The two active candidates for Deschutes Circuit Court have many similarities. Both are Oregon natives, military veterans, active community members, accomplished lawyers, husbands and fathers.

They differ, however, in the focus of their legal careers.

Randy Miller, 43, is a civil litigator, experienced in commercial, construction, real estate, land use and individual rights, among others.

Thomas “T.J.” Spear, 52, has spent most of his career in criminal law, as a prosecutor and defense attorney, handling a wide variety of cases ranging from murder to child abuse. He is also a patent attorney and has served as a pro-tem judge.

It’s a tribute to Central Oregon’s legal community that it has fielded two such strong candidates. We think both would serve the court well, and choosing between them isn’t easy. Each would need to learn some of what the other knows to serve effectively as a Circuit Court judge.

Our endorsement goes to Miller, in part because the last two judges to join our Circuit Court came from the criminal side, and we believe the court would benefit from adding Miller’s expertise to its body of knowledge. While all judges must handle both criminal and civil cases, there’s value in having a colleague with complementary knowledge and experience.

(A third name appears on the ballot for this race, but Steven Kurzer had withdrawn. Please see the editorial below.)

Miller was born in Eugene and raised in Lake Oswego. He spent six years in the Marine Corps with combat experience in Kuwait during Operation Desert Storm. He served as a police officer in Sunriver before earning his undergraduate degree in business management from Linfield College and going to work as an internal auditor for Les Schwab Tire Co. After graduating from Willamette University College of Law, he worked for Schwabe Williamson and Wyatt in Portland and then Bend. In 2012, he started his own law practice in Bend.

Miller says he wants to be a judge because he cares about people and public service. Before deciding to run for retiring judge Barbara Haslinger’s seat, he visited each of the sitting judges to discuss his experience and the court’s needs. Although his focus on civil litigation means he hasn’t handled many jury trials, he has sought to understand how he can contribute to making the courthouse more efficient.

We’ve been impressed by Miller’s energy and drive, as well as his enthusiasm for the connections he’s made with people through campaigning. This is a man who does everything at full throttle, but thoughtfully. He’ll learn fast and apply careful analysis to all he encounters, which will serve the Deschutes Circuit Court well.