Appeals Court: Schuman

Article excerpt

Byline: The Register-Guard

Oregon's judicial elections are supposed to be apolitical affairs. Candidates run without the blessing - or curse - of party affiliation, and judicial rules of conduct bar them from talking about much more than their resumes.

Such restrictions, however, don't always keep politics from seeping into judicial races, as has happened in the May primary contest for the Oregon Court of Appeals.

David Schuman, a 57-year-old former Oregon deputy attorney general who was appointed by Gov. John Kitzhaber to fill a vacancy on the Court of Appeals last year, is running against David Hunnicutt, the 37-year-old lead counsel for Oregonians in Action, a conservative property rights group.

Hunnicutt's conservative backers have made no attempt to conceal their dislike of Schuman, whom they regard as typical of the judges that Democratic governors have appointed for the past 16 years - left-leaning, hostile to the initiative process, and a hindrance to aggressive prosecution of criminals.

It's a crass, unwarranted stereotype that itself reveals an ideologically driven effort to politicize Oregon's judiciary and compromise its independence and impartiality. Voters should focus on the most important - and relevant - question: Which candidate is best qualified to serve on the Oregon Court of Appeals?

The clear answer is Schuman, whose extraordinary background and experience could serve as a template for future judicial aspirants.

A former college English teacher, Schuman began studying the law at age 38. After graduating with honors from the University of Oregon Law School, he worked as judicial clerk to Oregon Supreme Court Justice Hans Linde and spent a decade at the UO as a highly regarded and widely published law professor.

From 1997 to 2001, Schuman served as deputy attorney general, where he oversaw a staff of 200 lawyers and handled a broad array of legal issues, ranging from assisted suicide to national tobacco litigation. He was appointed to fill a vacancy on the Appeals Court in March 2001. Since then, he has written 36 opinions, not one of which has been reversed by a higher court.

Hunnicutt graduated from Lewis and Clark Law School in 1992 and spent four years in private practice with his father in St. Helens before becoming legal director for Oregonians in Action in 1996. …