Alta Brady, the presiding judge of the state’s 11th Judicial District — Deschutes County — will step down at the end of the year. She’s been a circuit court judge since mid-1994, and she’s decided that it’s time to move on.
In the 23 years she has been on the bench, the courts have moved to create a more user-friendly court system and have benefited from her leadership.
Parents in danger of losing custody of their children because of addiction problems can take advantage of the Adult Family Drug Court, which Brady oversees. Watch her in action at a Family Drug Court graduation, and you’ll watch a judge who not only has a firm grasp of the law but also can be stern when need be. At the same time, you’ll see a judge with a warm and caring approach for those who are doing their darndest to turn their lives around.
What’s often less visible is the strain the Deschutes County system is under. Staffing fell during the Great Recession and has not grown since. Worse, this year it’s in the process of dealing with a 6.5 percent funding reduction. Meanwhile, the population of Deschutes County has jumped from 157,629 in 2009 to 181,307 in 2016, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.
That’s a real problem, Brady notes. Family law proceedings, everything from divorce to adoption, are delayed 25 percent of the time because the system is overwhelmed. As for criminal and other civil matters, they’re delayed about 20 percent of the time.
Brady’s position will be filled by Gov. Kate Brown in the months ahead. Meanwhile, Judge Wells Ashby will take over as Deschutes County’s presiding judge. If they’re to give county residents as good a judge as we’re losing, they have a high bar to meet.