Circuit Court judge: McGeary, Greif

The general public seems to have some reservations about bar polls, in which lawyers are asked their preferences among judicial candidates. We think that reservation is misplaced. In simple terms, if a majority of auto mechanics told you that one of their members was the best person to take care of your car, wouldn't you pay attention?

It also helps in the case of two Jackson County Circuit Court races that we agree with the results of the bar poll released last week. By large margins, the nearly two-thirds of Jackson County attorneys who responded to the poll by the Oregon State Bar overwhelmingly picked Doug McGeary and Lisa Greif as the best choices among the contenders. McGeary received 110 of the 204 votes cast among three candidates and Greif received 118 of the 205 votes cast for four candidates, triple that of her nearest opponent.

That result works well for our editorial endorsement in the two races, because McGeary and Greif were our first choices, as well.

It's not an easy decision because voters have two groups of strong candidates. In the Position 6 race, McGeary leads our list because of his broad and extensive background and his demeanor.

McGeary, now in private practice after 10 years in the county counsel's office, also spent 10 years as a deputy district attorney. His broad experience and deep roots in the community — he's a graduate of Phoenix High School — give him a perspective on Southern Oregon that his opponents can't match.

McGeary has served on the Jacksonville Highway Water District board for 10 years, and is a past board member of Rogue Flyfishers and the Mt. Ashland Association. He's also served as a soccer coach and a softball umpire.

McGeary's opponents are John Norton and Tim Barnack, both current deputy district attorneys. Barnack is a strong prosecutor who handles many of the county's biggest felony cases; we wondered if he might not be better suited as a future district attorney rather than as a judge. Norton is an energetic and relatively young lawyer — he graduated from law school in 1999 — who perhaps needs a bit more seasoning before moving to the bench.

In the race for Position 8, Greif seems the clear choice. She is endorsed by five sitting judges, one senior judge, the trial court administrator, a long list of lawyers and an impressive list of civic leaders. She also has a notable record of volunteer work for groups ranging from Big Brother/Big Sister to Kids Unlimited and the Veterans Affairs domiciliary.

Greif brings an extensive background in juvenile and family-related law and is currently the senior staff attorney for both the criminal and juvenile divisions at the Southern Oregon Public Defender's office. She has witnessed first-hand the grim toll on society exacted by drugs and the dysfunctional families that result from drug use, sexual abuse and domestic violence. She has worked in the tough legal arena of parental rights, representing both children and parents.

Her opponents — Joe Charter, Tom Dzieman and Paul Henderson — have backgrounds primarily in private practice, although Charter has served as a county justice of the peace.

In both Circuit Court races, despite good options, the best choices are apparent: Doug McGeary for Position 6 and Lisa Greif for Position 8.

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