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A contested judicial race should offer an opportunity for the public to study the best features of two worthy candidates, each hoping to serve with justice and fairness. Unfortunately, the race for Lincoln County Circuit court is not such a competition.
On one hand, Judge Thomas Branford has a proven record: decades of compassionate, thoughtful and balanced service on the bench – and contributions as citizen, friend, family member and neighbor as well. On the other hand, his challenger has a dubious record: disciplined by the state bar and on the losing end of a claim against former clients, he offers only to fix an unverified “backlog” of civil cases. Significantly, this man is quoted at the recent candidate’s forum as saying that criminal law, which he admits constitutes most of the cases in this county “is not a big interest of mine.” He says it is “not terribly complicated,” even though he has not practiced in this area. In addition, this fellow apparently has a personal interest in taking Judge Branford’s place on the bench – because Judge Branford ruled against him in a costly and frivolous lawsuit against his own former clients. Such a personal crusade portrays someone unable to set aside his own biases to reach balance on behalf of litigants.
As a criminal defense lawyer for nearly 45 years, I find the idea of this man as a judge quite unsettling. Criminal cases can be profoundly complex: the intricacies of the evidence code, the application of scientific principles, and the nuances of sentencing guidelines are only a few of the areas which require thorough study and intensive practice.
Judge Branford has decades of immersion in criminal justice issues. He has presided over cases both large and small. He has seen offenders turn their lives around in drug courts and mental health courts. He has worked long hours, not only during the week but also on weekends. I have not always agreed with his rulings, but I have always been confident in his diligence, fairness, and dedication. To replace Judge Branford with someone who plans to learn on the job about an area of law he terms “not a big interest of mine” would be a disaster for our community.
The choice is abundantly clear: vote to re-elect Judge Tom Branford to the Lincoln County Circuit Court.
Susan Elizabeth Reese
Attorney at Law
Post Office Box 763
Newport, Oregon 97365
Rebuttal from attorney Russel Baldwin, candidate for Judge
Dear Lincoln County Voters –
Campaign judicial ethics prevent me from making disparaging remarks against my opponent. Judges and lawyers are prohibited from making false statements of fact. What is evident is that my opponent’s supporters have not stayed within those guidelines.
I have run a clean and positive campaign. I have focused on my ideas to improve our court with more timely hearings, pre-trial scheduling orders, and other ways to improve the efficiency of our court system. I have discussed these ideas openly in public forums and on local broadcast radio. My aim is to reduce costs to litigants. I have not focused on the flaws of my opponent. That said, many of these letters expressing negative comments are simply meant to misinform and unfairly influence voters. I have confidence that most of you will see beyond these tactics. It is a worsening problem at all levels in the age of social and digital media.
A recent letter by one attorney, Ms. Reese, is simply misinformed. I don’t believe that we have ever met. Over my nearly 30 years, I have practiced criminal law involving allegedly racist speech, sexual abuse, possession and manufacture of controlled substances, and alleged environmental & hunting crimes. Moreover, I have not publicly disparaged my opponent or his recent rulings to which his supporters frequently refer. That matter is up on appeal because my opponent ordered (in 2016) that I should pay $60,000 in attorney fees to a litigious family partnership which later testified (in 2017) that they had incurred no such fees. The basis of the decision was that I should not have foreclosed my lien –but the court had previously ordered me to foreclose it to get paid funds it was holding for my benefit.
My opponent next concluded that I should have known that I would win, because my lien had the highest possible priority. The court then concluded that I should lose because I knew I would win, making it “superfluous.” I have appealed that decision. Lincoln 15cv12092.
The following is my Oath: I, (Russell L. Baldwin), do solemnly swear that I will support the Constitution of the State of Oregon, and that I will faithfully and impartially discharge the duties of judge of the Circuit Court, according to the best of my ability. I can promise the voters three things if elected. I will honor my Oath. I will remain impartial and I will rule fairly without bias while upholding the Constitution (including lawyers who have publicly or privately opposed me). And I will finish out my 6 yr. term. My opponent cannot promise the same. My opponent is prohibited from serving out the term due to his advanced age. A vote for my opponent is a proxy to have Salem anoint his replacement in 3 years. If history be our local guide, that would be another career prosecutor, not a defense attorney like me. I humbly ask for your vote before May 15th. Thank you. Respectfully,
Russell Baldwin, Attorney/Candidate for Judge
For more info, see pg. 44 of the voter’s pamphlet. Please follow me on Facebook @ RussBaldwinforJudge