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Justice of peace handles various minor legal issues.

Byline: Bill Bishop The Register-Guard

A 2008 law school graduate is challenging the incumbent in the May primary election for Central Lane justice of the peace. The position is a full-time one that pays $49,940 per year and oversees violations of traffic, truancy, animal control, marine regulations, park rules, small claims and other relatively minor legal actions.

The challenger, 31-year-old Wally Hicks, said he has no bones to pick with incumbent Cynthia Sinclair, 57.

"I'm not filing for this office to harass her. I'm not trying to target her," Hicks said. "The ideal JP is somebody who has formal legal training and uses that to make common sense decisions."

Oregon law does not require justices of the peace to be lawyers. However, nonlawyers are required to attend at least 30 hours of judicial training every two years.

Sinclair, who has held the post for 12 years, said she is running on her experience and performance in the office. She said her approach is to make the court as accessible and comfortable for people as possible, to improve traffic safety through education, and to help people get their fines paid and driving records cleaned up.

In her dozen years on the bench, Sinclair said she hascreated a system for violators to get a fine reduction without having to appear in court, changed court hours for more public convenience, added a Spanish-language court date, and provides - at her own expense - toys and books for children whose parents bring them along to court, as well as free wedding photos for low-income people she marries.

"Most of what I do is educational. I am required (by law) to fine. But there is so much more you can do if you care," Sinclair said. "We're working all the time on being courteous. We have a really good group here."

Hicks, a former United States Marine Corps captain, said he was inspired to seek the office after working as a law student with now-retired Lane County Circuit Judge Darryl Larson.

"I was inspired by the way he used the bench not as a tool for retribution, but as a way to grasp people by the lapels and get their attention and hopefully get them to make some decisions that would cause them to change their ways," Hicks said.

If elected, Hicks said, he will correct any sense of the court being merely a conveyor belt by individualizing each case and explaining how people can benefit from their experiences. He said he will consider adding evening hours and Internet transactions to make the court more accessible for working people.

Both candidates acknowledge the court faces serious budget deficits if, as expected, federal timber funding does not come through for the county's budget.

While the court is designed to be self-supporting, Sinclair said revenues have fallen because the sheriff frequently must divert some of his traffic deputies to other duties.

Hicks said he would consider cutting back hours rather than laying off staff.

Sinclair, who was a county employee during the drastic budget cutting of the early 1980s, said she will draw on her years of experience to make ends meet.

CYNTHIA SINCLAIR, 57

Political history: Justice of the peace since 1996

Employment: Full time justice of the peace

Education: Undergraduate degree in police science from California State University, Los Angeles.

Family: single

Pastimes: Photography, dogs, travel

Last book read: "The Greatest Story Ever Told" by Frank Rich

Contact info: www.cynthiasinclair.com

WALLY HICKS, 31

Political history: None

Employment: Lawyer; works as law clerk and academic legal research assistant

Education: Undergraduate degree in history, U.S. Naval Academy; law degree, University of Oregon.

Family: Wife, Laura

Pastimes: Sports spectator, time with family

Last book read: "How to Make Friends and Influence People" by Dale Carnegie

Contact info: wallyforjustice@gmail.com
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Title Annotation:City/Region; Recent law school graduate Wally Hicks is challenging Cynthia Sinclair, who has held the post for the past 12 years
Publication:The Register-Guard (Eugene, OR)
Date:Apr 21, 2008
Words:634
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