Four candidates in May 15 election for county judge position

Four candidates are running in the May 15 nonpartisan primary election for Linn County Circuit Court Judge Position 3: Jennifer S. Hisey, Rachel Kittson-MaQatish, Teri Plagmann and Rebecca Winters.

They are vying to fill the seat vacated by Judge Daniel Murphy, who has retired. The two top finishers in the primary will face off in the November election.

Hisey, 40, is a native of Omak, Wash., who grew up in East Wenatchee, Wash. She is married with three children and two dogs. She is a graduate of Western Washington University, where she earned a bachelor’s degree in political science (2001) and University of Ore-gon School of Law (2004), where she focused on domestic violence and legal research and writing. She has been a practicing Oregon attorney since 2004.

“I have worked in and had my office in Linn County since February 2006,” she said. “Although I live in Lane County, I am very connected to and invested in the communities of Linn County. I have spent the vast majority of my waking hours in Linn County since 2006.”

Kittson-MaQatish, 46, is a native of Salem, but grew up in Sweet Home and has lived in Linn County for more than 40 years. She is a graduate of Linn-Benton Community College; Oregon State University, where she earned a bachelor’s degree in business administration, and Willamette University College of Law, where she focused on trial practice, pro bono legal clinic and international law.

Kittson-MaQatish graduated from law school in 2005 and passed the bar shortly thereafter. She began working for John Wittwer Lawyers as a law clerk while in law school and continued there after passing the bar. In 2008 she joined the Morley Thomas & McHill law firm in Lebanon.

In 2011 when her former boss, Tom McHill, was elected to Linn County Circuit Court, she and her two partners, Tre Kennedy and Jessica Meyer, took over Morley Thomas Law. Recently, they purchased John Wittwer Lawyers and maintain offices in both Sweet Home and Lebanon, where the three partners operate a six-person law firm with 10 support staff.

Kittson-MaQatish has been married for 17 years, and has two adult children and two at home, and 3 grandchildren.


Plagmann, 47, was born and raised in Albany, graduating from South Albany High School (1988), Oregon State University (1993), and Lewis and Clark College of Law (1997), where she focused on litigation, agriculture law, and earned a Natural Resources and Environment Certificate. She graduated from law school in June of 1997 and was sworn in that September.
A resident of Linn County for 30 years, she is married with three children, ages 21, 18 and 7.




Winters, who declined to give her age, graduated with a bachelor’s degree in psychology from the University of Washington in Seattle and from the University of Arkansas School of Law in Fayetteville, where she was active in criminal law practice clinic as a prosecutor and defense counsel. She was licensed as an attorney in Colorado in 1996 and in Oregon in 2015.

A resident of Linn County for more than three years, she has a grown daughter who lives in the area.

Each candidate was asked five questions about her aspirations for the bench. Below are their responses, in alphabetical order.

1. Why do you want to be a judge?

Hisey: I have dedicated my career to public service and the best way I can continue to serve the people of Linn County with the greatest impact is to be judge. I want Linn County to be a leader in making the justice system as accessible and user-friendly as possible.

Kittson-MaQatish: Linn County is my home. I grew up here, raised my children here and have grandchildren here.

I have been blessed to practice my entire career in Linn County. I owe a deep sense of gratitude to this community. Starting as a single mother fighting to protect my child, to earning a law degree from Willamette University, Linn County has been there to support and encourage me. Along the way I have learned to respect the system from varied perspectives, from pro se litigant to professional advocate, the courts are here to serve us all.

I went from a scared overwhelmed teenager facing a daunting legal system, to learning about the law, and then representing countless others who were just as broken and scared as I had been. Education empowered me, but this community inspired me. In large part, my desire to serve stems from the gratitude I have for the citizens of Linn County.

Plagmann: I was born and raised in Linn County on a grass seed farm. My family has resided here for over 100 years and has always been involved in our community. As a litigation attorney, I have appeared in many different courtrooms in front of many judges.

In doing so, I have frequently witnessed the powerful role that a judge can play in improving the quality of life for children and families, maintaining the safety of our community and protecting our most vulnerable citizens.

In running for judge, I want to use my broad legal experience to continue my family history of working to improve our county and the lives of our citizens. As our community continues to grow and the demands on our judges continue to increase, I am committed to ensuring that our court remains efficient and looking for ways to bring improvements.

My rural roots have greatly influenced my life. I am hard-working, dedicated and stand by my principles. I intend to administer justice that is fair, responsive, and respectful, with litigants and attorneys leaving the courtroom having been treated with dignity, respect and understanding the court process.

Winters: I have been a practicing attorney since 1999. I had a law practice in Colorado before moving here. In about 2004, I trained as a mediator. Since that time I have volunteered as a mediator, been a court mediator, and had a private mediation practice.

I would appreciate the opportunity to give a voice to both sides of a case and help people reach agreements where possible. I understand how stressful court can be, both from representing clients and from being an unrepresented participant. I would have empathy for those going through the court system by listening and creating an atmosphere that does not add more stress to an already stressful situation.

We all make mistakes, and I will show compassion while at the same time ensuring I enter rulings consistent with the law that keep the community and especially children safe. I enjoy continual learning and studying and I am up for the challenge of being a Circuit Court judge.

2. Summarize your courtroom experience:

Hisey: My practice has been primarily litigation-based for my entire career. I appear in Linn and Benton County Circuit courts on a regular basis. The majority of my cases that I take to trial are family law (dissolution, custody, protective orders, and third-party custody) but I have also litigated housing cases.

Kittson-MaQatish: I am a trial attorney and find myself in the courtroom weekly, if not several times each week. I litigate criminal, family, and civil cases.

I am a prosecutor for the City of Lebanon. I represent Linn County in civil commitments, seeking hospitalization of mentally ill individuals who are dangerous, or lack the ability to care for their basic needs.

I have a large private family law practice and a personal injury practice. All these areas of the law take me into the courtroom, where I have extensive, diverse experience.

Plagmann: Most of my 20 years of practicing law has involved litigation. I have handled hundreds of trials in a variety of courts throughout Oregon.

Currently, the majority of my trials occur in Linn and Benton counties and involve family law, domestic violence, child support and contempt matters. However, I have appeared in 15 different counties throughout Oregon.

My broad experience in a wide variety of courts will be an asset to serving as a judge in Linn County as I am able to bring that knowledge and experience to our local court system.

Winters: I have participated in litigation since 1999 in family and several social service and civil cases.  In law school I participated in prosecuting and defending municipal criminal cases.

3. What values do you think are most relevant to performing the duties of a circuit court judge?

Hisey: Respect for the rule of law and maintaining the impartiality and fairness of the Court are vitally important values for a judge to possess.

Other important qualities for a judge to have include but are not limited to: efficiency, an even-keeled disposition, the ability to communicate decisions concisely and clearly, and a good work ethic.

Kittson-MaQatish: Linn County Circuit Court judges hear all kinds of cases; criminal, juvenile, family and civil. They conduct hearings and trials requiring an understanding of the litigation process and rules.

It is important that a new judge have diverse litigation experience. While experience is a skill, not really a value, it is crucial for the job.

A judge must not show favoritism, have an open-mind, be patient, hardworking, courteous, and be a good listener. A judge must have integrity and be courageous (willing to follow the law, even if the decision is not popular). A judge must be impartial and treat all who enter the courtroom with respect and without bias. Judges should rule with consistency and timeliness.

Judges must have similar skills to a kindergarten teacher. A good judge is patient, but moves the case along. A good judge listens so that both parties feel heard, and respectfully interacts with all kinds of people – people that vary in education, ability, income, culture and sophistication. A good judge also sets expectations that the parties will follow the rule of law, and the attorney and pro se litigants will follow procedure.

A good judge can move from one case to the next with speed and proficiency. A good judge administers justice, rendering decisions that are consistent with the facts presented and the applicable law.

Usually, neither side in a law suit is overly pleased with a judge’s ruling, or the case would have settled. But with a good judge, the parties walk away more educated about the law and their responsibilities under the law. They also leave with the sense that they were heard, and justice was served.

Plagmann: A circuit court judge should be invested in our community and understand the importance of listening and communicating effectively.

A judge should be fair, balanced and impartial. Also, a judge should exhibit a strong moral character as being a representative of the community and holding a position of trust. Finally, a judge should also have core values of honesty, dependability and compassion that are tempered with the strength and fortitude to make tough decisions when necessary for the greater good.

Winters: Caring about people and children and taking time to understand the needs of the community, the rules and the law. Listening for inconsistent statements and representations within testimony and the evidence, and not jumping to a conclusion early in the case.

4. How do you think you display these values and how do they make you the superior candidate?

Hisey: One of the greatest challenges for a judge is when the law requires them to issue a decision that goes against their beliefs or personal sense of justice.  After 14-plus years of litigating emotionally charged cases like child custody, protective orders, and divorces (often involving domestic violence), I have learned how to separate emotions from the facts and arguments.

A judge’s opinions and emotions have no place in a courtroom.  What matters is that all sides are given a fair, impartial hearing and that the law is applied without bias. Linn County’s court docket is busy and resources are limited, but one of the things I’ve learned from working for Legal Aid is how to work efficiently to produce quality work with very limited resources.

My experience makes me ideally suited to keeping the busy court docket moving forward so that the people of Linn County are not kept waiting long for their day in court.

Kittson-MaQatish: I have diverse trial court experience, which means that I will be ready to hear cases and get to work for the citizens of Linn County. I believe my partners, employees, and clients, and the Linn County legal community would tell you that I am a hard worker.

I overcame many obstacles, coming from humble beginnings as a teenage mother, to a partner in a six-lawyer firm, with 10 support staff. I was honored as Citizen of the Year in Sweet Home and Woman of the Year in Lebanon, both in the same year.

I have personal experience as a pro se litigant prior to becoming an attorney, and I understand just how scary the legal system is when you are not a lawyer. If you elect me as your judge, I will treat you fairly and with respect. I will listen. I will uphold the law. I will work hard to increase access and improve the efficiency and timeliness of our legal system.

While I am very blessed with my education, experience, and involvement in our community, of all that I have done and all that I will do, being a parent is by far my most important and profound work. My family values will serve this community well.

Through raising two adult children, continuing to raise two young men, and joyfully being grandma to three young boys, wisdom continues to seek me out. They have taught me patience, the importance of discipline, and the power of hope. And personally, I have seen the promise of grace. Their individuality has taught me to be creative. I understand that bad circumstances can breed bad behavior, and that undisciplined individuals harm themselves, as well as others.

I appreciate that responsibility for one’s actions and responsibility for one’s attitude is imperative to becoming a productive citizen. My children have taught me humility and have inspired in me a desire to protect and serve our community, and our country, for their sake.

Plagmann: I display these values every day in how I was raised and work. I started working on our family farm at a young age and was raised to work hard, live a life that my children can be proud of, and to give more to the world than I take from it.

My solid family roots indicate the character with which I was raised. I worked hard to put myself through college and law school, not relying on others, and became self reliant in doing so. For the past 10 years, I have owned my own legal practice. I started from nothing and worked long hours and persevered to build a business in order to financially provide for my family.

When I moved my practice to Albany full time, I faced the challenge again and have been a successful small business owner.
I also display these values in how I represent my clients.

In practicing law, many of my clients initially have a fear of the unknown and feel as if their life is out of control, largely because they are unfamiliar with the legal system and what lies ahead for them. They are naturally scared and nervous about decisions that will affect their future.

I listen to my clients and give them honest answers, both good and bad, so that they know what to expect. I often work with people to come to a resolution on their case for the good of all parties. My clients know that I am fair, honest, dependable and compassionate.

These values are essential on the bench as your circuit court judge.

Winters: I always will do my best to get it right and consider what will work best for the parties in the case as well as the community.

I will study continually to learn everything necessary to make the best decisions possible.

5. Feel free to elaborate, beyond what is in your candidate filing, about the type of law you practice or have practiced?

Hisey: Did not respond.

Kittson-MaQatish: Most attorneys specialize in one area of the law. The firms where I have worked are general-practice firms that meet the wide range of needs of the community we serve. In addition to criminal, family, and civil law that I practice, I also have experience in transactional work, such as wills, trusts, probate, real estate, contracts, guardianships, and conservatorships.

This experience will be helpful when hearing suits that involve these areas of the law. Additionally, our Circuit Court judges oversee the probate process, with which I am familiar.

My wide breadth of experience in many areas of the law make me very well suited to serve as your next Linn County Circuit Court Judge. My dedication to Linn County will continue to be an asset to our community.

Plagmann: Throughout my career, I have been a private practitioner, handling litigation for real people, who spend their hard earned money to obtain working solutions to their problems. In owning my own practice, I also have the flexibility to take a case pro bono or at a modest means rate in order to help a person who needs representation.

I currently practice family law, but also have experience in civil and business litigation, contract issues, probates, estate planning, juvenile dependency matters and criminal law.

Linn County deserves to have a judge on the bench with experience and who will understand and listen to our citizens. I am that candidate and am committed to improving the quality of life for children and families, maintaining the safety of our community and protecting our most vulnerable citizens. I would be honored to serve the citizens of Linn County.

Winters: My law practice has mostly involved family law and bankruptcy, although I have also represented clients for other kinds of cases, including landlord and tenant, probate, juvenile, and criminal law.

I have written and assisted other attorneys in writing many appellate briefs in various areas of law.