May 22, 2024

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Rep. Wilde: They never asked whether I had civil litigation experience

5 min read
During job interviews to fill a vacant seat on the Lane County Circuit Court, Rep. Marty Wilde said he was never asked about his experience with civil cases, even though Presiding Judge Jay McAlpin told the governor that was the court's biggest need.

At the Amazon neighborhood meeting, a startling revelation as a candidate for the Lane County Circuit Court says: He was never asked about the court’s most pressing need.

Rep. Marty Wilde says he was never asked about his experience with civil cases, during the interviews that led to the governor’s August appointment.

Amazon invited Marty Wilde and Beatrice Grace to a candidate forum on Oct. 12. Appearing for Judge Grace was Presiding Judge Jay McAlpin.

[00:00:26] Judge Jay McAlpin: Judge Grace, she has one of those nasty rebound cases that is hitting, and so she called me and asked if I’d come and talk to you…Because I am the presiding judge and I was involved in the process that Gov. (Kate) Brown had in place to select Judge Grace, I can tell you a little bit about her, that process, and what we need as a court to serve you as a community.

[00:00:53] So there are 15 circuit court judges here in Lane County—11 women and four men. Lane County was one of the first counties in Oregon to have a woman appointed to the bench and for a number of years there was what you call ‘the woman’s seat.’ So there’d be 14 men and then one woman, and that one woman would serve and she’d retire and that place would be filled by another woman.

[00:01:18] The 11th seat, the one that Judge Grace filled, was filled first by Judge Lauren Holland, and she was the first woman to serve contemporaneously with another woman. And that was in the 1990s, so it wasn’t that long ago. And really the floodgates have opened, and Lane County now has a vast majority of women on the bench.

[00:01:41] …And so what we are as a bench are diverse individuals. It is important that the community sees itself when it comes to the courthouse. We also have diverse experience because we do everything. We try about 90 jury trials a year, and Judge Grace, in fact, was the judge presiding over our 88th jury trial this year, and so she pushed us over that. We’re going to be far ahead of our average by the end of the year.

[00:02:10] But that’s just a small part of what we do. We do 10 times as many non-jury trials, domestic relations, custody, temporary access to your children, child abuse, child neglect, protective orders. And for those hearings, there’s no jury. And for the most part, for many people— maybe even most people— there are no attorneys.

[00:02:34] And so as judges, we need to have a certain skill set. And so when this seat opened, we worked with the Lane County Bar Association, the attorneys and Gov. Brown’s office, worked with them, and we had a process. And the process was attorneys from the community applied, and both candidates in this case applied.

[00:02:54] They were first reviewed by the Lane County Bar Association, then they were reviewed by a committee of attorneys statewide. And then Gov. Brown interviewed the last few and our input as judges was, ‘What we need are civil practitioners.’

[00:03:10] So we have to support each other and have an interdisciplinary team. The reality is, if I have a family law case and there’s a question that I am stuck on, I could call Judge (Erin) Fennerty or I could call Judge (Karrie) McIntyre and I just say, ‘Can you give me a quick shortcut of where I need to be?’ And having that diversity of people on our bench helps all of us.

[00:03:32] What we have in the last three to five years is, we have lost our civil practitioners, and so when the governor called and asked, What do we need? We said, ‘We need civil litigators, people who know how to work the rules of civil procedure, uniform trial court rules, and can be that resource for the rest of us that we’ve lost over the last three years with retirements.’

[00:03:57] We do our best for the community, and to do that, we need to have a variety of people on our bench. Judge Grace has been doing a great job. She is already in that spot. She went through the process where she was selected by the local bar association. She passed through to a statewide committee of attorneys, and she was selected by Governor Brown.

[00:04:19] Please don’t take her out when she’s only been at it for those few months.

[00:04:28] Rep. Marty Wilde: This happens to veterans but the first thing I noticed when I walked into the local panel of judges, everybody else who was interviewing had somebody who was on the panel.  I didn’t have anybody.

[00:04:42] And then we got to the end of the agenda a little early, and I asked them, ‘Well, what are you looking for?’ And she said, ‘Well, we’re looking for civil litigation experience.’

[00:04:52] They never asked me about civil litigation experience. I have civil litigation experience. In fact, it’s what I’ve been doing a lot in the military… I have done dozens of jury trials, the military is pretty much always at the jury, whether it’s a civil matter or a military.

[00:05:06] So, I think I’ll leave it at that. I’ve had my differences with the governor and the Democratic leadership regarding some issues, with redistricting as well, so…I mean, I, I take people at their word until I find out that’s not the case.

[00:05:19] But I have nothing bad to say about Judge Grace, except, I would say as a matter of fact, the case that she presided over was her first jury trial ever. So she did not try any jury trials as an attorney. So I don’t have anything against Judge Grace. She seems like a great person, I don’t know her personally. But I think there is a deficit of experience. She’s been a lawyer for seven years, I’ve been a lawyer for 25.

[00:05:45] John Q: During the last legislative term, Rep. Wilde split with his party on three big issues: He said that Democrats should not be making key policy decisions in private meetings; that legislative leadership should not be based on fundraising; and new district boundaries should not be drawn to benefit Democrats.

[00:06:02] The latest revelation of a rigged selection process is a reminder that the judicial branch is also a part of our political system. A governor can use the selection process to say: Dissent will not be tolerated by the party.

[00:06:14] Beatrice Grace and Marty Wilde are on your ballot for the Nov. 8 election.

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