By Cheyenne Galloway
SALEM, OR – In a statement of resignation this week, Bobbin Singh, executive director of the Oregon Justice Resource Center (OJRC), denounced Marion County District Attorney Paige Clarkson, another member of an Oregon state committee for her campaign activities—allegedly attacking criminal defense lawyers.
Clarkson is in a difficult re-election bid—her primary opponent is a public defender. Singh is just one person who has reacted negatively to her campaign tactics. Civil rights groups also oppose Clarkson.
In his statement, Singh explained Clarkson demonizes public defenders as well as those with criminal records. He said her close-minded perspective is unacceptable for those who participate in statewide committees.
For Singh, allowing DA Clarkson to remain on the committee without any ramifications affirms that her actions are accepted by the Criminal Justice Advisory Committee (CJAC).
According to Executive Director Singh, DA Clarkson strikes fear into her community in order to manipulate her followers into believing the worst about individuals. Utilizing fear and anger as a public official is impermissible to Singh and must be rejected.
Nevertheless, the Chief Justice of CJAC refuses to remove DA Clarkson from the committee despite Singh’s requests. As a result, Singh resigned from CJAC, effective May 12, 2022.
Singh said, “I cannot participate in a statewide committee with DA Clarkson on it; I will not legitimize her with my participation on this important committee.” He states that participants of statewide committees, like CJAC, aim to inspire their communities and provide an optimistic view of the future, which DA Clarkson fails to do.
Rather than influencing communities through fear and anger, statewide committees should maintain compassion in order to, “recognize the humanity and dignity of every Oregonian,” he said.
According to news reports, two recent political mailers promoting Clarkson’s re-election took aim at 11 criminal defense attorneys and others who contributed to the campaign of Spencer Todd, a public defender and her opponent in the May 17 primary.
The campaign piece prompted the attorneys named in the mailer to write Clarkson on May 15 contending she defamed them. It’s since drawn concerns from civil rights leaders and the chief justice of the Oregon Supreme Court.
In the letter, public defenders wrote Clarkson’s mailers “blatantly disparaged and defamed” all criminal defense attorneys by stating that Todd was disqualified from being district attorney because he associated “with defense attorneys.”
A defense attorney group said, “Ms. Clarkson’s misrepresentations and denigration were so severe that even the chief justice of the Oregon Supreme Court found them to be ‘disturbing,’” the letter said, referencing a report from Salem Reporter on Wednesday.