Judge slammed for foul-mouth texts
Jackson County Circuit Court Judge Lisa Greif has apologized after receiving widespread condemnation for profanity-laced text messages in which she referred to colleagues as “bitches” and appeared to help a friend in a lawsuit against a drug and alcohol recovery program.
“We want to show they are full of s---! F------! Sorry, I am in a mood,” wrote Greif in one text outburst June 14, 2017, according to court records.
Greif sent many texts blasting former Judge Patricia Crain and Rita Sullivan, former executive director of OnTrack, a drug and alcohol recovery program that works closely with the court system. Greif sent the texts to Amy Jacobs, who filed a whistleblower lawsuit in 2017 against OnTrack over alleged verbal abuse by Sullivan, including expletive-laced rants.
The lawsuit has been settled.
The salty texts describe the rancor Greif felt for Crain and were part of a deposition in the Jacobs’ suit.
“I also wanted to kill Crain today at (Community Family Court) graduation, but I was worried about all of the witnesses if I just ran and body slammed her,” Greif wrote July 15, 2017, according to court records.
In one exchange between Jacobs and Greif, Jacobs texted, “No matter what happens Rita (Sullivan) is done and that’s a win,” with a smiley face.
Greif responded, “Now if Crain would just go away my life would be complete.”
Jacobs responded, “I’m working on it” with a smiley face.
At the time, Sullivan was involved in legal action when OnTrack was going through a particularly rough patch, with state investigators taking the organization to task for providing substandard housing to recovering addicts.
Presiding Jackson County Circuit Court Judge Timothy Gerking, who oversees Greif and other court employees, said he was dismayed and disappointed that Greif had sent the texts.
“It was a serious error in judgment,” Gerking said.
Since then, he has sat down with Greif and said he believes she understands this wasn’t acceptable behavior and has vowed not to do it again.
“She was very remorseful,” he said.
Even though it is a serious error in judgment, Greif’s behavior doesn’t rise to the level of violation a judicial code of conduct, Gerking said.
According to the Oregon Code of Judicial Conduct, Rule 2 lays out the importance of maintaining the integrity of the judicial system and describes how a judge should not use the judicial position to gain personal advantage for the judge or any other person.
Rule 2.2 states, “A judge shall not engage in conduct that reflects adversely on the judge’s character, competence, temperament, or fitness to serve as a judge.”
Also the rule states, “A judge shall observe high standards of conduct so that the integrity, impartiality and independence of the judiciary and access to justice are preserved and shall act at all times in a manner that promotes public confidence in the judiciary and the judicial system.”
Gerking said he was aware that Greif and Crain didn’t get along in the past.
“I knew there was some bad blood between the two of them,” he said.
All Jackson County judges recused themselves from hearing the Jacobs’ whistleblower case, Gerking said.
The texts came to light on a local political blog, “Up Close, with Peter Sage.” Sage, who formerly endorsed Greif in her campaign for judge, said, “I’m not offended by her salty language, I was disappointed by her taking sides in a dispute. I’d like to think of a judge as being very fair minded.”
Instead of being fair, Greif put her fingers on the scale in a dispute with OnTrack to help a friend with a lawsuit.
“She was not full of goodwill in trying to help OnTrack be better, but rather she was angry and vicious,” Sage said. “Yeah, she ought to resign for the good of the court.”
Sage said it appears Greif orchestrated a successful campaign to try and destroy OnTrack and to bolster a lawsuit for a friend.
Instead of being a judge, Sage suggested she be a lawyer who advocates for a client.
Sage said he doesn’t buy the argument that Greif sent the text out two years ago and is now a changed person.
“That’s like someone who was a criminal two years ago now saying, ‘I’m a changed man,’” he said.
Greif, who did not return a call for comment Thursday, told Sage in a written explanation that she was embarrassed by the content of the texts and apologized to Crain, OnTrack, colleagues on the bench and citizens of Jackson County.
“I know that respect must be earned, and I hope that my actions since 2017 are a better reflection of who I am and the judge I aspire to be,” she wrote.
Reach reporter Damian Mann at 541-776-4476 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on www.twitter.com/reporterdm.