Two candidates have already been interviewed for the temporary Justice of the Peace for Cascade Locks Justice Court position but, worried that confusion about residency requirements deterred people from applying, the Hood River County Board of Commissioners passed a motion Monday to reopen the application for another 10 days.
“I would be worried if we didn’t reopen it that that would create liability for the county,” said County Administrator Jeff Hecksel at the commission’s March 4 meeting.
The original application, which closed at the end of January, stated that applicants had to currently live or work in the Cascade Locks Judicial District, have lived or worked in the district for at least a year prior to appointment, and have lived in the State of Oregon for at least three years prior to appointment, in order to qualify for the temporary position.
However, as County Legal Counsel Johnson Dunn clarified, the Justice of the Peace has county-wide jurisdiction and, therefore, the position should be open to all qualified Hood River County residents.
The confusion stemmed from a 1964 Home Rule County Charter that nullified all prior county provisions regarding justice of the peace districts — including the 1937 order that created the Cascade Locks Judicial District in the first place — and established a county-wide justice court. Because the action was hidden within the charter, Dunn said, the elections office didn’t fully register the change in jurisdiction.
“We know what it (the justice of the peace district) is now; we need to give direction to the elections office,” he said.
The candidates who have already applied for the position will remain in the candidate pool, Hecksel said, but the county needs to give potential applicants who thought they didn’t meet the residency requirements the chance to submit an application. Hecksel recommended taking action as soon as possible so that the commission has time to appoint someone before sitting Justice of the Peace John Harvey leaves for his year-long sabbatical in June. Harvey had initially intended to train his temporary replacement before his departure.
Commissioner Karen Joplin expressed concerns about a mandatory training that new Justices of the Peace have to complete, and asked Dunn if there was a chance for it to be waived.
“My initial concerns were that we’d have to reinvest in the very expensive training for a temporary position,” she said.
Dunn responded that the sitting Justice of the Peace can theoretically waive the training requirement.
“I’ve been told that several times, but I have not set my eyes on writing on how that works,” Dunn said.
Application forms are available on the county’s website under “job openings,” by request at firstname.lastname@example.org or 541-387-6829. Completed applications can be dropped off at the county’s office — 601 State Street, Hood River — emailed to the above address, or faxed to 541-386-9392.