It has recently become public that Sharon Forster, the Lake county District Attorney, is recusing or disqualifying the Honorable Robert F. Nichols, Jr. in all criminal cases in Lake County. Initially, the recusals were limited at all criminal cases handled by Judge Nichols where I was defense counsel. More recently, the District Attorney has been recusing Judge Nichols in all criminal cases to avoid a serious ethical problem in going after one defense attorney as opposed to all others.

These serial recusals in a single judge county are reeking havoc with the administration of criminal justice in Lake county. Trials cannot be conducted except for one week a month rather than the entire month. Different judges from week to week, from month to month often from far away counties are and will be handling the criminal case load. There is not historical recollection of the individual defendant since a different judge will likely hear the case at the initial appearance, arraignment, bond setting, pre-trial motion hearings and the trail.

Judge Nichols is well respected within the immediate community, within Lake County, among the attorneys who practice civil and criminal law in Lake County and in my experience, with my clients as well. Judge Nichols reputation is one who is fair and unbiased. Judge Nichols is considerate of the lawyers in all cases civil and criminal. Judge Nichols was born here, educated here and has practiced law here as the district Attorney, appointed counsel in criminal cases and as retained counsel in civil and criminal cases for decades. He personally knows, appreciates, wants to be here and has lived the culture and uniqueness of a rural county like Lake County. He is not a “carpet bagger”.

The District Attorney’s recusals are nothing more than a thinly veiled threat to Judge Nichols (or any other judge) that he/ they better not rule against her in any future argument, motion, hearing or trial. The District Attorney wants judges who are more amenable to her arguments and position. Judges who have never left their prior jobs as DAs. Judges from more urban and suburban areas such as Portland, Salem, Eugene, Medford, Klamath Falls, etc. with little personal experience and professional knowledge of what she views as “cow county” life.

The District Attorney swears under oath in her recusal affidavits that she and the “victims of crimes” cannot receive “fair and impartial treatment” from Judge Nichols. That’s pure hogwash in my opinion. Judge Nichols was found to be the most qualified candidate for Lake county Circuit Court Judge when Lane Simpson retired. And thereafter, the voters have confirmed that selection by subsequent election.

However, “one voter” thinks Judge Nichols appointment was a serious mistake. ”One voter” thinks all the other voters got it wrong. And she is the only one who can possibly rescue the people of Lake County from disaster. “One voter” has effectively recalled Judge Nichols in all criminal cases. This cannot and must not be tolerated by the people of Lake County.

Ronald Howen

Mr. Howen was given leeway with his letter length, due to his involvement in the outlined issue.

(1) comment


As a 25 year former service provider for substance use/behavioral health in Lake County, I had many opportunities to work with Rob Nicols when he was in practice as an attorney and now Judge. What is true about Judge Nichols, is that he sees the value of not only holding persons accountable, but seeing that they are directed to the best interventions to stop recidivism. Mainly substance use treatment or other types of assistance. "Throwing the book" at a person at the maximum allowable sentance does not serve as the answer in most cases. Judge Nichols is motivated to offer the best alternatives that are proven practices to give opportunities for people to change lives. The "Voter" mentioned in your letter seems to not agree with this policy and is now affecting not only Judge Nichols, but all the citizens of Lake County. Seems there were issues in the last County the "voter" resided in as well? Lake County does not need this kind of drama.

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