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Crook County Circuit Court Judge Mike McLane has resigned with an effective date of Oct. 10

CENTRAL OREGONIAN - Mike McLaneCrook County Circuit Court Judge Mike McLane has resigned.

The resignation and resulting vacancy was announced Wednesday by Gov. Kate Brown, who said she is accepting applications for the position. His resignation is effective Oct. 10.

Brown thanked McLane for his dedicated judicial service to Jefferson and Crook counties, wished him well.

McLane said he is stepping away from the bench to return to private practice. At the time of his appointment, McLane was a partner at the firm Lynch Conger McLane LLP, in Bend, where he advised and litigated on behalf of business clients.

"My colleagues at my old law firm asked me to come back and become a partner again in the firm and move forward with them," he said. "After two years and two months on the bench, I sort of paused and given all that's happened since I joined the bench, I made the determination that for me, the way to serve my family and community is to go back to being an advocate."

McLane was appointed in June 2019 to fill a vacancy in the 22nd judicial district left by retiring judge Daniel Ahern. McLane's service began in July. He was elected to a new term in 2020.

McLane, who lives in Powell Butte, represented House District 55 beginning in 2011 and was the Republican Leader of the House of Representatives from 2012 to 2018. He was succeeded by Vikki Breese Iverson, by appointment, in 2019. She was elected to another two-year term in November 2020.

McLane did not say whether or not he would consider a return to elected office, noting that he is still a circuit court judge until Oct. 11.

"So, the only thing I am permitted to say at this time is I am returning to private practice," he remarked. "But one thing I will always be is a member of the Crook County community and an advocate for our kids, our schools and our way of life. So, I'll always be doing that."

Annette Hillman, the 22nd judicial district's presiding judge, said McLane's departure will not have an impact on the court covering cases.

"We are fortunate to have the opportunity to use senior judges to cover our dockets as assigned by the Oregon Judicial Department," she said.

Hillman added that McLane did not easily come to his decision to resign and return to private practice.

"He enjoyed his time on the bench," she observed, adding that he "has been a valuable and devoted public servant for many years and we will miss him as a colleague and jurist in the 22nd Judicial District."

McLane confirmed that he enjoyed his experience as a judge. He said it is hard to measure his experience because much of his service has taken place during the COVID pandemic.

"A lot has changed," he said. "The courts have changed, society has changed, so it's hard to judge my experience because it has been anything but normal. But I thoroughly enjoyed it and I sure hope that I contributed."

When he first joined the bench, McLane acknowledges that he had a lot to learn, but he feels that he got better at the job as time progressed. He added that he had some wonderful teachers and that the court staff and the Crook County staff have done a tremendous job keeping things going during the pandemic.

"I'm going to miss being in the courthouse every day," he said, "because I really admired the system."

Brown said she fills judicial vacancies based on merit and encourages applications from lawyers with a wide variety of backgrounds and experiences. Candidates must be a U.S. citizen, Oregon resident and a member of the Oregon State Bar.

Senate Bill 977, recently passed by the Oregon Legislature, creates a new requirement that vacancies must be filled by persons who are residents of or have principal offices in the judicial districts to which they are appointed or adjacent judicial districts.

Crook County District Attorney Wade Whiting, who has held the position since 2017, said he intends to apply for the judge vacancy.

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