Come May 20, Circuit Court Judge Cynthia Beaman hopes her years of experience on the bench and in the legal profession will trump that of challenger Shala McKenzie Kudlac of Sixes.
The 15th Judicial District is comprised of circuit courts in Coos and Curry counties, and deals with all cases brought to court except for taxes.
Beaman and Kudlac both participated in League of Women Voters’ candidate forums in Brookings, Port Orford and Gold Beach this week.
One question posed to each asked about their judicial philosophy — whether they tend toward the strict “throw away the key” kind of judge to one who’s more willing to give people second chances.
“As a judge, my judicial philosophy is to abide by the law whether I agree with it or not,” Beaman said. “As a judge in civil law, you listen to the evidence, apply it to the law and make a decision.”
Kudlac said an additional facet of a judge should include compassion for people who face the bench, who are scared and merely want a judge to listen and be respectful.
“You have to listen to the law as it’s presented by the attorneys, but also research the law and see how the facts play into it,” she said. “Then you can make a reasonable, fair decision.”
Beaman has sat on the bench for the past seven years, addressing everything from family to criminal law — the only element of the legal system in which Kudlac admits she has little experience.
Criminal law is different, Beaman stated, as it requires more immediate decisions by a judge, and Measure 11 laws addressing serious felony crimes have strict sentencing procedures judges must follow.
“I do it now,” Kudlac said, when asked if she planned to conduct research in cases she would face on the bench. “As a judge, I understand criminal law will be thrown in. I’m certain I’m qualified to do it.”
Beaman showed the crowd in the Gold Beach City Hall the matrix of Measure 11 crimes and admitted that, while it is fairly straightforward, it is too complex to explain in the limited time she had to speak.
“You have to be up-to-date on the law,” she said. “And the law is ever-changing. Then you have to follow that law. It takes someone who has experience. Someone could learn it, in a matter of years. But right now, we need someone in the courts who can handle that.”
Kudac indicated that because Measure 11 guidelines take a lot of discretion from judges, it makes it easier to follow the law.
“They are the law, you will be following it, and you don’t have a choice,” she said.