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MailTribune.com
  • Charges exchanged in circuit judge race

  • Adeputy district attorney running against Jackson County Circuit Judge J. Adam Peterson claims Peterson is exaggerating his prosecutor resume during his election bid, a charge the sitting judge called "lies" and dirty politics.
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  • Adeputy district attorney running against Jackson County Circuit Judge J. Adam Peterson claims Peterson is exaggerating his prosecutor resume during his election bid, a charge the sitting judge called "lies" and dirty politics.
    In a dust-up within what is normally a staid judicial campaign, Deputy District Attorney David Hoppe called out Peterson for claiming he had handled "thousands" of cases during his seven years as a prosecutor here, a claim Peterson said is true.
    Hoppe also took issue with Peterson's statement to another media outlet implying that his criminal law career included "trying" and "resolving" thousands of criminal cases.
    "And then criminal law — and that's what I ended my career at the District Attorney's Office doing is trying cases, resolving cases and handling hundreds, thousands of cases at the District Attorney's Office," Peterson said on KMED's Bill Meyer Show on March 13.
    Hoppe has provided Jackson County District Attorney's Office statistics showing that Peterson was assigned 131 cases, 34 of them the more serious Measure 11 crimes, while conducting criminal prosecutions during the three years running up to his judicial appointment in September 2013.
    D.A.'s documents show Hoppe, who has been a criminal prosecutor for 13 years here, was assigned 712 cases, 89 of which were Measure 11 cases, during that same period. He was assigned 280 cases involving Measure 11 crimes between 2005 and 2013, statistics show.
    "He's being deceptive here," Hoppe said. "He hasn't tried and resolved thousands of cases. He's only been assigned 131 (criminal) cases and has had one or two jury trials over three years. That's not right.
    "I've had an open and public career with a real record," Hoppe said.
    Peterson said Friday that he handled thousands of cases during his 18-month tenure in the Family Support Division and during his two years handling juvenile cases before he joined the office's Criminal Division.
    "I've never said I've handled thousands of criminal cases," Peterson said. "I said I handled thousands of cases at the District Attorney's Office and the numbers bear that out."
    Along with his 131 criminal cases, Peterson said he considers the juvenile delinquency cases he handled as well as contempt filings from criminal non-support in the Family Support Division to be criminal cases because they are cases based on criminal statutes.
    A review of the District Attorney's Office budgets reveals that 617 criminal contempt charges were filed during the two fiscal years spanning Peterson's Family Support Division tenure. During the two fiscal years covering his time in juvenile court, 1,342 juvenile delinquency cases were filed, the budgets state.
    "It works to Mr. Hoppe's advantage to downplay my work helping parents in need and in juvenile cases," Peterson said.
    "I think he's skewing numbers to make it make him look better and discounting the work I have done," he said.
    Hoppe retorted Friday: "He made himself look bad."
    The verbal sparring in the race erupted Thursday in a candidates interview that Peterson, Hoppe and candidate William Francis had with the Mail Tribune editorial board. It also spilled over into separate Mail Tribune interviews Friday.
    After Hoppe produced the criminal-case statistics in Thursday's meeting and questioned Peterson's record, Peterson called Hoppe's comments "lies."
    Peterson told the editorial board the reason he did not have many jury trials as a prosecutor was because much of his work was in juvenile court, where trials are not conducted.
    Peterson also called Hoppe's claims, which came at the end of the interview, "shady campaign tactics."
    Peterson said Friday he felt blindsided at the time.
    Francis, who did not participate in the heated exchanges during the editorial board meeting, said Friday that he was "flabbergasted" and "distressed" by Peterson's response to Hoppe.
    "I think it raises concerns and questions about a person's temperament as they campaign for election to an office such as Circuit Court judge, where you would want to have an even disposition," Francis said Friday.
    Peterson said he simply was "fighting for the truth."
    Gov. John Kitzhaber appointed Peterson to the post in September to fill the seat vacated by Dan Harris, who retired.
    Hoppe and Francis, a Medford criminal defense lawyer, both take issue with the common practice of judges such as Peterson being appointed for a short term and then being able to run in their first election as an incumbent.
    All three candidates told the Mail Tribune that they would serve their complete terms if elected.
    Reach reporter Mark Freeman at 541-776-4470 or mfreeman@mailtribune.com.
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