Oregon’s Chief Administrative Law Judge Remains in Custody

Oregon’s public defender shortage and due process crisis has come full circle, stranding an actual judge in jail.

According to an order signed yesterday, John Mann, Oregon’s chief administrative law judge — charged with ten counts of encouraging child sexual abuse in the first degree — remains in the custody of the Washington County Sheriff, unable to find a free public defender.

The big question here is how someone who up until this month drew a nearly $144,000 annual salary at Oregon’s Employment Department could have qualified for legal services intended for people who legitimately cannot afford to hire a private attorney. Abuse of these public funds is apparently a pervasive problem.

A contractor with the understaffed Office of Public Defense Services (OPDS) has confirmed that Mann’s name was included on the most recent “statewide conflict list” email sent out by the agency, “begging for people to take these very serious cases because of the lack of attorneys.”

The list reaches out to OPDS attorneys in nearby regions when the local ones have too many conflicts to accept a case. The contractor referred to the list as a way to “punt the football.”

Mann is an attorney, and he still has his bar license, presumably at least until the resolution of his criminal case. Not that he should be forced to represent himself, but he is well-situated to do so if needed. A pre-trial release hearing scheduled for tomorrow has been moved to next Friday, May 6. At that time, Mann will have been in jail for three weeks. The Washington County District Attorney’s Office did not respond to a request for comments.

This case is an indicator of exactly how broken Oregon’s public defense system is: a highly-salaried state-employed judge, waiting in jail for three weeks for a free public defender to get him out on bail. So many things wrong with that sentence.

Meanwhile, actual indigent defendants continue to suffer through the shortage, and the scarcity of due process the staffing shortage causes.

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