Judicial Candidates Offer Contrasts
Byline: Bill Bishop The Register-Guard
Three candidates for an open seat on the Oregon Supreme Court present voters a study in contrast.
State Court of Appeals Judge Virginia Linder, for example, would be the only woman on the high court if elected. In 8 1/2 years on the appeals court, Linder says she has helped resolve 6,000 appeals cases and has authored more than 250 opinions.
A large number of lawyers around the state supported her with their votes in the state bar association's preference poll, where she finished first among the three candidates with 1,639 votes - more than half of all votes cast.
They also expressed their support with generally small individual contributions to her campaign, which totaled almost $67,000 in the first reporting period and had a balance of $17,000 in early April.
Pendleton lawyer William "Gene" Hallman says his 30 years of experience representing workers and small businesses in Eastern Oregon would bring the high court "the perspective of real people and real businesses."
In the first reporting period, he raised the largest campaign fund in the race - $187,000 - from a large number of personal injury lawyers, agricultural interests and a few labor groups. He also is endorsed by a range of law enforcement groups. His campaign balance was $114,000 in early April.
Hallman placed second in the state bar poll with 1,273 votes.
Eugene resident, lawyer and politician Jack Roberts is running as the nontraditional candidate. Roberts hasn't practiced law since the late 1980s, when he became a Lane County commissioner, then commissioner of the state Bureau of Labor and Industries, then director of the Lane Metro Partnership, a Lane County organization that seeks to foster business expansions.
Roberts says the high court needs members who understand the impact of the court's decisions on people and institutions that are not parties to any particular case. In his experience leading government agencies, Roberts says he has continuously dealt with such legal matters over the years.
In the first reporting period, Roberts raised $54,000 - mainly from timber and wood products companies. His campaign balance was $49,000 in early April. Roberts got 317 votes in the statewide bar association poll.
Candidates for a seat on the Supreme Court must follow the judicial code of conduct, which bans them from making statements about proposed legislation or about other candidates or issues that may undermine public confidence in the impartiality of the judiciary.
Consequently, judicial races focus on the legal qualifications and temperament of candidates.
Linder says her lifelong career in law for the public, first in the Oregon attorney general's office and then in the appeals court, gives her an edge in that department.
But she emphasizes that diversity on the bench is essential in the court's decisions on which cases to hear, and to ensure that the court views each case in a broad range of light brought by the experiences of individual justices.
She said that several studies conclude the best way to improve the quality of justice experienced by minorities is to include more minorities in the justice system.
Linder says she will contribute to the high court's current focus on speeding up its process by drawing on her experience handling a high volume of cases in her appeals court career and in her former work supervising appeals for the attorney general.
Hallman and Roberts both believe an outsider's perspective would better serve to balance the court's discussions.
As one who lives on 40 acres of Eastern Oregon, Hallman says he might give a higher priority to appeals on such matters as water rights than justices who are not familiar with the implications of such cases for rural residents.
"It's a question of different outlooks, different viewpoints," he says. …