Editorial: The right vote for Deschutes circuit judge

Voters have a chance to help solve a problem for the Deschutes County Circuit Court.

Steven Kurzer has withdrawn from the race. He will still be on the ballot. It’s too late for his name to be removed.

Voting for Kurzer could be bad for justice in Deschutes County. The county circuit court could be down a judge for months.

Here’s how it might work: Deschutes County Circuit Court Judge Barbara Haslinger is retiring after the May 2014 primary. If one of the remaining two candidates running for her position — Randy Miller or Thomas “T.J” Spear — doesn’t get more than 50 percent of the vote in the May election and automatically win the position, there will be a runoff in November. Undervotes or votes for Kurzer could easily undercut the ability of Miller or Spear to get more than 50 percent of the vote.

A clear victor in May means the victor could be appointed immediately. A runoff means Deschutes County may get a substitute judge from time to time, but there aren’t enough of those to fill the need of every county.

Justice in Deschutes County will be slowed. Families won’t get resolution of divorce or custody matters. Criminal cases will take longer to resolve. Business disputes may just have to wait.

The Deschutes court already needs one more judge and one more judicial referee to serve a growing community of this size. We expect that request to go before the 2015 Legislature. Justice in the community certainly wouldn’t get better with one fewer judge.

We’ll have an endorsement in the race in the next few weeks, but just don’t waste your vote on Kurzer.