WashCo judge says he won't hear cases by public defense firm
A years-long contentious relationship between a Washington County Judge and a major public defender's office came to a head last week as the judge announced he will recuse himself from all cases involving Metropolitan Public Defender.
Judge Charles Bailey on Monday, Aug. 10, told presiding Judge Beth Roberts in a letter he will not hear cases whose defendants are represented by the Portland-based nonprofit.
Bailey's statements were made public by The Oregonian/OregonLive, which obtained the letter through a public records request.
In the letter, Bailey described a list of grievances he had with attorneys and supervisors at Metropolitan Public Defender, which, according to Bailey, were "highlights," as he wanted to keep the letter to two pages.
He said he was making the decision with a "heavy heart."
"I know this decision will mean missing out on working with a few of MPD attorneys who have been very professional and courteous to me, they know who they are," Bailey wrote.
Metropolitan Public Defender, which receives state funding, is the largest of five public defense providers in Washington County, handling about 45% of public defense work.
Bailey, who was a prosecutor in Washington County for six years before becoming a judge in 2006, has been seen as a divisive figure in the Washington County Circuit Court. Multiple defense lawyers have publicly said they've complained about Bailey to the Oregon Judicial Fitness Commission.
Former Judge Suzanne Upton filed a tort claim notice five years ago against Bailey, saying he harassed her after she missed days of work due to a personal matter. Upton didn't end up filing a lawsuit before she retired.
Although the number of complaints against Bailey isn't known because such complaints are not public record, Bailey said in his letter he has never been sanctioned for any complaints made by attorneys at Metropolitan Public Defender.
More recently, Bailey sent an email to the entire Washington County Circuit Court bench last year attacking the character of his colleague Judge Eric Butterfield, who had wanted to succeed Bailey as the court's presiding judge.
Oregon Supreme Court Chief Justice Martha Lee Walters investigated the email, and Bailey later stepped down as presiding judge.
Bailey's issues with the public defender's office date back to 2008, when he helped Judge Andrew Erwin, who beat out Judge Keith Rogers, who previously managed the Metropolitan Public Defender office in Hillsboro. Erwin had also worked in the Washington County District Attorney's Office before becoming a judge.
"Since then no criminal defense firm has been even remotely as antagonistic or shown the animus that the (Metropolitan Public Defender's) office has shown towards me, other members of the bench, or the court as a whole," Bailey wrote.
Bailey said attorneys with the public defender have, in violation of the statute permitting it, filed hundreds of affidavits of prejudice against him, alleging he was personally biased. He also said Metropolitan Public Defender's previous director called him sexist.
Bailey said attorneys with the public defender have accused the entire court of being racist. Additionally, its attorneys have accused Washington County District Attorney Kevin Barton of being racist, Bailey said. He said their accusations were based on a mischaracterization of an Oregon Court of Appeals decision, which overturned a 2015 conviction of a Black man for sex crimes, which Barton prosecuted.
Bailey also complained Metropolitan Public Defender was doing a disservice to defendants by assigning attorneys to felony cases before they had the necessary experience.
He said Metropolitan Public Defender's leadership accused an unnamed "good friend and fellow judge" of being legally incompetent.
The public defender was putting "greed" over the interests of defendants in backlogged cases due to the coronavirus, Bailey said. He called Metropolitan Public Defender's opposition to a process of dealing with the backlog, which was proposed by the District Attorney, "immoral." According to the letter, the plan would have allowed defendants facing misdemeanor and felony charges to instead plead guilty to violations, saving the court time and money.
After describing each issue, Bailey wrote, "Still, I kept an open mind and tried to work with them."
In the last issue Bailey describes, he says Metropolitan Public Defender's attorneys used "cancel culture" tactics against him, complaining to the presiding judge about his position on the backlog of cases and threatening to file complaints with the Judicial Fitness Commission.
"They have now made it crystal clear, they have no desire to work with me, thus, I (can't) any longer keep an open mind," Bailey said.
Metropolitan Public Defender did not immediately respond to a request for comment Monday by Pamplin Media Group.
In a statement, Metropolitan Public Defender executive director Carl Macpherson told The Oregonian/OregonLive last week he agrees with the conclusion of Bailey's letter that he can no longer be fair and impartial in cases involving the public defender.
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