Seven candidates vie for two judge seats

A total of seven candidates have stepped up to run for two available Jackson County Circuit Court judge seats on the May 20 ballot.

Joe Charter, a Jackson County justice of the peace, and Medford attorneys Tom Dzieman, Paul Henderson and defense attorney Lisa Greif have announced their candidacy for position 8, held by Circuit Court Judge William G. Purdy, who is retiring.

Three others have tossed their hats into the ring for the post held by Circuit Court Judge Rebecca Orf, who also is retiring. Jackson County district attorneys Timothy Barnack and John Norton, and former county counsel Doug McGeary are vying for position 6.

Charter, 50, was elected as the Jackson County justice of the peace in 2004. He was president of the Jackson County Bar Association in 2001.

Charter's legal experience includes jury and court trials, hearings as a Circuit Court judge pro tem and as an arbitrator for Jackson and Josephine counties.

If elected, Charter says he plans to propose making greater use of settlement conferences to reduce case loads. He also says he will not accept campaign contributions from lawyers, and expects to limit expenditures to $2,000.

High-priced judge campaigns lead to the impression that justice is for sale as special interest groups pour cash into judicial campaigns, Charter said. Charter, who has run for judgeships in several races for the Circuit Court and Ashland Municipal Court, was elected a justice of the peace in 2004.

Dzieman, 57, spent four of his more than 30 years' experience within the Jackson County District Attorney's Office.

He also was a special assistant attorney general for the state of Oregon, a municipal judge for the city of Shady Cove, and an arbitrator for Jackson County Circuit Court.

In private practice for the majority of his 31 years as a lawyer, Dzieman said he believes in judicial restraint and a limited judiciary. Dzieman said citizens should be included in the conversation regarding whether jury trials should be arbitrarily restricted, whether some constitutional rights are deserving of more respect and protection that others and whether the Constitution should be strictly interpreted.

"The citizens of Jackson County have an opportunity to be part of the debate as to where the courts are now, and where they will be moving in the future," he said.

Paul Henderson, 59, is a longtime Southern Oregon resident. Henderson's law career has spanned 30 years, including 18 years handling family law in Jackson County.

Henderson said "the best of our community starts with our children, making sure family values are maintained while teaching them to make positive choices." He believes he has the temperament to listen fairly and competently when handling the matters entrusted to him.

This is not the first time two other candidates have run for a seat on the Circuit Court. Greif, profiled in an earlier Mail Tribune story for this race, and Henderson ran and lost to Judge Ron Grensky while vying for a seat on the Circuit Court in 2006.

Orf was appointed to her seat in 1994. She was subsequently elected, but has decided not to run again. Purdy was elected in 2002 has served one six-year term. He will leave the bench at the end of next year. The two new judges will take their positions alongside the county's seven other Circuit Court judges in January 2009.

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