Oregon House Bill 3025 clarified that a district attorney may take control of investigation and prosecution of any misdemeanor committed in the county. The House Judiciary Committee voted 8-1 in favor of the bill. The House passed the bill 34-26. Afraid that the bill would easily pass the Senate, Sen. Floyd Prozanski refused to give it a hearing, and thereby killed it.

At the March 31, 2011 public hearing on HB 3025, committee members asked Astoria City Council members: “Why is it such a bad thing that a district attorney has the ability, when he or she chooses, to pull a specific Driving Under the Influence of Intoxicants (DUII) case?” 

In replying to the question, Councilor Arline LaMear could not articulate a persuasive answer. Paraphrasing LaMear’s response to the committee’s question:

The advantage of hearing DUII cases in Municipal Court is that Municipal Court is much more flexible than Circuit Court with scheduling of police officers’ time. Cases heard in Circuit Court can result in overtime pay when an officer testifies, and that is a problem. Also, a Circuit Court judge (unnamed) said that Circuit Court has a full load, and moving more DUII cases to Circuit Court will add to their burden and length of time for cases to be heard.

If LaMear’s points of preventing unnecessary overtime and preventing the Circuit Court from getting too heavy with caseloads are true, they are dwarfed by the overpowering reasons to move DUIIs to Circuit Court.

During a recent interview on KMUN radio, LaMear repeated her same two poor reasons. Plus, she added a more absurd reason for DUII cases to be heard in Municipal Court: Municipal Court makes it more convenient for those arrested for DUII to set up hearings, so that it does not disturb their lives. 

LaMear identified Judge Paula Brownhill as the unnamed source who said the Circuit Court is too busy to handle more DUII cases. Brownhill is married to City Attorney Blair Henningsgaard who, as both a city councilor and city attorney, has vigorously fought the move of DUII cases to Circuit Court. Henningsgaard is paid $180 an hour for his time litigating this issue, and has earned over $40,000 in extra fees resulting from the DUII-Municipal Court litigation. Clearly, Brownhill’s opinion has the appearance of bias. 

Stop the unfair advantage that drunk drivers now have in Astoria Municipal Court – Elect Larry Taylor mayor.

Leon Jackson

Astoria

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