Asked and Answered – FAQs
”Why were you interested in the position of Justice of the Peace in 2001?”
I was interested in applying some of the skills I had utilized managing the family farm, while serving on various boards and committees, along with applying life lessons that I had experienced along the way. Also, I had learned firsthand that solving problems can be very rewarding and there is certainly a problem solving aspect related to administering a court and adjudicating the matters that come before the court.
“What has proven to be the most rewarding aspect of the job?”
There are many rewarding aspects of the job, but anytime we can assist someone who is experiencing confusion or frustration regarding a matter before the court and can provide them support in navigating the judicial process, it is rewarding. When they express their appreciation at the end of the contact it is all the more satisfying. It means we have done our job.
“How does a court educate? Isn’t it about deciding that people are either guilty of something or not?”
The old adage of “innocent until proven guilty” is absolutely true in the eyes of our judicial system. Before the Court can ever consider the particular story that a defendant would like to tell, it must first establish whether that defendant intends to assert their right to contest the charge or charges, or not. After entry of plea has taken place, the Court will either act as a fact-finding body to determine whether a conviction should be entered, or participate in a two-way conversation where the specific details of the event can be discussed and a penalty may be imposed. This is where education can be of great value. The Court has the opportunity to correct misconceptions that may exist and to address specific concerns regarding the value of safety-related laws to our communities. When someone ill-advisedly refers to Sherman County as being “in the middle of nowhere” they are politely, but firmly informed that there are children, adults, pets, farm equipment, and wild animals all found on or near the roads and streets of this county and that each and every motorist is required by law to drive in a manner that assures the safety of all. That admonition generally curtails the conversation and hopefully carries educational value.
“What are some of the benefits of having a local court, such as a Justice Court, in a small rural area like ours?”
Justice Courts typically can provide access to the judge more readily than the larger general juridiction courts. With many larger courts a traffic defendant will only have an opportunity to address the judge directly when involved in a contested traffic hearing. With courts like ours, once it has been established that the matter is not being contested, there is often an opportunity for the court to address questions, concerns or requests for mitigation directly. Sherman County Justice Court accepts walk-ins for their first appearances for violations as long as we have the information necessary for holding the court appearance. We are also able to schedule court proceedings on a fairly short turnaround, which is beneficial in many instances. Perhaps the greatest benefit is in having a court that can understand the values and concerns of the community and see that they are reflected in the function of the Court. Finally, the Justice of the Peace performs marriages under the authority of the Oregon Constitution.