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June 25, 2014

Not all US judges are gung-ho about problem solving

I met the retired DA (elected public prosecutor) of Portland and enjoyed his take on judges and their thirst for innovation.  Michael Schrunk was DA for 32 years.  His motto was “do the right thing for the right reasons”.  A number of years ago he heard about community courts and resolved to get one started in Portland.  But he faced a huge obstacle – the Chief Justice was opposed.   Michael didn’t give up. He found the money to fly the Chief Justice to New York to observe the midtown Manhattan community court and to meet the stakeholders involved.  The Chief Justice was still reluctant.  He said to Michael, if you get me a ticket to a Knicks basketball game and a Broadway show, I’ll visit the New York community court with you.  So Michael obliged and the Chief Justice was impressed by the midtown Manhatten Court.  The Chief Justice didn’t take an active role in setting up a community court in Portland, but he no longer stood in Michael’s way. So Portland got its first community court and its first champion was a DA, not a judge.