Gov. Kate Brown will choose from six diverse candidates to fill a vacancy on the Clatsop County Circuit Court.

The appointee will replace Judge Paula Brownhill, who plans to retire in November after 25 years on the bench.

Courthouse security revised after concerns

Six candidates have applied for a judicial vacancy.

The position will be up for election next May.

Clatsop County Deputy District Attorney Beau Peterson, criminal defense attorney James von Boeckmann, criminal defense attorney Kirk Wintermute, civil attorneys Arthur Saito and Kelly Stearns and attorney and judge Diana Taylor have applied.

Here is a look at the candidates:

Beau Peterson: Peterson was born and raised in Portland and grew up helping his father with their family business, Peterson’s Carpet and Furniture Cleaning.

While attending law school at the University of Oregon, Peterson volunteered as a law clerk for Judge Brownhill, and during that summer decided he wanted to live and practice in Clatsop County.

Peterson graduated law school in 2006 and began his career as a prosecutor at the Clatsop County District Attorney’s Office in 2007.

Over the past 12 1/2 years, he has handled almost every kind of case that comes through the office, including vehicular manslaughter, assault, elder financial abuse, embezzlement, drunken driving, thefts and burglaries.

Most recently, he was the lead counsel in the murder prosecution of Adeena Copell and Christian Wilkins, who were sentenced in May. He has also spent the last several years working as the deputy district attorney assigned to Judge Cindee Matyas’ treatment court.

Peterson believes his experience as a trial lawyer and his time in the trades with his father will give him good insight into the people and cases that would come before him.

Kirk Wintermute: Prior to his legal experience, Wintermute had many jobs, including working in the service industry, a home improvement store and a warehouse.

He moved to Astoria when he was 5 years old and attended public schools and graduated from Astoria High School. His father was a fire chief, and his mother worked for the U.S. Postal Service.

He graduated from the University of Oregon with a bachelor’s in history and political science and later graduated from the University of Oregon School of Law.

Most of his family still lives in Astoria, including his mother and brother, who is a commercial fisherman.

He works as a criminal defense attorney, along with side work as a pro tem judge for Astoria Municipal Court and teaching a class at Clatsop Community College in the criminal justice program.

He is primarily a court-appointed defense attorney. He has handled everything from driving with a suspended license to manslaughter.

Through his work, he said he has been able to get to know the community better and help some of the most unfortunate people.

He said he has been most affected by people who suffer from mental illness, as well as drug addiction, and the hopelessness they often encounter. This led him to join the mental health treatment court as the defense counsel representative.

He also has volunteer roles with the county’s Public Safety Coordinating Council, the college’s Criminal Justice Regional Advisory Committee and the local chapter of the National Alliance on Mental Illness.

He said his interest in the position is a continuation of his long-term belief in public service and his hope to give back to the community where he grew up.

James von Boeckmann: Von Boeckmann’s father was an officer in the U.S Air Force. As a result, he moved around the U.S. and Europe until his father got stationed in Illinois and von Boeckmann started high school.

After graduating from Southern Illinois University at Carbondale in 1987, he began working for Michael Madigan, then-speaker of the Illinois House of Representatives. He joined U.S. Sen. Paul Simon’s Democratic campaign for president in 1988 until Simon withdrew his candidacy.

After that, he moved to Maine and did migrant work — planting trees and raking blueberries. He started a family and began working as a carpenter for 10 years.

He traveled until deciding to do something better-suited to his intellect and disposition, so he returned to graduate school and got an master’s in political theory and then went to law school.

He moved to Eugene and passed the bar in 2003, becoming a solo practitioner. Criminal defense and immigration law made up the bulk of his caseload, but he also worked in federal court, did civil disputes, a few dissolution cases, business formation and consultation, wills and estates and juvenile law.

He has lived and worked in Clatsop County since 2013. His legal work consists almost entirely of criminal defense, juvenile delinquency and dependency and mental commitments.

Von Boeckmann said he was encouraged by colleagues and people in the community to apply for the position.

He believes he has the temperament for the job and the desire to serve the community. He also believes everyone should come away from the court system feeling like they’ve been treated with respect and have been heard.

Arthur Saito: Saito manages the Stahancyk, Kent & Hook Astoria office and focuses on domestic relations, adoption, limited estate planning and guardianship proceedings.

He graduated from Willamette University College of Law.

He has been volunteering for the Clatsop County Circuit Court since 2017, offering court-appointed, pro bono representation for children in high-conflict domestic relations cases.

He is the co-founder and board member of a nonprofit, Dark to Light, which provides input to assist children in custody and parenting time disputes. He is also a member of the Clatsop County Family Law Advisory Committee, providing input on issues related to court practice and procedure.

Kelly Stearns: Stearns graduated from the University of California, Davis School of Law in 2000.

She has a practice in Astoria and focuses on real estate matters, estate planning and probate.

She is not a heavy litigator, although she does occasionally litigate for landlord-tenant law and probate.

She said she applied for the position because she was concerned there would not be enough candidates for the governor to choose from.

She thinks a judge should be level-headed, view both sides of an issue and be able to reach compromise.

Diana Shera Taylor: Taylor has 17 years of experience on the bench — 15 years on the Municipal Court for Clatskanie, Columbia City, St. Helens and Scappoose, as well as two years as the justice of the peace for the Columbia County Justice Court.

In Columbia County, she is the chair of the Local Family Law Advisory Committee, and chair of the Guardianship Subcommittee, and a member of the Juvenile Court Improvement Project Committee. She was previously chair of the Columbia County Mental Health Advisory Board, chair of Columbia County Legal Aid Board, and board member for the local women’s shelter.

She has also been a mediator and arbitrator since 1997. She has been mediating in Clatsop County for the past three years. She is a member of the Local Family Law Advisory Committee and chair of the Domestic Violence Subcommittee for Clatsop County.

While on the bench in St. Helens, Taylor had a behavioral health court and young persons court for probationers who needed extra assistance to help them succeed.

As an attorney, Taylor practiced in the areas of banking, consumer, construction defect, contract, employment, elder, juvenile dependency and delinquency and criminal law. She has been a prosecutor and a criminal defense attorney.

Recommended for you

(0) comments

Welcome to the discussion.

Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article.