The Bastard Child of the Judiciary
Gold Hill's Judge Leahan Exposed
By Curt Chancler & Jeanne Wollman
courts are created in the image of the incorporated towns and cities
they serve. These courts are created to administer the laws, codes and
ordinances of their particular locale. From all appearances Municipal
Courts are the bastard child of the legal system. They are obviously
important to the community but it seems that no one wants to take oversight
responsibility. In fact, the general opinion of most is that they are
run as nothing more than a “profit center” for the city
they were created to take the pressure and workload off the circuit
courts who did not wish to administer local laws, city ordinances and
traffic fines. Generally municipal Courts are not courts of record.
However, Circuit Courts have appellate review over municipal Court decisions.
is interesting to note that while they are created and funded by the
town or city in which they are located the city government, due to constitutional
separation of powers, cannot oversee the court if it oversteps legal
or ethical issues.
courts are created by constitutional provisions and state statutes.
The judges of these courts in many municipalities are hired and not
elected. Is it possible for a “hired” judge to be an impartial
trier of facts when he can be fired by those that hired him?
is the issue that faces two small towns in Oregon. Don Alvin Leahan
was hired by the towns of Butte Falls and Gold Hill as their Municipal
Judge. It is beginning to appear that Judge Leahan is not living up
to his oath to “faithfully and impartially discharge the duties
of a judge of this state.” Or did he ever take an Oath of Office?
Upon seeking to look at Leahan’s personnel file the US~Observer
was informed by city recorder Mary Goddard that she would first have
to consult city attorney Steve Rich. We were later informed that there
wasn’t anything in the file that we requested to look at that
was public record. It should be noted that Leahan is currently an appointed
judge, however the city does require judges to be elected and Leahan
will have to run for his position at the next general election.
2005 found Leahan actively and vocally participating, in concert with
Medford Mail Tribune reporter Sanne Specht, in a scathing attack on
Gold Hill’s Police Chief Dean Muchow. It was charged that the
Chief, the Gold Hill City Council and even the police officers and reserves
were close to racketeering if it could be proven that they were citing
speeders into court just to raise money for the community. However,
upon inquiry it was found that it was citizens requesting patrols in
residential and school areas that prompted more police presence and
citations. In spite of that Judge Leahan said if more than 55 cases
came through his courtroom in one month he would dismiss some of those
cases. This is a clear violation of judicial ethics.
overstepping his legal duties in Gold Hill, dictating how many traffic
tickets can be written by Gold Hill Police, and meddling in city internal
affairs create ethical problems for Judge Leahan?
our investigation of Leahan we found that he is also the Municipal Judge
for the city of Butte Falls, Oregon. Recently at a Butte Falls café
the Mayor of Butte Falls unwittingly told an off-duty police officer
that Judge Leahan “was instrumental in convincing the Butte Falls
City Council to hire the judge’s girlfriend, Linda Longfellow,
as Code Enforcement Officer.” The Mayor also divulged that the
judge drives around town looking for ordinance violations and then Code
Enforcement Officer Longfellow, cites these violations and Judge Leahan
adjudicates them. The question that arises from this discussion is,
“Is that collusion by two or more city officials?”
the course of this investigation it was found that four vehicles routinely
located in the driveway of Longfellow’s Butte Falls residence
are registered to Leahan using Longfellow’s address. It appears
this is a clear violation of state law.
Leahan’s driver’s license, other vehicles, and his business
card advertising procurement and training of Law Enforcement Dogs, all
show an Eagle Point address.
his association and involvement with the Butte Falls Code Enforcement
officer and his use of two addresses—one of which is the home
of the Code Enforcement Officer, again overstep the bounds of judicial
ethics even at the municipal level.
the Butte Falls City Recorder was contacted regarding these issues,
she stated that the City Council had talked to their attorney and he
reported there were no ethics violations related to Judge Leahan’s
activities. Requests for phone numbers of City Council members and the
Mayor have not been forthcoming. A message was also left for the City
Attorney but at press time he has not responded.
in the Oregon Code of Judicial Conduct, JR 1-101 it clearly states “that
a judge shall observe high standards of conduct so that the integrity,
impartiality and independence of the judiciary are preserved and shall
act at all times in a manner that promotes public confidence in the
judiciary and the judicial system.”
goes on to state that a judge “shall not engage in conduct that
reflects adversely on the judge’s character, competence, temperament
or fitness to serve as a judge.” Also, “a judge shall not
allow family, social or other relationships to influence judicial conduct
or judgment.” This is to mention only a few of the six pages of
judicial conduct governing a judge’s behavior.
is reported that Judge Leahan received a DUI from the Oregon State Police.
On the officer’s report the judge admitted drinking five or six
drinks before driving. Also the OSP officer said the judge in an effort
“to play on his sympathies” stated, “I realize I am
in trouble here but could you give me a break as I am a retired Los
Angeles police officer, my son is visiting from Arizona and I am recently
divorced.” The report went on to say Leahan failed the field sobriety
test and the breathalyzer recorded .13. Judge Leahan opted for the Diversion
classes which he successfully completed.
would appear that Judge Leahan has also had several speeding tickets
and seat belt infractions in recent years. Surely these tickets coupled
with his drunken driving charge prompted Leahan’s underhanded
and unfounded attack on Gold Hill police officers and the legitimate
tickets they have written.
Constitutional and statutory infractions are being overlooked by those
who should be monitoring his judicial behavior would it be appropriate
for a Grand Jury to look into these accusations? It should also be noted
that complaints can be made to Oregon Department of Judicial Fitness
and the Department of Government Standards and Practices.
with information on Judge Don Alvin Leahan or his girlfriend and code
enforcement officer Linda Longfellow are urged to contact the US~Observer