In the latest twist to what's become an unusually nasty election for a seat on the Multnomah County Circuit Court bench, local trial lawyer Charles Henderson has launched a write-in campaign.
Although Henderson's bid—first reported last weekend on wweek.com, less than two months before the Nov. 7 election—is almost certainly doomed to fail, it's drawn cheers from some judges and lawyers as the antidote to the ethically questionable maneuvering of the only official candidate remaining for the seat: Leslie Roberts.
Roberts earned scorn (see "Bench Brouhaha," WW, Sept. 6, 2006, and Rogue of the Week, WW, Sept. 13, 2006) when she successfully worked to boot her neighbor and onetime friend Youlee Yim You from the ballot by filing a complaint with the state Elections Division.
You, who had been appointed by Gov. Ted Kulongoski to fill a vacancy on the court this August, was running to keep her seat. That is, until state elections officials agreed with Roberts' complaint that You fell a few months short of the residency requirement for the position. You has since resigned.
You's supporters are further infuriated that Roberts filed her own candidacy for the seat at the last minute, thus securing an unopposed spot on the ballot when the Elections Division decided to uphold her complaint against You. And they're ticked off that Roberts based her complaint, in part, on an unrelated ruling published just days before the filing deadline by her husband, Oregon Court of Appeals Judge Rex Armstrong.
Henderson, a 36-year-old trial lawyer for Allstate Insurance, began his career as a public defender in 1997.
Those who have faced Henderson in the courtroom say he has a reputation for fairness and even temperament.
Despite his slim chances of success as a write-in candidate, Henderson appears to have made a good start at charming the courthouse crowd. He has already notched endorsements from Multnomah County circuit judges Edward Jones, Linda Bergman and Michael McShane.
Henderson wouldn't comment on whether he agrees with those who think Roberts' actions were unethical, saying, "The unfortunate result of it is that the people don't get a choice. I think I would be a good choice."
The last Multnomah County write-in candidate to attract major attention, and votes, was Paul Van Orden, whom WW endorsed by in the May primary for sheriff. Van Orden wowed observers by pulling in about 10 percent of the vote, the largest share by a local write-in candidate in recent memory.