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Defense lawyer asks to drop Orr from 50 cases

Citing claims a judge has repeatedly violated “the canons of judicial fitness,” a Medford defense lawyer is asking that the judge not be involved in active criminal cases involving dozens of clients.

Lawyer Justin Rosas petitioned Friday for the removal of Jackson County Circuit Court Judge David Orr from at least 50 active criminal cases, alleging that Orr “cannot be fair” in cases ranging from misdemeanor criminal mischief to first-degree murder.

The Mail Tribune counted 50 of Rosas’ cases that each sought to disqualify Orr — each including a notarized affidavit dated Dec. 4 and filed in court Dec. 11 — in which Rosas states he witnessed Orr violate the Oregon Code of Judicial Conduct on multiple occasions since the spring of 2019.

In the affidavit Rosas filed Friday, Rosas highlighted multiple examples of Orr’s alleged courtroom misconduct.

In one example, Rosas claims that Orr “banned” him from speaking for his client at a hearing, and wasn’t allowed to correct Orr’s false proclamations that a defendant had a record of failing to appear in court. Without formal prompting, the affidavit states, Orr threatened to issue a warrant while silencing Rosas.

A prosecutor ultimately spoke up for Rosas.

“This was at an appearance the court advised counsel was not mandatory,” Rosas states.

At another hearing that occurred March 13 of last year, Rosas stated that he witnessed Orr order another local defense lawyer to “sit down, away from counsel table, and remain silent while [Orr] addressed and questioned his client.”

Rosas alleges at least three Oregon Code of Judicial Conduct violations: one surrounding the lawyer’s right to be heard in Orr’s courtroom, another for impartiality and fairness, and a third for violating the defendant’s right to be represented by a lawyer at all stages of the court proceedings.

The defense lawyer named in Rosas’ affidavit did not respond to the Mail Tribune’s request for comment. Court records confirm that the named defense lawyer represented a man who pleaded guilty to a felony coercion and misdemeanor strangulation charge in Orr’s courtroom on that date, but a recording of the hearing was not immediately available for independent verification.

In another example, Rosas states that Orr refused to reschedule a misdemeanor driving under the influence of intoxicants trial involving a defendant who is not currently held in jail. The case had never been postponed before, and the Jackson County District Attorney’s Office did not object to changing the date.

A Dec. 3 case matching Rosas’ allegation shows that a public defender sought to reschedule a Dec. 10 trial on charges of driving under the influence of intoxicants and reckless driving because the lawyer needed more time to obtain medical records and connect the defendant with an as-yet unhired expert witness.

Orr ultimately signed off on an order rescheduling the case to March, court records show, but hand wrote beside his “Allowed” checkmark, “NO FURTHER CONTINUANCES.”

Orr has not responded to the Mail Tribune’s request for comment.

Rosas alleges that insisting on the trial date was against Oregon State Supreme Court directives during the COVID-19 pandemic requiring trials to be scheduled on an as-necessary basis by the presiding judge.

“He is not the presiding judge,” Rosas writes. “That first-set trial is also no manifest necessity and trials that were much older were continued in the same session, showing there is no rhyme or reason to the judge’s decisions on cases other than personal vitriol and emotion.”

Rosas claims he’s not the first lawyer to file that many motions to disqualify Orr, but the Mail Tribune was unable to find any other lawyer who so routinely or profoundly has sought Orr’s removal.

Reach reporter Nick Morgan at 541-776-4471 or nmorgan@rosebudmedia.com. Follow him on Twitter @MTCrimeBeat.