Multnomah County Circuit Judge, Position 30

Ben Souede

Contested judicial races in Oregon are about as common as three-legged chickens. Ever since we published our endorsements earlier this month, readers have clamored to know what they should do in this obscure and unusual contest.

Challenger Bob Callahan, 62, a Portland trial lawyer in general practice for 30 years, wants to make the rarity of contested races the issue in this one. He's critical of Oregon's system, in which the majority of judges are appointed by the governor, because sitting judges reliably retire midterm.

Callahan's right: Oregon does "manufacture" judicial vacancies, to use his word for the practice. But as an experienced trial lawyer like Callahan should know, it's not enough to point out an interesting phenomenon—it's necessary to show the phenomenon is damaging. Neither he nor other critics of the current system have data or even anecdotal evidence of the harms caused by judicial appointments, nor can they identify a state with a superior approach.

Callahan is unhappy that incumbent Judge Ben Souede, 41, was appointed last year by his then-boss, Gov. Kate Brown. As Brown's general counsel who oversaw her judicial appointments, that could look hinky if Souede weren't such a high-flyer. A Harvard law grad, he clerked for the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, and served as an aide to then-U.S. Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.) before practicing as a civil litigator and white-collar criminal lawyer in Portland for eight years. He's earned a reputation as bright, honest and hard-working. Thirty-five of his 37 Multnomah County colleagues have endorsed him, as have all of Oregon's Supreme Court justices. And although Callahan's practiced law much longer, 79 percent of lawyers the nearly 900 lawyers who filled out the state bar's preference poll picked Souede. Voters should do the same.

What Souede is afraid of: Not spending enough time with his daughters, ages 5 and 3.