Elections 2014 — Former deputy district attorney, seeks to fill Judge Cal Tichenors spot

McMinnville attorney and former Yamhill County deputy district attorney J. Mark Lawrence announced March 10 he is seeking Circuit Court Judge Cal Tichenor’s spot upon his retirement. Lawrence joins current deputy D.A. Ladd Wiles who filed for the position Sept. 12, the first day applications were accepted.

Lawrence might be best known for a 2007 case involving male students at Patton Middle School in McMinnville who faced criminal charges for allegedly spanking female classmates. The charges were later dismissed.

However, in 2010, Lawrence received a 60-day suspension after releasing the court transcript to the media, which is forbidden under Oregon law. The suspension, however, was later overturned by the Oregon Supreme Court.

Lawrence and his wife Paula were also defense counsel for Kevin Jarnagin in the 2009 death of his girlfriend’s 7-month-old daughter, Aleeha Hardaway. Jarnagin pled guilty in 2013 to criminally negligent homicide.

“I pledge to be a patient, fair and courteous judge, who will use my nearly 25 years of legal experience to apply the law wisely,” Lawrence said in a press release. “My years as a trial attorney have taught me that if all the parties have a fair and equal opportunity to be heard in court, then win or lose they will accept a court’s considered judgment. That is the kind of judge I want to be.”

Lawrence served as deputy district attorney from 1989 until 1991, when he and his wife shared her position as a deputy district attorney in Washington County after the birth of their daughter. A year later, he went into private practice.

He said he hadn’t thought much about being a judge until 10 years ago, when presiding Circuit Court Judge John Collins asked him about being a judge pro tem.

“I said no, I was an attorney and I liked that and I do like that,” he said. “As time’s gone on, part of it is getting older more experienced, thinking I have more insights. I concluded I’d like to do it and I’d be good and able to contribute.”

Lawrence said he believes he could work well with the county’s other judges in improving the system and making it run more efficiently.

“I think having been in private practice and in different areas of the law I have a greater breadth of knowledge, which is good for a judge to understand both sides, not only criminal court but family and civil as well,” he said.

Within the court systems, he’s looking to implement a deadline schedule to move cases through faster.

“Right now the court should be processing misdemeanor cases within 90 days … they’re running at about eight months now,” he said. “And domestic violence cases within about 60 days — they get priority.”

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