As a diversion from the Governor’s race, let’s talk judges for a minute, shall we?
For the last few weeks, folks have heard quite a bit about the Leslie Robert-Youlee You controversy, but there are two other judicial contests in Multnomah County.
First, there’s the run off between Kathleen Payne and Cheryl Albrecht. Payne is a former prosecutor now with my shop, the Department of Justice. Albrecht has spent the last several years learning the judicial trade as a permanent pro tem in the Courthouse. There, she has reached out to our diverse community, and has taken a humanist approach to her job.
No offense to Payne, who is a qualified candidate, but Cheryl Albrecht gets my support. Albecht’s predispositions are important from a "blue" perspective. If every judge applied the law precisely the same, there would be no reason to have judges. Computers could replace them. Application of the law requires understanding of the human condition and, in that regard, I have faith in Cheryl Albrecht.
Then there’s what the Tribune calls the "thundering herd" of lawyers who filed for the short dash for the seat opened up when Judge Clifford Freeman died a week before the filing deadline. To my mind, there’s a front tier and a back-of-the-pack on this one, based as much on who can assemble money and a coalition for this seven week sprint. Then, way behind, there’s Jim Leuenberger, a far-right ideologue who ran for the state Supreme Court two years ago and took on the cause this spring of a fringe gubernatorial candidate trying to knock other candidates off the ballot because they did not pay their filing fees in gold or silver. I’m not kidding. Also trailing, I suspect, are Charles Best, who is not even currently practicing in Oregon, Theodore Sims, Christopher Wright (more a tax and estate lawyer than a trial lawyer), and Ulanda Watkins, who, a mere ten years in practice appears to be more tuing up for a future run than running for the present.
That leaves the front four: law and order candidate James McIntyre, former candidate (she lost in 1998 to Jan Wyers) Mary Overgaard, Judith Hudson Matarazzo, and former public defender and family lawyer Mark Kramer. Though I don’t know Matarazzo personally, I suspect she, Overgaard and Kramer all have the predispositions and life views to gain the acceptance of progressive voters, but Mark Kramer’s my choice in this one. Overgaard has done admirable work in womens’ right and gay and lesbian rights, but her race eight years ago still carries scars that will be hard to overcome, and which saw newspapers withdrawing their support from her. Matarazzo has considerable backing within the progressive Oregon Trial Lawyers Association. But Mark Kramer also has OTLA support, a broader legal resume than Matarazzo’s (primarily auto accident work and some more complex tort litigation), has been a public defender, a lawyer at St. Andrew’s legal clinic, a family lawyer and, as importantly, has been fighting for school funding and numerous other progressive causes in Portland for more than 20 years. He’s backed by several of the sitting judges, but also by folks like Diane Rosenbaum, Tim Nesbitt and Bev Stein. For my vote, Mark Kramer stands out over a few others who could do the job and several who do not merit consideration.