Circuit court judge candidate Rob Raschio was arrested for driving drunk in 2009, and background check interviewees said he has had problems getting along with opposing attorneys in the past.
In addition to campaigning for this year’s election, Raschio applied to be appointed by the governor as the circuit court judge for Grant and Harney counties following the retirement of William D. Cramer Jr. Dec. 31.
As part of the appointment process, Oregon State Police Detective James Koehler conducted an in-depth investigation in January, which included interviews with Raschio and references and an additional 14 individuals who were not in Raschio’s reference list, including employees, other attorney’s, neighbors and judges.
A summary focused on interviews of Cramer and Tammy Wheeler, the trial court administrator for the 24th Judicial District.
Raschio admitted to OSP during his interview that he has had disputes with opposing attorneys. Both Cramer and Wheeler concurred.
Cramer told OSP there have been difficulties in the past with Raschio and both Harney and Grant counties’ district attorney’s offices.
“I did need to address issues between attorneys when they affected the functioning of the court,” Cramer recently told the Eagle. “From my perspective it ‘takes two to tango’ and there were things that were said that could be taken as personal on both sides.”
Cramer stressed that this was not something that rose to the level of disqualifying Raschio as a candidate, and this was just an answer to a question in the interview.
Cramer said he expressed concerns about the governor making an appointment before the election, because if someone had been appointed, it would have led to conflicts of interest requiring fill-in judges with a defense attorney being appointed to the bench months before the official election. Cramer said that was the reason the governor cited when choosing not to make an appointment.
“I do want to clarify that there was nothing in the interview that indicated Rob Raschio was anything but qualified for the position based upon his legal work before me,” Cramer said.
Cramer said he is not taking a position in the election and that both Raschio and opposing candidate Grant County District Attorney Jim Carpenter are qualified for the position.
Wheeler told OSP that Raschio had been dismissive of her, some of her court staff and other government agencies, at times talking down to them. Wheeler said she had to address the issues with Raschio.
Wheeler shared that Raschio mistakenly sent an email to the court staff that was meant for his staff. Wheeler said it consisted of a lot of swearing and anger toward the judge about a ruling. Wheeler said she contacted Raschio about the email, and he told her that was how he interacts with his staff.
Wheeler told the Eagle that she had already discussed everything in her interview with Raschio and that the past conflicts would not prevent them from working together if he is elected in November.
“If he’s the guy elected and that’s who people want on the bench, my ultimate hope is that he rises to the occasion, and it will be my job to help him do that,” Wheeler said.
She also said the information in the interview was not meant to slander Raschio and that the information was meant for the governor to use in her appointment decision. She noted one of the answers recorded by OSP was not completely accurate.
Raschio told the Eagle that he shared the same position as Cramer, that there are times in the throes of an adversarial process when advocates from all sides can say things that can be taken as personal by both sides.
“In the case referred to, as Judge Cramer pointed out, ‘there were things that were said that could be taken as personal on both sides’. We all recognize that happens,” Raschio said. “As Judge, I will leave the role of advocate to others and make all of my decisions based upon the law and facts...”
He said that he has no conflicts with the DA’s offices anymore than they have a problem with defense attorneys, and he looks forward to working with them in his new role, if elected.
Raschio said he has respect and admiration for the work the court staff does on a daily basis.
“I had heard that some people thought I was unkind to staff and so I went to the staff I worked with and apologized to them,” Raschio said.
He also let staff know that if he offended them in any way or if it happened again to let him know at that moment.
Raschio said he did not swear at or express anger toward the judge. He said it was a short email expressing frustration about a hearing being set. When he realized he sent an email to court staff, he said he sent an apology to the person for the language and clarified that the email was only meant for his staff. He said he then apologized to that staff member in person.
Other interviews in the background check showed that Raschio was arrested for driving under the influence of intoxicants in 2009. He completed a diversion program in 2011, and the charge was dismissed, according to court documents.
Raschio said he took immediate responsibility for the incident that occurred over a decade ago.
“I made a mistake, I am extremely embarrassed by it, I corrected my actions in the diversion process, and I am thankful we have a legal system and process that works the way it does to allow for due process,” Raschio said.
Raschio has also received several speeding violations and almost 50 parking violations in Multnomah County, according to court records.
Raschio said he has received over 150 endorsements from people throughout Grant and Harney counties and across the state.
“I’m honored to have such strong support and to have been voted for by nearly 50% of our communities in the Primary Election, that’s not something I take for granted or take lightly,” Raschio said.