Candidates vying for circuit court judge sparred Friday in an online town hall forum hosted by the Harney County Chamber of Commerce.
The three contenders — local attorney Rob Raschio, Grant County District Attorney Jim Carpenter, and Harney County attorney John Lamborn — answered questions surrounding sentencing for repeat drug offenders, the court’s efficiency and why they are best suited for the bench.
State Sen. Lynn Findley, R-Vale, moderated and asked the candidates about their experiences, backgrounds and what they would bring to the bench.
Carpenter said, as a member of the community of Grant and Harney counties, he is suited for this area.
“We need a judge who understands the situation they are in,” Carpenter said. “One of the jokes I made about myself as a civil litigator was that I would not have been able to afford myself if I needed an attorney. We need someone who understands that the people can’t afford a long and lengthy process.”
Carpenter also touted his time as an arbitrator of cases, where he was a judge in an informal setting and rendered decisions. He said each of the cases heard did not go on to higher courts, and his rulings were upheld.
“I have the broadest range of experience, the background and the tone and the feeling of the community,” Carpenter said.
Lamborn said he has 30 years of legal experience and that he is the current justice of the peace pro tem for Harney County and has been for about five years. Lamborn said he hears cases when the full-time justice of the peace has conflicts or cannot listen to arguments.
Lamborn said he was also chairman of the Planning Commission and Housing Authority in Harney County for eight and three years, respectively.
Lamborn also said he was the Oregon State Bar criminal defender, where he worked on legislation regarding elderly abuse prevention and worked on a board that enforced legal ethics rules and violations.
“I bring an incredible wealth of information,” Lamborn said. “Given all of that experience, I am your best choice for circuit court judge.”
Raschio said that he has run two offices in Grant and Harney counties for 18 years and that he has worked on thousands of cases that cover a broad range of legal matters where a circuit court judge needs to be knowledgeable.
“I’ve served in statewide leadership roles in the Oregon State Bar and gained a deeper understanding of the law,” he said.
Raschio noted his time as a Grant County commissioner, Burns city councilor and justice of the peace pro tem.
“I understand the thorny issues around the public, private interface,” he said.
Raschio said, as a Grant County commissioner, he drafted the objection to the revised forest plan that was heavily contested by the community.
The candidates were asked how they would deal with youth that come before them in court.
Lamborn said, if elected Judge, the rules for youth would be applied differently than they would for an adult.
“Kids are kids,” he said. “Kids don’t have frontal lobe development. They act without thinking.”
Lamborn said the child that comes before him in his court would learn something and will not just be punished.
Raschio said that youth should be treated thoughtfully. He said, as adults, people are responsible for the upbringing of their kids, and that includes the community. He said those who make mistakes, intentionally or otherwise, will need to be held accountable.
He said the Harney County teen court, which he is involved with, has been successful in rehabilitating youth offenders through peer modeling.
“For kids who are accused for more serious offenses, I’ll follow the law,” Raschio said. “I will also focus on parents. I’m going to be asking them questions about how their kids got in front of this court, and I’ll be outlining expectations for them about what I’ll expect them to do so their children make changes.”
Carpenter said there are two types of juvenile court cases. The first is a dependency case, where there are issues of the parenting of the child. The other is the juvenile system, where there is a crime committed by the child. Carpenter said, in dependency cases, the priority should be to protect the child. He said, in those cases, hard decisions have to be made about whether they should be with their parent or somewhere else.
Carpenter said he has been involved in dependency cases as district attorney and a civil litigator for 17 years.
“I’m able to make those hard decisions about what is best for a child,” he said.
Carpenter said he agreed with Raschio and Lamborn on juvenile system cases in that he will work to change the behavior of children who commit crimes.