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Planned $1.4 million remodel paves way for new judge

The Jackson County Circuit Court building in downtown Medford will undergo a $1.4 million remodel to make way for the addition of a 10th judge to help handle the workload.

Jackson County expects to see 7,529 criminal cases filed in 2019 — putting it third among counties statewide for its criminal caseload. It ranks sixth in population.

Only Multnomah and Washington counties in the Portland metro area projected higher caseloads, with 13,214 and 9,309 criminal cases, respectively.

Jackson County has only 27% of Multnomah County’s population, but has 57% as many criminal cases.

“We were desperate for another judge,” said Jackson County Circuit Court Judge Timothy Gerking.

Local judges said they also are under a heavy burden from civil cases and juvenile court cases. Juvenile cases range from youth accused of committing crimes to kids who need the court to intervene because they have been abandoned, neglected or abused by their parents.

Jackson County Circuit Court expects to handle 9,149 civil cases and 859 juvenile cases in 2019, court statistics show.

The Oregon Legislature provided funding for Jackson and Marion counties to each add one judge. Counties are responsible for providing adequate Circuit Court buildings.

This month, Jackson County is putting out a request for bids and qualifications to do the remodel.

“We are so very grateful to the county for agreeing to modify our existing courthouse to accommodate a new courtroom and a new judge,” Gerking said.

The project includes remodeling the building at 100 S. Oakdale Ave. The remodel will carve out an additional courtroom and judge’s chambers — plus office, restroom, electrical, heating, air conditioning and acoustic work. The courthouse has to continue operating during construction, said Jackson County Facilities Superintendent Ryan DeSautel.

Construction could start as early as February, with the work completed by July 1, 2020, he said.

Gerking said Jackson County originally expected the new judge would be seated in July 2020, but Gov. Kate Brown is fast-tracking the process.

Brown, who will appoint the new Jackson and Marion County judges, began accepting applications in September.

Interviews with finalists are planned in January, and a new judge could begin work in March, Gerking said.

“We won’t have a courtroom yet for that judge, but we will accommodate the judge,” he said.

A study of the cost of crime in Jackson County from 2013-2017 found crime costs each county resident an average of $806 annually — higher than the state average of $618 per person.

Jackson County has a higher crime rate per capita than the state average.

Costs of crime include spending on law enforcement, prosecution, incarceration, property loss, medical care for victims and missed work.

The societal cost of crime ranges from $2,566 for each theft to $10.4 million for murder, the study said.

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

Jamie Lusch / Mail Tribune A tour is held to talk about courtroom expansion to make room for the addition of a 10th judge for Jackson County Circuit Court of Friday.