Joe Davis garnered the most votes from local lawyers who were asked by the Oregon State Bar to name their preference among four candidates vying for a Jackson County Circuit Court judge position.
Davis, who practices civil law, earned 84 votes. Defense lawyer Laurance Parker pulled in 25 votes, prosecutor Nick Geil had 23 votes and prosecutor David Orr had 18 votes.
The four are in competition for Position 9 on the court after Judge Ron Grensky announced he will not seek re-election.
“I’m pleased that so many members of the legal community — people familiar with the candidates professionally and the attributes needed for a judge — believe I’m the best candidate for the position,” Davis said of the lawyers’ poll.
“I think my involvement in the community, the breadth of my professional experience and my professionalism within the legal community may well have played into the votes.”
Davis, 45, started his career as a prosecutor, then moved to civil litigation. More recently, he started Davis Pedrojetti with a law partner and has focused almost exclusively on family law, including divorce, custody and support cases.
Davis volunteers as a judge pro tem for Jackson County Circuit Court, handling small claims cases and filling in for criminal arraignment and sentencing hearings when judges are gone.
Second-place finisher Parker, 60, noted the local legal community is made up of lawyers who practice civil law and the rest who practice criminal law.
“I’m not surprised by the result particularly, but I am somewhat surprised by the margin,” Parker said of Davis’ high vote count. “Nick Geil and David Orr are both prosecutors, and I’m a criminal defense attorney. The three of us split the criminal bar, and Joe Davis got the civil bar. Civil attorneys outnumber criminal attorneys by a fair number in the county.”
Parker said Davis has groomed himself to become a judge, but any of the candidates would make a good judge.
Parker has worked in both civil and criminal law, most recently as a court-appointed indigent defense lawyer.
Third-place finisher Geil, 37, did not return phone calls seeking comment.
He started his legal career doing estate planning and business transactions, but switched to criminal law and became a prosecutor in 2008.
Like Orr, Geil is a deputy district attorney in Jackson County.
Orr, 54, worked as a public defense lawyer and civil lawyer before becoming a prosecutor.
“Ultimately, prosecutors are usually not the most popular with the rest of the bar,” Orr said.
But he said he believes Jackson County voters will consider all the qualifications of the candidates.
“During my 23 years of practice, I have focused my efforts on obtaining the most just outcomes for my cases,” Orr said. “I have not invested efforts in forming alliances with groups within the county bar community. I have not accepted campaign donations from attorneys. A judge should not be influenced by anything other than the law and the facts of a case. I think the voting public understands this, and will make the right decision.”
The Oregon State Bar polls lawyers in jurisdictions with contested elections about their candidate preferences. Lawyers who practice in the local community may have particular insights into candidate qualifications, according to the bar.
If a Jackson County Circuit Court candidate wins more than 50 percent of the vote in the May 15 primary election, he would win the seat. If no one wins a majority in May, the top two vote-getters would face off in November, according to the Secretary of State’s Office.
Judges Timothy Gerking and Benjamin Bloom are running unopposed as they seek to keep their positions on the court.