Alyssa Sutton

An opening for Union County Circuit Court Judge has attracted several impressive applicants. Gov. Kate Brown will make the appointment to fill the position.

Bruce Anderson

Anderson was valedictorian of his high school graduating class in 1972 in Grand Rapids, Minnesota. He graduated magna cum laude with a bachelor’s degree in humanities from Gustavus Adolphus in St. Peter, Minnesota, before earning a juris doctor degree from Lewis and Clark Law School in Portland. Before law school, Anderson worked for about two years in a law firm in Minnesota — where most clients were insurance companies — as a law clerk researching and summarizing transcripts.

While a law school student, Anderson worked several jobs, including in a paper mill, as a groundskeeper and various jobs in retail. Additionally, he interned for law firms in the Portland and Vancouver metropolitan area. Upon graduation from Lewis and Clark, Anderson was hired by a lawyer in Lake Oswego, where he worked on criminal and family cases. He moved to Eastern Oregon in 1986 and has had a private practice ever since. Anderson has worked in several fields of law: civil litigation, family law, real estate and contracts, criminal and probate/guardianships.

“I take the position of the judge very seriously,” Anderson said. “In our area, judges deal with real people, real life and real problems. I think it’s important that judges have experience of all walks of life and are experienced in all subject areas of the law.”

Greg Baxter

Baxter, a Baker High School graduate, graduated from Brigham Young University-Idaho with a bachelor of arts degree in history and a minor in sociology. He earned a juris doctor degree from Florida Coastal School of Law in Jacksonville in 2012. Baxter worked as a paralegal in Utah for a year before working as an investigator for the office of Public Defender in Florida his first year in law school. While in law school, he worked both as a judicial and legal intern in criminal and family court as well as for an immigrant rights clinic.

Baxter went into public service shortly after passing the bar, serving as Wallowa County’s deputy district attorney under Mona Williams. He is now the chief deputy DA in Union County, where he has served for four years. Besides handling drug and sex crimes and domestic violence cases, Baxter is responsible for overseeing three other deputy DA positions.

Baxter said his strength lies in his ability to manage different personalities. His experience as a missionary in Brazil and the work he did with immigration cases gave him a glimpse into working with people from different cultures.

Baxter, who graduated high school in 2003, is the youngest applicant for circuit court judge, but he said he thinks his youth is to his advantage.

“Does the governor want to appoint someone to serve one term and be gone?” Baxter asked. “I grew up in Baker and worked in Wallowa and Union counties. I’m young, enthusiastic and want to learn.”

Jared Boyd

Boyd graduated high school in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, and earned a bachelor of science degree in political science from the University of Idaho in 2005. He then earned a juris doctor degree from Willamette College of Law in Salem in 2008. During law school, he served as a legal clerk for the Juvenile Division of the Marion County District Attorney. Upon graduating, Boyd served as the senior deputy district attorney in Union County until 2015, when he started a private practice. Most of Boyd’s cases have been criminal and a smaller portion have been civil.

Boyd could not be reached for additional comment before deadline.

James Schaeffer

Schaeffer graduated cum laude with a bachelor of arts degree from Weber State University in Ogden, Utah, in 2000. He majored in English and minored in Spanish and criminal justice. He then attended William Mitchell College of Law in St. Paul, Minnesota, earning a juris doctor degree in 2003. While in law school, he served as a judicial law clerk, assisting prosecutors. Upon graduation, Schaeffer served as a judicial law clerk for the eighth judicial district in Benson, Minnesota, and began teaching as an online adjunct instructor at St. Cloud State University and Ridgewater College, both located in Minnesota. Schaeffer worked for an attorney’s office as a criminal prosecutor and handled civil commitment cases before relocating to La Grande in 2014, where he opened a private law practice focusing on criminal, family, estate planning, guardianship/conservatorships, business and litigation law.

Schaeffer could not be reached for additional comment before deadline.

Mona Williams

Williams graduated from Joseph High School in 1971 and received a bachelor of science degree from Eastern Oregon University in 1986. In 1989, she earned a juris doctor degree from the University of Idaho. Williams has worked in Enterprise and Joseph since graduating from law school, as both a partner and a sole practitioner. In 2007 she was elected as the Wallowa County District Attorney and has been in the position ever since. Her focus since 2007 has been in criminal prosecution, juvenile law and mental commitments. Previous to her DA position, she worked in the areas of family law, wills and estates, real estate law, probate, business entities, contracts and guardianships/conservatorships, among others.

“I think I have a well-rounded background with experience on the civil side and the criminal side,” Williams said. “A defense attorney is an advocate for their client, but a DA is required to seek justice. We have to not only look at holding someone accountable, but we also have to look at all of the facts and determine what is the appropriate outcome –– not only for public safety issues but also for the rights of the victim and the defendant. It is a unique way of looking at things.”

Wes Williams

Williams graduated from high school in Estacada, studied criminology at Southern Oregon State College in Ashland, and in 1984 graduated from Portland State University with a bachelor of science degree in social science along with a Basic Oregon Teaching Certificate. He then earned a Standard Oregon Teaching Certificate from Lewis and Clark College in Portland in 1991, before attending the University of Oregon School of Law in 1993. He received a juris doctor degree in 1996.

While attending SOU, Williams worked nights and summers on farms and doing construction. He taught for a short period between graduating and attending law school, before clerking at the Department of Justice trial division. After graduating from law school, Williams relocated to La Grande, where he set up a private practice, and he has been practicing in Union County for the last 21 years. He has practiced a variety of cases, ranging from civil litigation to criminal law, property law and contract law. He has practiced in the state and federal court and has appeared a number of times in the Oregon Court of Appeals. He took one of his cases, State of Oregon v. Simmons, to the Oregon Supreme Court.

Williams was raised on a small farm in Western Oregon and was the first and only member of his family to attend college. He believes his humble beginnings would help him in his position as judge.

“I think practicing a vast array of law — and helping people from farmers to doctors and homeless people who can’t afford a lawyer — would inform me as a judge,” Williams said. “I could bring patience and understanding to the bench.”

— Freelance reporter Katy Nesbitt contributed to this story.

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