Josh Marquis has been Clatsop County district attorney so long that few of us remember what brought him to office. It was the utterly disastrous, brief career of Julie Leonhardt that opened the way for Gov. Barbara Roberts to appoint Marquis.
The short version of the Leonhardt fiasco was that she was indicted and convicted of lying to a grand jury. She was recalled from office, convicted and disbarred.
Marquis, who announced Wednesday that he will not seek re-election, brought competence to the job. He was experienced at prosecuting murders. His instinct about animal abuse was humane and wise. He broke ground in prosecuting elder abuse.
This newspaper has appreciated Marquis because of his openness. He has been eager to explain aspects of criminal justice and accessible to our reporters. Grasping those sometime arcane elements is essential to writing about the criminal courts.
This county has witnessed some seven murders during Marquis’ tenure. His office handled them competently. And if we did not appreciate that, we only had to look across the Columbia River into Pacific County, Washington, where a weak prosecutor, David Burke, dropped the ball.
For years and for very good reason, Marquis argued against prosecuting drunken-driving cases in Astoria Municipal Court. Astoria Mayor Willis Van Dusen and his City Council allies protected that flawed system. Once Van Dusen was out of office, the new mayor and council moved the city’s drunken-driving cases to Circuit Court.
The case of an animal collector, Vikki Kittles, who arrived with a school bus full of cats, prompted Marquis to make animal abuse a state legislative issue.
When the late Hal Snow brought Marquis evidence of an elder abuse case out of Warrenton, the DA seized the moment. The testimony of accountant Jim Lanzarotta was a critical element in the prosecution. It was a complicated case, and the prosecution prevailed. Meanwhile, elder abuse unfortunately has become predictable in our local culture, as it has nationally.
The good news in Marquis’ retirement is that competent candidates will emerge. After 24 years of having a well-run district attorney’s office, the voters expect it. And that is Marquis’ best legacy.