To the editor, News Lincoln County
Mark Collson’s letter of October 17 does a disservice to his candidate, Judge Marcia Buckley’s opponent, by tossing out partial facts and personal attacks about me. Governor Brown did not appoint Judge Buckley “against the recommendation of every elected judge in Lincoln County.” Indeed, retired Judge Robert Huckleberry, elected for more than four terms by Lincoln County voters, strongly supports retaining Judge Buckley. She also has support from judges outside Lincoln County, which is a bonus for our county and speaks well of her abilities.
While I was the only member of the governor’s advisory committee currently living in Lincoln County, another member, Brent Barton, grew up in Newport. He has a longer and deeper awareness of Lincoln County issues than I. Although he currently lives in Portland, he maintains an office here with his father, Bill Barton, a prominent Newport attorney.
The committee also included a former judge and several attorney advisers to the Governor, most of whom were involved in multiple judicial selections throughout the state. The committee reviewed notebooks of information, including letters of recommendation and extensive police background checks, about each candidate. The committee also conducted personal interviews with each applicant. I wrote a letter in support of Judge Buckley’s candidacy before I was selected for the committee; I pointed out the fact of that letter to the committee when I was asked to serve. Other than Judge Buckley, I did not know the names of the candidates before I was selected to join the advisory committee. I did my best to view each candidate objectively.
Both Judge Buckley and her opponent charged sexual abuse cases when they were prosecutors. In her role as chief deputy district attorney, Judge Buckley chaired the sexual abuse response team for the office. I have been on the opposite side of Judge Buckley when she was a practicing attorney. As a criminal defense lawyer with a state-wide practice of over 47 years, I have opposed in court and but also have friendships out of court with many prosecutors. One of my closest friends is a former United States attorney. Indeed, there once was a time when the ability to be friends with a colleague “across the aisle” was a valued attribute.
Many of the courthouse insiders supporting Judge Buckley’s opponent are friends, employees and relatives of Mr. Collson’s good friend, Judge Thomas Branford. Judge Branford expressed his support of Amanda Benjamin [whom he personally appointed to her current referee/pro tem position] to the governor’s committee, and it was considered, along with all the materials submitted by all the candidates.
Judge Branford has been trying hard to defeat Judge Buckley. As presiding judge, he assigns cases to the other judges. He has systematically declined to assign criminal cases to Judge Buckley, thereby allowing her opponent to claim that “she alone” has been handling criminal cases since January. Judge Buckley, however, has applied her considerable energies to resolving the backlog of civil and family law cases [some older than half a decade] which Judge Branford allowed to languish over the years.
The hostility to Judge Buckley puzzles me and demeans the office. If Ms. Benjamin is doing the excellent job her supporters claim [I have not appeared in front of her, so I have no personal experience with her ability], then she will be well suited to apply for the position next year when Judge Branford retires. As more than one writer about this election has pointed out, retaining Judge Buckley and keeping her opponent as the referee/pro-tem judge will ensure that both candidates remain on the bench, a “win/win” situation for Lincoln County.
SUSAN ELIZABETH REESE
Attorney at Law
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