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Replacement judge will serve from June 1 to Sept. 17

The West Linn City Council decided Monday to formally interview four candidates for the soon-to-be vacated municipal judge position, rather than appoint one right away.

The interviews will take place prior to the city council meeting Monday, and the council will decide then which candidate to appoint as interim judge. The appointee will serve from June 1, when the current judge, Heather Karabeika, officially leaves office, to Sept. 17, when the next special election is scheduled.

Karabeika was recently selected by Gov. John Kitzhaber to fill a spot on the Clackamas County Circuit Court. A former deputy district attorney and indigent defense attorney in Clackamas County, she has served on the West Linn municipal court since 2007.

Four candidates will be interviewed to replace Karabeika in the interim: Rhett Bernstein, Ron Gray, Zach Lorts and Elizabeth Lampson.

by: SUBMITTED PHOTO - Karabeika

Bernstein is a West Linn-based attorney who specializes in personal injury, estate planning and criminal representation.

Gray, a criminal defense attorney with an office in Oregon City, has served as a judge on the Milwaukie Municipal Court since 1988, and has also been a pro tem (short term) judge on both the Oregon City and West Linn Courts. He is a West Linn resident.

Lorts, a West Linn resident since 1985, has practiced criminal law as a prosecutor and defense attorney since 1977. He has prior experience as a pro tem judge in West Linn and has maintained a law office in Oregon City since 1981.

A 20-year litigation attorney, Lampson has lived with her family in West Linn for 16 years. She currently works as a shareholder with Davis, Rothwell, Earle & Xóchihua, and the bulk of her experience has come in civil litigation. Lampson also volunteers in the community as a mock trial judge.

Lampson expressed her interest in the position on Tuesday, after the city council's decision to conduct interviews.

Though Councilor Thomas Frank — who had done background research on each of the candidates except for Lampson — suggested appointing Bernstein right away, other councilors preferred going through the interview process.

"In many elections, people vote for the incumbent," Councilor Jody Carson said. "We want to get who we're comfortable with."

Karabeika's impending departure also prompted City Manager Chris Jordan to propose amending the city charter so the election for a vacated judge, mayor or councilor position would take place during the general election in November, rather than a special election in September.

With this change, Jordan said in a memo, the election process would be less confusing to voters while also drawing a larger turnout and saving the money that would be spent on a special election.

Though primary and general elections are paid for by the state, the city is responsible for funding any special election.

Council members agreed Monday to discuss this and other charter ammendments at a later date.

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