Experience: Spear served as a deputy district attorney in Deschutes and Yamhill counties. Since 2007 he has focused on criminal defense, property law, patent applications, domestic relations and business law. Serves as judge pro tem in Deschutes County.
Experience: Miller represents businesses and individuals in commercial, real estate, land use, construction, estate, bankruptcy, civil rights and other individual matters in state and federal jurisdictions, at mediation, arbitration and trial.
Voters in May have two local attorneys with very different backgrounds to choose from to fill the Deschutes County Circuit Court seat being vacated by Judge Barbara Haslinger.
Randy Miller, 43, specializes in civil litigation, while Thomas “T.J.” Spear, 52, has been both a prosecuting and defense attorney in mostly criminal cases.
Spear was appointed in 2007 by the Oregon Supreme Court to serve as a judge pro tem, presiding on a part-time basis in Deschutes County Circuit Court. This is Spear’s fourth run for the bench, though he dropped out of the 2010 race. At the time, he said he didn’t have time to conduct an election campaign, according to Bulletin archives.
This is Miller’s first time running for public office. Miller said he’s running because he cares about people and service.
“I served in combat in the Marine Corps and was a police officer for a year in Sunriver,” he said. “After that, I decided I wanted to get my degree and pursue my passion for service.”
Spear, who works for DeKalb & Associates, said he represents mostly indigent clients and is running because he believes this is a logical step considering his 19 years experience as a trial attorney.
“I got to the point where I felt like I’m an excellent trial attorney and as a judge I can have a far greater impact on what happens in a case,” he said. “I realized I can have a greater impact on justice.”
Miller worked for the Bend office of Schwabe, Williamson & Wyatt from 2004 until 2012 when he started a private practice. He said his background in civil litigation will help expedite the docket.
He said civil cases tend to be complicated, and his knowledge of procedure will help him resolve civil cases in a timely way.
He explained that most civil litigation is decided by a judge rather than a jury. He said his experience representing clients in civil cases will help him on the bench.
“The court docket is 50 percent civil issues,” he said. “I know this is an area where we can benefit from my civil litigation experience.”
Miller said he talked to the seven sitting Deschutes court justices, and they suggested becoming comfortable with the criminal side of the law is less complicated than understanding civil procedures.
Spear said that although he respects his opponent’s experience, he believes Miller’s lack of trial experience will be a hindrance to his effectiveness as a circuit court judge.
“With the experience I have I can get through criminal cases much faster than my opponent, which leaves more time for the civil cases,” he said. “I understand the procedures and the processes. I’ve sat on the bench as a circuit court judge, and I think I’ve had as many civil litigation cases as he does.”
Spear said Miller is “taking numbers and twisting them” with his claim that 53 percent of the cases in circuit court are civil.
“When I look at the docket on a daily basis, between 50 and 60 percent of the cases are criminal,” he said. “About 20 percent are in family court and the other 20 percent are civil cases.”
Miller said his experience in combat and as a police officer will help him as a circuit court judge.
“As a police officer, I had to recall the law in chaotic situations, such as in the middle of a domestic violence call,” he said. “I needed to know the law and whether it had been violated in order to make an arresting decision in accordance with that law.”
Spear said he’s the better candidate because of his extensive trial experience.
“In trial, it’s a volatile, fluid environment,” he said. “A judge has to be on his toes. He has to know the rules and parameters of the law. If you haven’t been to trial, how are you going to know how to handle a case?”
The nonpartisan vote for Deschutes County Circuit Court judge is May 20. Miller and Spear are vying for seat No. 5. The victor in the May election will serve a four-year term beginning Jan. 1.
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