By editorial board • 

Miller over Chapman in circuit court runoff

This year’s Circuit Court race reflects a 2000 race won by Ronald Stone, whose retirement 18 years later triggered the current opening.

But there are important differences as well. And for us, they tip the balance toward county prosecutor Lisl Miller over union staff counsel Jennifer Chapman.
First, the similarities:

Both races were marked by crowded fields — six in 2000 and five this year. Each produced November runoffs between a prosecutor and a civil practitioner, with the prosecutor — Cal Tichenor in 2000 — leading the field in the primary.

Civil versus criminal experience emerged as a major theme in both races. And both times, the private practitioner prevailed in the general election bar poll.
However, Chapman’s legal résumé pales in comparison with the one Stone ran on in 2000. Nor does it match Miller’s.

Chapman has 15 years of experience, almost half as staff lawyer for the state arm of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees. She has no experience leading either the defense or prosecution in criminal trials, nor has she ever presided over trials from the bench.

Stone entered his race with 23 years experience as a criminal defense attorney and civil practitioner, combined with three years of service as a local pro-tem judge. He had also amassed a rich resume of civic engagement, highlighted by the leadership roles with Henderson House and Rainbow Family Services.

Chapman appears in courts around the state, as union needs dictate, but has little experience locally. In contrast, Stone was intimately familiar with the workings of the Yamhill County Circuit Court, as that’s where he practiced on a daily basis. And that’s a background he shares with Miller.

Miller boasts 25 years experience overall, including civil law stints with private practice firms in Chicago and Portland. In addition, she has prior prosecutorial practive with the state of Illinois and Oregon’s Multnomah County. She chairs the county’s Multidisciplinary Child Abuse Team and has extensive juvenile court experience.

Chapman’s campaign is fueled with generous donations from AFSCME at both the state and local levels, enabling her to achieve the name familiarity to finish second in the primary with a serious shot in the general. She is outspending Miller, and making that pay off.

We are impressed with Chapman’s intelligence, energy, drive and interpersonal skills. We have no doubt she would perform creditably on the court, and she may get that chance even if she doesn’t prevail Nov. 6, as Judge John Collins is nearing a retirement promising to produce another vacancy.

However, we give our nod to Miller this time around. She has a broader, deeper and better-rounded background, with the added plus of much greater familiarity with the local court system.

The four-member bench currently features three former deputy district attorneys, and Chapman has emphasized adding a civil practitioner as the cornerstone of her campaign. We see some merit in that argument, but not enough to overcome her thinner résumé, both local and overall. If she’s destined for the bench, her time will come.



First, thank you for a well-balanced analysis of both candidates as it relates to the outgoing judge and his experience; and how that experience truly relates to each candidate's overall experience with that which the Yamhill County Circuit Court truly needs in Judge Stone's replacement.

"Chapman has emphasized adding a civil practitioner as the cornerstone of her campaign. We see some merit in that argument, but not enough to overcome her thinner résumé, both local and overall."

That "some merit" only applies to the handful of civil cases that pales in comparison to the criminal docket. Even then, the court docket is not assigned by specific judge's experience. Cases are split accordingly and/or as the presiding judge sees fit. They all wear the same robe, but the majority of cases they hear daily, monthly and annually are in fact, criminal...NOT civil.

Bottom line, electing Chapman over Miller is like hiring a certified mechanic on strictly Ford Motor products to work on your Tesla Model S. Hope you enjoy walking or riding the bus.

Yamhill County needs experience and familiarity with the circuit court process in that county, not inexperience with courts from all over the state (excluding Yamhill County) on civil matters representing union employees. If Chapman truly wants to become a judge, she should obtain further CLE and get into criminal law, either as a prosecutor or private practice. Get some experience first, then try again.

Scott Gibson

Very well reasoned opinion. You may wonder if your opinions make a difference. This editorial certainly helped me by giving an impartial and thoughtful analysis. Miller has my vote, and your editorial is a big reason why.

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