Lawrence bids for seat on the bench
“Domestic violence cases can be tried within 60 days and there are good reasons to do that,” Lawrence said. “We can fast-track child victim cases. Kids forget things. Their perceptions change. Most of them can be done in 90 to 120 days.”
Lawrence said misdemeanor cases have been known to take nine months to try. He maintains that’s not healthy for anyone involved, particularly the victims.
Lawrence will be opposed by Yamhill County Deputy District Attorney Ladd Wiles in the race to replace Cal Tichenor, who is retiring Dec. 31.
Lawrence said Presiding Judge John Collins asked him more than 10 years ago if he was interested in being a pro tem judge. That position didn’t appeal to him at the time because he was enjoying practicing law, and believed he was being effective.
“As time has gone on and I have gained more insight,” he said, “it started to look like something I wanted to do.”
He said Tichenor’s successor must be innovative and have the ability to work well with colleagues Cynthia Easterday, Ronald Stone and Collins.
Many years spent as a defense attorney and prosecutor means he will bring a wealth of experience to the bench, he said. He’s ready to channel his energy in that direction.
“Being a judge brings a different perspective,” he said. “You’re a neutral magistrate who favors neither side.”
Lawrence grew up in Liberal, Kan., which he said is a great source of humor for his friends. His family moved to Fort Collins, Colo., when he was in grade school.
He did his undergraduate work at California State University in Fullerton, then attended the Martin Luther King School of Law at the University of California Davis.
Like Wiles, Lawrence was an avid high school and college debater.
Lawrence met his wife, Paula, at Cal State Fullerton. The couple moved to Oregon in 1989, living in first Aloha, then McMinnville with their son and daughter, who are now grown.
That year, he joined the Yamhill County District Attorney’s office, where he worked for then-district attorney Collins and was mentored by retired Judge Wayne Harris.
Lawrence and his wife job-shared a deputy DA position in Washington County in 1991. In 1993, he decided to start a private practice in McMinnville in 1993, focusing on family and criminal law.
He also founded the Christian Law Center in Beaverton, handling criminal and family law and civil rights trials. He closed the Beaverton firm in 1997 in favor of running his McMinnville practice.
Lawrence serves on the boards of the McMinnville Nazarene Church on the Hill and the Yamhill Justice Center. He coached the Yamhill-Carlton High School Mock Trial Team for 11 years, directed the McMinnville-Salem Regional Mock Trial Tournament for five years and has performed hundreds of hours of pro bono work for the Alliance Defense Fund.
In 2006, he received the Robert “Bob” Payne Public Service Award, awarded to a member of the local bar exemplifying “service to the community, promotion of justice, and assistance to those less fortunate.”
In announcing his candidacy one day before the filing deadline, Lawrence said, “I pledge to be a patient, fair and courteous judge, who will use my nearly 25 years of legal experience to apply the law wisely.
“My years as a trial attorney have taught me that if all of the parties have a fair and equal opportunity to be heard in court, then win or lose, they will accept a court’s considered judgment. That is the kind of judge I want to be.”
The Oregon State Bar has twice ordered Lawrence suspended from practice for 60 days.
The bar most recently ruled in August 2010 over a disclosure Lawrence made three years earlier related to the Patton Middle School “party boys” case.
Lawrence released a confidential recording of a juvenile court proceeding to the Portland media in 2007, as the case was attracting extensive national attention. Yamhill County Juvenile Director Tim Loewen filed a complaint with the bar in 2008.
After more than two years of investigation and deliberation, the bar ruled Lawrence was guilty of an ethical violation and meted out a 60-day suspension. However, Lawrence appealed to the Oregon Supreme Court and prevailed.
In part, the Supreme Court opinion stated: “There was no evidence that the release harmed the interests of the juveniles, the victims of the juveniles’ conduct or the state.”
In 2001, the Supreme Court suspended Lawrence for 60 days for failure to file timely income tax returns for the 1992, 1993 and 1994 tax years.