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Judge Patricia Crain, architect of county drug court, to retire

Jackson County Circuit Judge Patricia Crain, who helped pioneer local drug treatment courts, will retire on Aug. 31.

Her retirement will create a vacancy that will be filled by an appointee of Gov. Kate Brown.

Crain won re-election to her seat in 2016 for another six-year term. During her campaign, she said she remained enthusiastic about her job and had every intention of serving out her full term if re-elected.

Crain, 71, said on Friday that family and health considerations change as people get older.

After retiring, she said she plans to spend more time with her mother, who lives in the area, as well as her grandchildren.

Crain said she will serve as a substitute judge following her retirement.

A state program for retired judges provides an enhanced pension if they serve as substitute judges for 35 days per year for five years. They can be assigned anywhere in the state.

Crain said she wants to retire when she is still young enough to serve for those five years.

She spent 20 years as a practicing lawyer, followed by 21 years as a Jackson County Circuit Court judge.

Presiding Judge Timothy Gerking said Crain is the longest-serving judge currently on the court.

“The reason she served as a judge for so long was she truly loved what she was doing. You could tell she loved helping people,” Gerking said. “She was always prepared. She was just an outstanding judge.”

He said Crain was an architect of Jackson County’s drug courts.

Defendants who complete the rigorous drug court programs can have felony drug charges removed from their records.

Jackson County began establishing drug treatment court programs in 2000, starting first with family cases in which addicted parents had lost custody of their children or were in danger of losing custody. Programs later were expanded to adult criminal cases, targeting repeat property crime offenders with substance abuse problems.

Among other conditions, defendants meet with the same judge regularly, undergo drug testing, attend drug treatment, write a letter of apology to victims, complete a community service project and must have a job or be working on their educations before they graduate from the program.

Crain spent a dozen years handling the drug court cases before handing the reins to another judge a few years ago. Judge Kelly Ravassipour now sees the drug court cases.

Crain says it was time for a younger generation of judges to handle drug court programs.

In recent years, Jackson County’s drug courts have faced challenges.

OnTrack, which provided contracted drug treatment for many defendants, was under investigation by the state for substandard living conditions at some of its treatment facilities. The organization was also hit with lawsuits over alleged inappropriate behavior by some staff, including claims former Executive Director Rita Sullivan created a hostile work environment.

OnTrack has since been working to improve its facilities and programs under new leadership.

Further undermining drug courts throughout the state, in 2017 Oregon downgraded possession of small amounts of meth, heroin, cocaine or other illegal drugs from a felony to a misdemeanor. Without the threat of a felony record hanging over their heads, far fewer defendants applied to enter drug treatment court programs.

Jackson County has responded by having probation officers offer targeted help to addicted defendants.

Regardless of challenges for drug courts and OnTrack, many former addicts credit drug court with helping them turn their lives around.

Since stepping down as the judge overseeing drug court, Crain has been handling juvenile and domestic relations cases.

Crain said she always keeps in mind that being in court is a frightening situation for most people and judges have great power over their lives.

“I’ve enjoyed serving the public. I hope I’ve made a difference in some people’s lives. I hope I provided people with the respect they need and should expect when they are before a judge,” she said.

As the governor looks over applicants to fill the upcoming vacancy on the court, Crain said she hopes Brown looks for someone who is respected in the legal community and who would apply the law fairly, have a good demeanor on the bench and be able and willing to make decisions.

Gerking said he hopes the governor will appoint someone who is bright and industrious.

“We’re a hard-working court and we’re going to miss Pat because she was such a hard-working judge,” he said.

A study found that, per capita, Jackson County Circuit Court is the most overworked county court system in the state. The local system needs three more judges, but doesn’t have the budget or building space to accommodate those additions.

The governor announced on Friday she is accepting applications to fill Crain’s seat.

Brown thanked Crain for her dedicated judicial service.

Brown said she fills judicial vacancies based on merit and encouraged applications from lawyers with a wide variety of backgrounds and experiences.

Candidates must be citizens of the United States, residents of Oregon, members of the Oregon State Bar and live in or have a main office in Jackson County.

Interested applicants should mail or deliver their completed application forms to Misha Isaak, General Counsel, Office of the Governor, 900 Court St. N.E. No. 254, Salem, OR 97301-4047. Forms must be received by 5 p.m. on Monday, Aug. 13. Forms emailed by 5 p.m. on the closing date will be considered timely so long as original signed forms postmarked by the closing date are later received.

To receive answers to questions about the appointment process, or to request an interest form, contact Shevaun Gutridge at 503-378-6246 or shevaun.gutridge@oregon.gov. The judicial interest form is also available at www.oregon.gov/gov/admin/Pages/Judicial-Appointments.aspx.

Reach Mail Tribune reporter Vickie Aldous at 541-776-4486 or valdous@rosebudmedia.com. Follow her at www.twitter.com/VickieAldous.

Judge Patricia Crain shares a laugh with Sarah Compton and her son Davey as Compton is awarded a certificate of graduation from Jackson County’s Community Family Court in 2010.{ }{ }