By Shelby R. King

The Bulletin

REDMOND — The two attorneys running for Deschutes County Circuit Court judge invited attendees at a Monday evening forum to examine their differing backgrounds and experience when choosing the best candidate.

Thomas “T.J.” Spear and Randy Miller participated in a Redmond Patriots-sponsored forum at Highland Baptist Church in Redmond. The candidates are vying for the position on the court being vacated by Judge Barbara Haslinger in the May 20 election.

Spear, 52, cited his 19 years experience as a trial attorney, representing both prosecution and defense. He said he’s participated in more than 200 jury trials, whereas Miller has only tried one case in front of a jury.

“Do you want someone who’s only had one jury trial or is in court every day?” he asked the audience. “If you’re going into surgery, do you want a guy who’s done one surgery or hundreds?”

Miller, 43, said his years of civil-litigation experience make him the best choice because the two most recently elected judges came from criminal attorney backgrounds.

“He misunderstands the nature of my practice. He will never have the complex civil-litigation experience that I have,” Miller said. “Ask yourself, what does the judge do? A judge makes decisions. … Every judge has to learn new things.”

Audience members asked the candidates their opinions on gun control via a change to the Second Amendment, and how each would rate U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder’s performance on a scale of one to 10, with 10 being a high rating and one a low rating.

Spear answered first, explaining to attendees that a “canon of rules” for judicial candidates prohibits them from speaking on those types of issues.

When pressed, Spear said he gives Holder a “two.”

Miller refused to answer both questions on ethical grounds.

“I’m prohibited from answering,” he said. “The canons of judicial ethics say I can’t reveal what my beliefs are, as much as I might want to, and that takes integrity.”

One of the final questions was a request of both candidates to list endorsements.

Miller read from a list that included several circuit court judges from other counties, Redmond Mayor George Endicott, La Pine Mayor Ken Mulenex, members of Bend and Sisters’ city councils and district attorneys from other jurisdictions.

Spear did not read from a prepared list, but cited former Deschutes County District Attorney Mike Dugan and two Yamhill County Circuit Court judges, and he said he believed he has the endorsement of “13 of 17” current Deschutes County deputy district attorneys.

“I am honored to have their support as people I go up against every day (in court),” he said.

— Reporter: 541-383-0376, .