Charles Henderson and his Write-In campaign for Judge

By Chris Piekarski of Portland, Oregon. Chris is the campaign manager for Charles Henderson's write-in campaign for Multnomah County Judge.

As has been recently reported in the press, one of Multnomah County’s judicial vacancy elections got a lot more interesting, if a lot less exciting, as Leslie Roberts sought, and obtained, the disqualification of recenty-appointed Judge Youlee Yim You as a valid candidate for the position.

Many people, from judges to lawyers to journalists to bloggers to blog commenters, have drawn their own conclusions as to the conduct of Leslie Roberts. And, whatever your opinion of her behavior is, there is one truth that we can all agree upon: in a year when plenty of people would like to be judge, and in a country where people ought to have a choice, there is a candidate poised to ride into office uncontested.

Well, there was.

Local attorney Charles Henderson announced his write-in candidacy in opposition of Roberts. Henderson declared his candidacy in a posting on his campaign website on September 13, 2006. In doing so, he announced his belief that Multnomah County voters deserved to have a choice in this election.

But for Henderson, it’s not only a matter of giving people any choice. It’s a matter of giving people the right choice.

A bit of history...

Charles Henderson started his legal career in 1997 and spent the next five years as a public defender, serving clients in Portland, Gresham and East Multnomah County, as well as developing his own private practice. I met Charles during this period, while I was serving as a Deputy District Attorney in Multnomah County. We tried two cases against each other and dealt with each other on hundreds of others while both working at the Gresham Circuit Court, and I found him to be a very good advocate for his clients while also being fair, forthright and – often – funny throughout our interactions. During his time in criminal defense, Henderson was instrumental in the development of the DUII Intensive Supervision Program (DISP), founded by retired Judge Dorothy Baker. The program is widely known for its effectiveness at reducing recidivism among drunk drivers, and as a defense attorney Henderson was able to help make the tough program work by working to make it a program that was tough with clients, but which was also rewarding if followed. In 2002, Henderson left the criminal arena and assumed a role as a Senior Trial Attorney for Allstate Insurance, where he continues to work today defending insured clients in personal liability cases involving personal injury and property loss.

All of that history is set out to clarify an important point: experience is, in many ways, the best teacher. While Leslie Roberts may be a fine attorney, she suffers from a typical weakness of many judicial candidates: she lacks the range that would allow her to be an effective jurist in the whole gamut of cases that would appear in her courtroom. Multnomah County does not divide its court system by case-type, and judges must hear both criminal and civil cases on daily basis. Unlike most judicial candidates in general, and unlike Roberts in particular, Charles Henderson has extensive trial experience in both the civil and criminal arenas.

Along with his experience, Henderson believes that his personality is well-suited for the bench. In responding to questions from a local blogger about what would make him a good judge aside from his wider range of courtroom expertise, Henderson noted that his calm and compassionate approach to his work would make him a good person to have sitting in contentious court proceedings. As attorneys who’ve faced Charles in court have noted on his blog, they’ve found him to be a worthy, professional, and (above all) fair adversary in their dealings with him. And, as each day goes on, the list of people who agree that Charles Henderson is the better choice is growing.

In fact, 14 of Multnomah County's 37 sitting judges have endorsed Charles. He's also garnered endorsements from Portland City Commissioner Erik Sten, three Gresham City Councilors, and The Oregonian.

While Charles has had opportunities to comment on the history of Leslie Roberts’ candidacy in this election he’s passed on opportunities to stir the pot. He simply notes that Roberts’ conduct, while yielding the right result legally, has had the unfortunate result of leaving voters without a choice. Leslie Roberts will be the sole candidate appearing on the ballot for the open position. Henderson acknowledges that he faces an uphill battle as a write-in candidate. To win, he must have a majority of the voters accurately write his name in the correct blank space provided on the ballot. And, yet, he’s still running.

Charles Henderson wants to give you a choice. And he believes that he’s giving you the right choice. He wants you to take the opportunity he’s provided to vote for a person who’s fairness and temperament have been hailed by adversaries as well as friends, who’s range of experience is unmatched by his adversary, and who will bring skill, integrity, and compassion to the bench. Charles Henderson wants your vote.

  • Chris Piekarski (unverified)

    I unfortunately failed to note in the main body of my post that Charles has also been endorsed by The Willamette Week and The Portland Mercury. The omission was not intentional and is not meant as a slight towards either of these fine publications.

    By the way, if you're interested in helping with the campaign, getting a lawn sign, or just want to know more about Charles to decide if you should vote for him, you can e-mail us at [email protected]

  • Just a Gigatroll (unverified)

    I was going to vote for him until I read he had been endorsed by Sten and Willy Week.

    Double negatives.

  • John (unverified)

    Great letter to editor in today's O regarding this situation. I thought that Roberts had tried for judge far more than 4 times, however.

    "Leslie Roberts purports to give the "real story" about her decision to enter the Multnomah County circuit court judicial race (Oct. 18) but fails to address what many find most deplorable: her manipulation of a judicial election. By silently waiting to file for election until immediately before the deadline, which effectively prevented anyone from learning of her plans to challenge Youlee Yim You, this virtually guarantees her election.

    If Roberts truly felt obligated to ensure that only qualified candidates become judges, as opposed to ensuring a judgeship for herself, she could have notified You, who could have announced her withdrawal in advance of the filing deadline, or could have notified members of the bar directly. Other qualified people may have then entered the race, but that would have meant competition for Roberts (who, interestingly, unsuccessfully applied for four judgeships in the past year).

    ERIC L. DAHLIN Attorney, Davis Wright Tremaine LLP Southwest Portland"

guest column

connect with blueoregon