Editorial: Kitzhaber should appoint Miller to bench now

Published Jun 17, 2014 at 12:01AM

Gov. John Kitzhaber should appoint Randy Miller as a judge on the Deschutes County Circuit Court as soon as possible.

Miller won the election for the seat clearly, despite there being three candidates on the ballot. He captured 59 percent of the vote in unofficial returns. That means the race was decided in the primary and there is no requirement to have the seat on the ballot in the November general election.

Miller’s term does not start officially until Jan. 1.

But the problem is that Judge Barbara Haslinger, whom Miller replaces, is set to retire June 30.

The result could be a vacancy on a very busy court for months.

You can already argue that because of Deschutes County’s population and caseload that the court is short one judge and one judicial referee. The court — Oregon’s 11th Judicial District — now has seven judges. Eight or nine would better match the need.

Without Miller’s appointment, criminal and civil cases will take longer to resolve. How is that good for anyone?

Oregon does have a system in place that is supposed to help out. It has substitute judges. Judges have an incentive to participate under what’s called the “Plan B” retirement option. Retiring judges can earn higher pensions by serving for 35 days per calendar year for five years following the judge member’s retirement date.

But there aren’t enough of them to satisfy all the needs. Deschutes County may or may not get one.

Rachel Wray, a spokeswoman for Kitzhaber, said he has received an official request for the interim appointment of Miller from Alta Brady, Deschutes County presiding judge. Wray said it is under consideration and a decision will be made in the next couple of weeks.

The election results should be certified July 19. Miller is available to begin work shortly thereafter.

Governor, here is a problem you can fix easily. Please do so. Appoint Miller.