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Gold Hill judge given one year to divert case

A Gold Hill judge charged with possession of marijuana has one year to prove himself before the case is dismissed.

The non-criminal charge against Justice Robert Henry King, 59, has been diverted from prosecution in Jackson County Circuit Court. If King complies with conditions of the court's program, the case against him will be closed without conviction after a year. King must pay about &

36;300 in fines and complete drug treatment, according to court records.

King applied for diversion after pleading not guilty to the charge of possession of less than one ounce of marijuana, classified as a violation. Narcotics officers under the command of Sheriff Mike Winters cited and released King on June 11 for buying one-eighth ounce of marijuana from a police informant.

Winters has since rerouted all his department's citations from King's Justice Court in Gold Hill to the state Circuit Court in Medford. Once a new Justice Court opens in Central Point, the sheriff's department will send all of its noncriminal cases there, Winters said. The new court was formed to handle citations written by a group of deputies assigned specifically to traffic enforcement.

The Southern Oregon Justice Court was set to open in July, but the governor's office has yet to appoint a justice of the peace. Candidates will be interviewed later this month, said spokeswoman Lorna Hobbs. The new court will be supported entirely by fines, county officials said.

King's court remains open although its workload has drastically decreased with the lack of sheriff's citations. The county likely has no legal authority to close Justice Court in Gold Hill but is considering reassigning King's staff to the Central Point Court, said Dave Kanner, deputy county administrator.

County Administrator Sue Slack said she thinks King was taking a voluntarily leave of absence but intended to return to work. King remains on the county's payroll. State law allows voters to force a recall election of King, which Kanner believes is the only way he can be removed from office. King's elected term expires in 2008.