregon State Bar's process may be referred to Amanda Roeser at aroeser@osbar.org or call 1-800-452-8260, ext. 376.
    Reach Mail Tribune reporter Sanne Specht at 541-776-4497 or email sspecht@mailtribune.com.
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