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Oregon Judge Scolded for Courtroom Rant

Oregon Judge Scolded for Courtroom Rant


by Mark Wilson


The Oregon Supreme Court has publicly censured a trial court judge for a profanity-laced tirade during a sentencing hearing.

In October 2011, Richard Lee Taylor, 60, was convicted of 21 sex offenses involving two 12-year-old boys. Evidence of his crimes included video recordings that showed Taylor sexually abusing the victims. The recordings were so disturbing that jurors thanked Jackson County Circuit Court Judge Tim P. Barnack when he stopped some of the videos from being shown during the trial. Several jurors wept and three asked if they could receive counseling.

Since Taylor had a prior California sex abuse conviction, prosecutors requested that he receive a life sentence.

Judge Barnack gave Taylor the opportunity to speak during his January 21, 2012 sentencing hearing, but Taylor said he had “nothing to say.”

That apparently was the last straw for the judge. “I don’t think you have a soul,” Barnack stated. He called Taylor a “piece of shit” and said community members wondered why he wasn’t “hanging from a tree.” The judge repeatedly asked Taylor if he wanted to salvage his soul, and said he personally hoped that Taylor rots in prison.

“We are going to make sure you never get out,” Judge Barnack remarked as he sentenced Taylor to 21 life sentences without the possibility of parole. “I’ve seen the cells for people like you. They’re skinny, they’re small, and I think you get an hour of daylight. You will rot, and for what you did to these people, that’s where you should be.”

Judge Barnack sent an email to other Jackson County Circuit Court judges after the sentencing hearing, apologizing for his remarks. He said that he, too, was traumatized by the evidence in the case, and that he lost control of his emotions when Taylor declined to speak because he felt Taylor’s silence “evidenced an indifferent and unsympathetic attitude towards his victims, one of whom was in the courtroom.”

Barnack acknowledged that his comments were inappropriate and he sought counseling from more experienced judges regarding the best way to manage emotionally-charged courtroom situations. As a result he adopted new procedures, including the use of a prepared script during sentencing to ensure that his outburst would not be repeated.

“I’ve learned from this experience and I look forward to continuing to serve the people of Jackson County,” he said.

The Oregon Supreme Court noted that Judge Barnack and the Commission on Judicial Fitness and Disability stipulated that he had violated two rules of the Oregon Code of Judicial Conduct, and Barnack agreed to a public censure. The Supreme Court approved the censure, which does not impact his duties as a judge or include any fines or fees. See: In re Barnack, 353 Ore. 205, 299 P.3d 525 (Or. 2013).

Judge Barnack is currently running for re-election in 2014.

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Related legal case

In re Barnack