McGeary, Ravassipour favored for judgeships

Former County Counsel Douglas M. McGeary and public defender Kelly W. Ravassipour were the top choices for the county's next two judges in a poll of their peers.

McGeary and Ravassipour earned 93 and 71 votes, respectively, in the Jackson County Judicial Preference Bar Poll.

Sixty percent of the eligible pool of 322 Jackson County attorneys voted on 10 candidates to replace judges Daniel L. Harris, who departed on July 1, and G. Philip Arnold, who will retire Sept. 1.

The final selections will be made by Gov. John Kitzhaber.

"I feel honored to be selected by my peers," McGeary said, adding he believes he has a "judicial disposition" and looks forward to serving the public by rendering "fair, balanced and impartial judgments."

Like the other candidates, McGeary, 57, is waiting to hear the results of Kitzhaber's selection, which he supports over the election process.

Jackson County Circuit Court Judge Tim Barnack, a former county prosecutor, in 2008 defeated McGeary and fellow prosecutor John Norton to win the position of retiring Judge Rebecca Orf.

Running for a judicial seat is an expensive and time-consuming proposition, McGeary said, adding most of the voters he spoke with during his campaign were uncertain about the duties of a judge.

"Most don't really understand what judges do and why they're there," McGeary said, adding going to court is something most people try hard to avoid.

Ravassipour, 39, is the sole female seeking appointment. A defense attorney with Southern Oregon Public Defender Inc., she has worked on cases from petty thefts to murder trials.

Ravassipour thanked her colleagues and said she has been an advocate of equal representation and access to justice in the courts for the past 10 years. She has had an opportunity to be an integral part of forming Jackson County's treatment courts, she said. She and a colleague started a juvenile department within the public defender office and has tried many criminal cases, Ravassipour said.

"Those opportunities taught me to become an active listener, to reserve judgment and how to collaborate with all parties involved to assure a fair resolution," she said.

Ravassipour praised Jackson County Circuit Court judges Timothy Gerking and Benjamin Bloom, who were also governor appointees, adding she, too, supports the appointment system.

"As a judge I would strive to ensure fairness and justice for everyone and am ready for new challenges," she said.

Ashland attorney Christian Hearn came in third in the bar poll with 53 votes. One of two civil lawyers who applied for the judicial seats, Hearn specializes in real estate and land-use issues. Hearn did not return calls from the Mail Tribune on Monday.

Two Jackson County prosecutors, David G. Hoppe and J. Adam Peterson, took the fourth and fifth spots, with 39 and 35 votes respectively.

Hoppe, 46, said if appointed, he would work with prosecutors and defense attorneys in an effort to create a domestic violence court, and fast-track those cases.

"I think it would be good to have a judge on the bench who has experience with survivors and victims of abuse," Hoppe said. "I would also work to make court less traumatizing for children."

Peterson, 32, currently covers child abuse cases for the DA's office. A member of the Southern Oregon High-Tech Crimes Task Force and a special assistant U.S. attorney, Peterson said his technical expertise qualifies him to handle "complex technology-based cases."

"I believe strongly that our system of justice allows for a peaceful society," Peterson said. "And I am prepared to handle the complicated cases of the 21st century."

James J. Stout, Joseph M. Charter, David J. Orr, Allan E. Smith and Nathan D. Wente rounded out the final five candidates listed in the bar poll.

The attorneys' poll is independent of the governor's office, said Liani Reeves, Kitzhaber's chief legal adviser. The governor will make his selections after reviewing the candidates' applications forms, checking with references and talking with the presiding circuit court judges and Bob Kleker, the trial court administrator, she said.

Reeves said the governor hopes to make his appointments by early September, Reeves said.

"Ultimately, it is the governor's decision," McGeary said.

Reach reporter Sanne Specht at 541-776-4497 or e-mail sspecht@mailtribune.com.


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