Two Circuit Court judges will vacate the bench

Two Circuit Court judges will vacate the bench

Two Jackson County Circuit Court judges have announced they will not seek another six-year term, and contenders are already lining up to fill the vacancies.

Judges Rebecca Orf and Bill Purdy will lay down their gavels Dec. 31, 2008. Two new judges, to be elected in November 2008, will take their positions alongside the Circuit Court's seven other seated judges the following January.

Jackson County Deputy District Attorneys Timothy Barnack and John Norton have tossed their hats into the ring for Orf's seat — position six in the first judicial district.

Defense Attorney Lisa Greif is running for Purdy's seat, position eight.

Barnack, a senior deputy district attorney, says his decade or more of legal experience and participation in community service qualifies him for Orf's seat.

"I've got a well-rounded perspective on Jackson County," said Barnack.

Norton, a felony domestic violence prosecutor for Jackson County, said Orf's juvenile court position is "critical for the community and it is important that our next judge has the right background for the job."

"I've seen first hand the terrible price paid by children when they are exposed to violence, drugs, and alcohol abuse in the home," Norton said. "As a judge I will commit myself to protecting children from abuse."

Greif, president of the Jackson County Bar Association, lost to Ron Grensky in November 2006 for a seat on the circuit bench. Last year's loss hasn't dimmed Greif's hopes to become a judge, she said.

"I've always wanted to be a judge," she said. "I'm going to continue what I started."

Greif said her experience in juvenile and criminal courts makes her qualified to take Purdy's position. (See correction note below)

"I think it's important to have another woman on the bench," she said.

Orf was appointed to her seat in 1994. She was subsequently elected, but said she decided this summer not to run again.

"The short answer is I'm not going to be a judge," said Orf. "I'm going to be exploring my options."

Orf has most enjoyed working in the juvenile and community family courts, she said.

"Because I feel those are the areas we can make the most difference," she said.

An Oregon commission governing the conduct of judges in April dismissed a complaint against Orf alleging ethical misconduct during a police investigation into a fatal two-car crash caused by Ashland teen Kevan Thatcher-Stephens in Medford in February 2005. Police could never confirm where Thatcher-Stephens, who was intoxicated, had been drinking before the crash. Some witnesses said he had been partying at the Orfs' home in the previous week while the judge and her husband were out of the country.

The hardest part of being a judge has been dealing with the public and political nature of her position, Orf said.

"Our job requires us to make some unpopular decisions, without regard to how it might play out politically," she said.

Asked if she would consider running for office again, Orf emphatically stated she has no political aspirations.

"Absolutely not," she said.

Purdy, who is unavailable for comment this week, was elected in 2002. Purdy made a public announcement he would not run for re-election at a recent bar association luncheon, said Orf.

Reach reporter Sanne Specht at 776-4497 or e-mail

Correction: The original version of this story included an incorrect reference to the number of female judges in Jackson County. This version omits that reference. In addition to Orf, Patricia Crain is a Jackson Count Circuit Court judge.

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