Openings on Circuit Court draw a field of 10 hopefuls

Ten candidates are vying for two judicial vacancies at the Jackson County Circuit Court.

Gov. John Kitzhaber announced earlier this month he was looking for a couple of local lawyers to fill the seats of Judge Daniel L. Harris, who departs on July 1, and Judge G. Philip Arnold, who is scheduled to leave on Sept. 1.

The list includes Jackson County Municipal Judge Joseph M. Charter, who in 2008 ran against then-public defender Lisa Greif for the seat of retiring judge William Purdy.

Greif won the election and is handling a family court caseload.

Candidate Doug McGeary, former county counsel, ran in 2008 against two prosecutors, John Norton and Timothy Barnack, for the seat of retiring judge Rebecca Orf.

Barnack won the election and currently handles criminal cases.

Kelly Ravassipour, a defense attorney with the Southern Oregon Public Defender's Office, is the sole female seeking appointment. Ravassipour's caseload has ranged from petty thefts to murder trials during her career as a public defender.

Nathan D. Wente is a private defense attorney practicing in Medford.

Four local prosecutors are also vying for the bench — David Hoppe, Allan Smith, J. Adam Peterson and David Orr. Hoppe, Smith and Orr were in the running for one of two vacancies left by the retirement of judges Mark Schiveley and Raymond White in 2010. Gov. Ted Kulongoski appointed a public schools attorney, Timothy Gerking, and Benjamin Bloom, an attorney for local municipalities and a judge pro tem, to fill the 5th and 7th judicial positions.

Oregon statutes require judges who receive judicial appointments to run in the next general election to retain their seats. Orr challenged Bloom for the 5th judicial position in 2012, stating the governor had erred in appointing the civil attorney to the bench over a pool of 20 candidates, including himself and two other local prosecutors. Orr also took aim at what he called a "good old boy" judicial appointment process, stating it was a "biased system" that undermines the people's right to select their judges by popular vote.

Two civil lawyers also applied for the judicial seats. Ashland attorney Christian Hearn specializes in real estate and land-use issues. Medford attorney James Stout specializes in wills, probate and estate planning.

The governor's "Judicial Candidate Preference Poll" will survey Jackson County Bar members, "with the idea that those who practice law in the community may be particularly well-suited to evaluate candidates' legal acumen and judicial temperament," said Kateri Walsh, director of media relations for the Oregon Bar.

Those ballots, including statements from the candidates, will be distributed to Jackson County lawyers July 15. Polling will close July 25 and results will be announced July 26, she said.

The attorneys' poll is independent of the governor's office, said Liani Reeves, Kitzhaber's chief legal adviser. The governor will make his selections after reviewing various sources of information, including the candidates' applications forms, references and discussions with the presiding Jackson County Circuit Court judges and Bob Kleker, the trial court administrator, she said.

"We hope to be making a decision by early September," Reeves said.

Reach reporter Sanne Specht at 541-776-4497 or email

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