With four lawyers already in the race, voters will have a wide choice of candidates for Jackson County circuit judge in the May 15 primary election.
Defense lawyer Larry Parker, private practice lawyer Joe Davis and prosecutors David Orr and Nick Geil have filed as candidates so far with the Oregon Secretary of State's Office. The deadline for filing is March 6.
If a candidate wins more than 50 percent of votes in the nonpartisan race during the May election, that person will win the office. If no one wins a majority in May, the top two vote-getters will face off in November, according to the Secretary of State's Office.
Jackson County Circuit Judge Ron Grensky announced in November 2017 that he would not seek re-election to Position 9 on the court. A judge since 2006, Grensky started the job handling criminal cases and later shifted to civil cases, dealing with divorce, child custody, lawsuits and other noncriminal issues.
With 30 years of experience as a lawyer, Parker, 59, said he has more experience than the other candidates and is also a U.S. Air Force veteran.
"When older lawyers get on the bench they are generally more patient, less imperious and generally present a better judicial manner in the way they deal with the public and others involved in the court system," Parker said.
He said he would like people to feel heard and respected if their cases come before him as judge.
Parker has worked in both civil and criminal law, most recently as a court-appointed indigent defense lawyer.
"People who do public defense work get a bad rap as being soft on crime, but that's not necessarily true," he said.
Parker said defense attorneys pay taxes and want safe communities just like other people. Defense lawyers, prosecutors, judges and juries all have to perform well for the criminal justice system to work, he said.
"I don't have a particular agenda," he said.
Parker said serving as judge would be a good way to give back to the community.
Davis, 45, started his career as a prosecutor, then worked for private law firms on civil litigation and as senior in-house counsel for Lithia Motors. More recently, he started Davis Pedrojetti with a law partner and has focused almost exclusively on family law, including divorce, custody and support cases.
He volunteers as a judge pro tem for Jackson County Circuit Court, handling small claims cases and filling in for criminal arraignment and sentencing hearings when judges are gone.
"Even if it is a small claims case, that is the most important thing to them going on in their life that day. It's important to them. It's important to have access to the courts and the thoughtful application of the law to their case," Davis said. "It's a good reminder to me and all judges how important courts are and what an impact courts can have on people's lives."
Davis, son of now-retired Jackson County Circuit Court Judge Ross Davis, said he is an active volunteer with various organizations and sees serving as judge as another way to have a positive impact on the community. He said he feels equally comfortable with civil and criminal cases.
"My experience would allow me to handle either type of case effectively," he said.
Orr, 53, a deputy district attorney for Jackson County, is throwing his hat into the ring again after being defeated by incumbent Judge Patricia Crain in the May 2016 election. He also ran unsuccessfully in 2012 against Benjamin Bloom.
During his race against Crain, Orr was critical of drug treatment court programs.
"They are needed to help the community, but only if they are administered wisely," he said. "You have to focus on people who want to be helped. Now, it's operated factory-style. A large number of people are pushed through."
Orr worked for several years as a public defense attorney in Kansas and as a civil lawyer before becoming a prosecutor for Linn County in 2000. He became deputy district attorney in Jackson County in 2003.
"The reason I would say I'm the most appropriate candidate is because of my substantial experience on both sides," he said.
Orr said he got to know and understand the perspective of people charged with crimes. Later, he spent years working with the victims of crimes as a prosecutor.
He spent years handling child abuse cases, then juvenile dependency cases, and is now assigned to adult sex crime prosecution.
Geil, 37, started his legal career doing estate planning and business transactions, but switched to criminal law and became a prosecutor in 2008.
Like Orr, he is a deputy district attorney in Jackson County.
"I really like the fact that when I wake up, my job is to make our community a better place," Geil said. "Working 10 years as a prosecutor has given me a handle on the issues Jackson County faces. One of the big ones is the opioid crisis going on around the country and here in Jackson County."
Geil said he has talked to many parents who say their kids got hurt, were prescribed opioid pain medication, became addicted and started stealing.
He would like to see expanded access to drug treatment court, with defendants started in treatment programs earlier, before they spiral downward.
The youngest among the four contenders, Geil said several other current judges — including Timothy Barnack, Lisa Greif and Kelly Ravassipour — were of comparable ages when they were first appointed or elected to the bench.
"I have a significant amount of experience in the courtroom," Geil said. "I also feel like I have enough life experience to see the bigger picture."
— Reach staff reporter Vickie Aldous at 541-776-4486 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her at www.twitter.com/VickieAldous.