It’s election time! In Oregon that means voting for judges almost none of us have heard of, and who don’t have endorsements from any of the local papers. In the words of an attorney I spoke to on the topic: “for the vast majority of voters, I don’t know what you would do.”
I’ve decided to research the ever loving shit out of the candidates. Below is what I have found for the three competitive races on my ballot.
Oregon Supreme Court: Pounds vs. Flynn (Incumbent)
This is easily the most important judicial race, and it is conveniently the easiest decision to make: Vote for Meagan Flynn.
The Willamette Week acquired a 2015 investigative report on Van Pounds’ work as the Director of Enforcement at the Department of Consumer and Business Services. Here are some select quotes from the report:
“Overwhelmingly, employees do not trust Van and do not feel he is an effective manager,”
“Everybody in my work unit is credible, except Van,” said another employee.
A third employee called him “an area of risk for the organization.”
“Van is generally found to be the least credible person in the unit,” [the report concluded].
Furthermore, Pounds has no experience as a judge, the Oregon State Bar Preference Poll found members of the Bar to favor Judge Flynn over Pounds at a rate of 9 to 1, and I generally trust Governor Kate Brown’s to appoint good judges. To top it all off, when asked what they thought the biggest problem in the OR judicial system was, Pounds said it was the manner in which judges are appointed while Flynn talked about a lack of representation for defendants and resources for courts.
I am voting for Judge Meagan Flynn, and you should too.
Court of Appeals, Position 10: Krohn vs. Armstrong (Incumbent)
This race was harder, and I eventually chose the incumbent, Rex Armstrong.
Armstrong has been sitting on The Bench for decades, so maybe new blood would be beneficial. That said, in 2000 he ruled in favor of a local civil rights ordinance against discrimination based on sexual orientation in public accommodations, including housing. Four years later this state would pass a constitutional measure by popular vote that banned gay marriage. Needless to say, I am not as concerned that he votes based on public opinion, and this decision makes me a little less worried he’s stuck in the 20th Century. He also won the Oregon Bar Preference Poll at a rate of 2.5 to 1, one of the larger margins. He is also a former logger and truck driver and I am firmly in favor of blue collar workers putting on the robes of justice.
Kyle Krohn makes a single argument in favor of his candidacy. The Court of Appeals decides the majority of cases by “affirming without opinion” which provides no information for plaintiffs or defendants. He recognizes that the court is overworked, but he says that by decreasing the length of some opinions the “affirming without opinion” can be replaced by a sentence or two which would be astronomically better than the present practice. In full disclosure Krohn was my initial choice based on this argument. Unfortunately Krohn does not have any experience as a judge or clerk for a judge and I do not know if he yet has the skills to fix what he’s protesting. I don’t think one of the busiest and overworked Courts of Appeals is the place to start learning the skills. Furthermore, if he is as good a public defender as he says losing him would be bad for those going through our overworked system.
Never make yourself invaluable in a job you don’t want to keep.
Circuit Court, 4th District, Position 37: Hamalian vs. Roberts (Incumbent)
God damn this one was hard. It has been extraordinarily difficult for me to find any useful information on either candidate. I decided to gather all the information I could and on a series of topics see how they break for either candidate. The information is below, and my endorsement will come later–I need a break.
I found statements about reducing racial bias in the courts from both of the candidates, Roberts’ focuses on what she’s done to minimize prejudice from her own thoughts and decisions. On the other hand Hamalian talks about it as a systemic issue and details a few of the things he wants to do as a judge on this front, including removing non-unanimous felony convictions and preventing minority juror exclusion. Another point for Hamalian.
In the bar preference poll Roberts won with 65% of the vote. This puts her margin of victory solidly in the middle of the pack in the preference polls. Move that to Roberts’ side of the ledger.
I want my judges to be experienced, and Leslie Roberts has a lot more experience as a judge. Hamalian has little bits of judicial experience, but this falls on Roberts’ side of the ledger.
Approach to Sentencing
Roberts is one of the best educated candidates on the ballot for any judge race, if not the best educated. More importantly to me, she recognizes that punishment is partially about reinforcing social norms and does not require long sentences to attain the goal (I think someone read Durkheim at Reed…).
Hamalian is also pro-rehabilitation and is a fan of using data for smart sentencing, so I’m calling this a wash due to lack of data.
Roberts’ recently ruled against ATU Local 757 (a union of transit workers) saying that it could not require negotiations with its members’ employers, TriMet, be held in public. The Court of Appeals and State Supreme Court both overturned this decision.
Hamilian has been a defense attorney and highlights his work as a defender for protestors in 2003. The defendants won, striking down an unconstitutional “disorderly conduct” clause of the law. See State v. Ausmus 336 OR 493 (2003).
I’m putting this in Hamilian’s column.
Other Eclectic Issues
Hamalian is interested in establishing a veteran’s court and is a proponent of a DUII supervision program that I know little about. He is also in favor of increased usage of police body and dash cams as evidence. Roberts, meanwhile, works on the MCJRP, a program to decrease prison overcrowding and racial disparities in sentencing.
Roberts says she is in favor of more alternatives to jails and prisons, highlighting data from the Multnomah County Justice Reinvestment Program (MCJRP) which uses closely supervised parole to decrease jail and prison time. It decreases prison time and recidivism rates significantly, though it increases jail time. The program looks good to me, although Roberts’ doesn’t appear to do anything other than sentence people with it (which Hamalian may well do as well).
I’m putting this on Hamalian’s side of the ledger.
As a proponent of bringing underrepresented and historically marginalized groups to power, this is my go to electoral tie breaker.
Unfortunately, the choice is between a woman and a first generation immigrant from a working class background (to a far greater extent than Armstrong’s). In the end, I kind of think this one is a wash.
We really need women, immigrants, and working class members of the government.
This isn’t actually a voting criterion, but Hamilian is just a hilarious character. He was drag racing at age 17! How can I not mention that?
The Oregon Voter’s Pamphlet was my first source, but not the only one.
The Oregon State Bar has voter’s guides written by the candidates. They were invaluable and are all available here: https://www.osbar.org/judicial/judicialquestionaire18.html
That page also has the Preference Poll I keep referencing, but here is a direct link anyway: https://www.osbar.org/_docs/elections/1804/ElectionResultsApril2018.pdf
I found a website with brief statements from the candidates. I found it particularly useful for the Roberts/Hamalian race: https://onyourballot.vote411.org/m/race-detail.do?id=17153573. On it Hamalian mentions Smart Sentencing, which seems like a good idea to me.
For facts about the MCJRP look at this report: http://news.streetroots.org/sites/default/files/MCJRP%2020161110%20Final.pdf
On Roberts’ labor record, here are some links: https://nwlaborpress.org/2017/02/atu-vs-trimet-case-headed-for-oregon-supreme-court/ and https://www.courtlistener.com/opinion/4468154/trimet-v-amalgamated-transit-union-local-757/