It looks like this may be the year Deschutes County finally gets not just one, but two more needed circuit court judge positions.
It’s not a done deal. But the potential was clearly there Thursday morning in black and white in a pair of amendments to two House bills.
Deschutes County’s need for more judges has been clear for years. It’s been one of the most “underjudged” counties in the state. The Oregon Judicial Department found it to have one of the worst balances of judicial workload and staff.
That means getting justice for people before the courts takes longer. Accusations of crimes, child custody, business disputes and more take more time to resolve. That’s not good for anyone.
The Legislature always has to make decisions about balancing revenue and need. Judges across the state have come up short. There have been efforts going back at least to 2002 to increase judges in the state. There has been some progress. Deschutes missed out time and time again.
2019 was one of the more memorable examples. What did the legislative leadership do? An anonymous amendment was submitted to House Bill 2377 with no judge for Deschutes County. We’ll always remember what Mike McLane said reacting to the amendment in committee.
He was then a state representative and is now a judge on the circuit court for Jefferson and Crook counties.
“Not Deschutes?” he asked.
His question was met with only silence.
This year may be different. This year should be different.
“It has been 18 years since Deschutes County was granted a new judicial position,” state Rep. Jason Kropf, D-Bend told us. “In that time our population has grown significantly, and although our courts have done incredible things with limited resources, it has been stretched thin.”