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Judge's actions go far beyond bad language

Jackson County Circuit Court Judge Lisa Greif has apologized for “inappropriate language” in a lengthy series of text messages she exchanged with a plaintiff in a lawsuit against the drug and alcohol treatment agency OnTrack. The problem is, the language is the least of it.

The texts were revealed as part of the discovery process in a lawsuit filed by Amy Jacobs, a former client of OnTrack who later worked for the agency managing housing for clients in recovery. The lawsuit was filed in 2017, alleging verbal abuse by Rita Sullivan, the former executive director of OnTrack. The suit was settled this year.

Text messages between Jacobs and Greif reveal a sitting judge involving herself in a civil lawsuit that also concerned a colleague, then Jackson County Circuit Court Judge Patricia Crain, a friend of Sullivan’s who worked closely with OnTrack through the county’s Drug Court and Community Family Court. Crain retired in August 2018.

Greif clearly disliked Crain intensely, texting at one point that she “wanted to kill Crain today at (Community Family Court) graduation.” She expressed pleasure at the prospect that Sullivan would not longer lead OnTrack, adding, “Now if Crain would just go away my life would be complete.”

These were texts she sent to Jacobs, while Jacobs was pursuing a lawsuit against OnTrack along with three co-workers alleging misconduct by Sullivan.

But that was not all.

Greif clearly coached Jacobs on strategy, including feeding information to the news media about problems at OnTrack and coordinating with an official at the state Child Welfare office. Several texts indicate she was involved in exchanging information with Jacobs by email.

These were private communications, although they have now become public as a result of court proceedings.

Rule 2 of the Oregon Code of Judicial Conduct, “Maintaining the Integrity of the Judicial System,” says in part, “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,” and “A judge shall not engage in conduct that reflects adversely on the judge’s character, competence, temperament, or fitness to serve as a judge.”

Greif’s personal attacks on a fellow judge and a person involved in a lawsuit before the court she sits on would appear to violate those provisions. In addition, Rule 2.2 says, “A judge shall not use the judicial position to gain personal advantage of any kind for the judge or any other person.”

If Greif had merely used foul language in private text messages, that would be one thing, even when that language was directed against a fellow judge. But she went much further than that.

To begin to repair the integrity of the Jackson County Circuit Court, Greif should resign. If she doesn’t, she should face a challenge when she is next up for reelection, and the voters should decide her fate.