Attorneys protest Clarkson mailer decrying defense attorneys
A campaign flyer delivered to Marion County voters caught the attention of some local lawyers — and they aren't pleased.
"Friends of Paige Clarkson" mailed a flyer to county households last week, insinuating that her opponent in the May 17 election, public defender Spencer Todd, is suspect because he associates with defense attorneys.
The front of the flyer states: "You know a man by the company he keeps…" On the flipside it continues "…So why is Spencer Todd paling around with defense attorneys & convicted criminals?"
The flyer mentions two of Todd's financial supporters, Aaron Boonshoft and Opal Creek Capital, LLC, as well as "an army of criminal defense attorneys," who have supported Todd, itemizing the names of 11 area attorneys.
Those 11 attorneys wrote to Marion County District Attorney Paige Clarkson on May 5, calling the flyer's contents defamatory. They demanded an immediate retraction and public apology.
The letter states:
"You have directly stated that we, as criminal defense attorneys, are so reprehensible that merely associating with us tarnishes other people's reputations. You have also implied that we would try to buy better results for our clients from your office. This constitutes a false and, therefore, defamatory statement. As you know, we have done nothing to deserve this except represent people on criminal charges as per the constitutional mandates of our legal system."
The letter notes that two of the mentioned attorneys are directly related to DA office employees.
"Many of us live and work in this community. Many of us rely on our reputations as good lawyers and people to do retained work, not just appointed," the letter continued. "Some of us do other work in our practices (besides criminal defense) like family law, juvenile, DHS, civil, and Department of Justice."
The attorney said they take pride in having positive relationships with other members of the bar, but said the mailer tarnishes that.
"You have needlessly and with malice affected the business of our law practices," the attorneys wrote. "The implication that an individual is deplorable because of an association with us constitutes a special harm."
The attorneys said they are further investigating the situation as a potential ethics violation.
Clarkson has served as Marion County's district attorney since 2018 and was a deputy district attorney for the county for 20 years prior. Todd has practiced law in the Salem area for 8 years and has been a public defender in Marion and Polk counties.
After the letter was released, Bobbin Singh, executive director of the Oregon Justice Resource Center, called for Clarkson to be removed from Oregon's Criminal Justice Advisory Committee. He resigned his position on the committee in protest after Chief Justice Martha Walters declined to remove her.
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