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Lincoln County’s Judge Bennett resigns from bench

Posted: Tuesday, Aug 26th, 2008

Lincoln County Circuit Court Judge Frederick L. Bennett Jr., who handled juvenile and dependency cases for the county, resigned recently, citing an uncomfortable work atmosphere in the absence of former Presiding Judge Robert Huckleberry, who retired in May.

After Huckleberry's retirement, Judge Charles Littlehales took over as presiding judge.

“It was with great sadness and regret that I left chambers for the last time and the friends I have made over the years,” Bennett wrote in a press release. “The decision to resign was troubling and gave me pause. It was my original intention to continue with the courts into the future. However, it became evident shortly after the retirement of Judge Huckleberry that my continuation as pro tem was no longer desired.

“Rather than persevere under these uncomfortable circumstances, it was my decision to resign and allow the new presiding judge an opportunity to select his own replacement.”

Littlehales declined to comment on Bennett's resignation, saying, “I cannot make comments on personnel issues.” He added, “I'm sorry Judge Bennett resigned.”

Bennett gave credit to Huckleberry in his role of mentor.

“It was a great privilege and the realization of a lifetime goal to be able to sit as judge pro tem for the last ten years,” Bennett wrote. “This opportunity would not have occurred without the trust and confidence of Judge Huckleberry, who, in making this appointment, shared the responsibility for my successes or failures. His guidance has been invaluable.”

Bennett said that while the job was demanding, it was made much easier for him by a superb staff, of which his long-time judicial assistant, Shelly Passmore, deserves special recognition.

Conrad Lacy, a court-appointed special advocate, said Bennett will be missed.

“Judge Bennett's departure will be a major loss for the county, the juvenile court and especially for the children who are wards of the court,” Lacy said. “I have observed Judge Bennett in handling these cases for three-and-a-half years. His fairness, compassion and knowledge are absolutely unparalleled.

“Despite handling hundreds of cases, he is fully knowledgeable about the history of every case that comes before him. He treats families and children with both dignity and firmness. His loss will be a real tragedy.”

Bennett said he has a great deal of regard for many of the people he worked with over the years.

“Over the years I have had the opportunity to meet and come to know a number of remarkable people for whom I have great respect,” he said. “To some extent the judicial process is collaborative. High quality input, if properly processed, leads to high quality results. The knowledge and wisdom of these individuals has enhanced my efforts.

“This clearly was the case with Lincoln County's juvenile programs. A great deal has been accomplished through conscientious team effort. Our CASAs, Citizen Review Board, attorneys for children and parents, state's attorneys, DHS managers, case workers, juvenile counselors and service providers have made superior efforts to make our program one of the best.”

Bennett said he was satisfied with his effort throughout his career, and is now looking forward to moving on.

“When I was appointed in 1997, it was my intention to give my best effort,” he said. “It was my belief these important duties deserved nothing less. Whether this effort was sufficient will be left to the judgment of others.

“From a personal perspective, I am content that I could not have done more, and with that comfort, I look forward to my private life.”

Littlehales, who has been with the county since November 1, 1969 when he joined the district attorney's office, resigned from presiding judge duties earlier in his career, before Huckleberry was named to the position.

Littlehales said his office is seeking a replacement for Bennett within the state employment and Oregon judicial departments.

Kate Rowland is a reporter with the News-Times. She can be reached at 265-8571 ext. 212 or e-mail krowland@newportnewstimes.com.

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