Dustin Houchin has formally filed on January 18, 2022 to seek the Republican Party nomination for Washington County Superior Court Judge on the news of the retirement of current Judge Frank Newkirk Jr.
Houchin has served as Washington County Prosecutor, elected to four terms making him the longest serving prosecutor in the county’s history.
His 15 years in the role has allowed him to develop skills that will serve him well on the bench. “I am a better person for having been prosecutor for four terms. That’s a gift the people of Washington County gave me,” he said.
“I’m a stronger, more skilled lawyer and I’ve handled tens of thousands of cases. That preparation and experience is not easy to get,” he said.
Houchin said serving as prosecutor has made him a far more compassionate person as he has witnessed the spectrum of human imperfection. “The overwhelming majority of people we prosecute are good people who have made bad decisions,” he said.
Houchin focused on bringing continuity to the prosecutor’s office after a long line of singler-term prosecutors and worked to build the public’s trust. Of the dozens of jury trials the office has conducted under his leadership, they have been unsuccessful in just a handful.
Houchin also focused on developing a solid relationship with law enforcement both locally, but also with state and federal agencies. This has brought increased resources to the county and the good working relationships have resulted in good investigations, solid cases and holding offenders accountable.
Judges are charged with conducting court proceedings in both civil and criminal matters.
Houchin said a judge must be impartial, fair and unbiased and must follow the laws of the state and the U.S. Constitution. A judge must be committed to properly interpreting the meaning, significance and implication of the law.
When a case first appears in court, it is the judge’s role to decide whether there is sufficient evidence to support a reasonable belief that a crime has occurred and that the person charged committed that crime. The judge assigns an attorney when a defendant cannot afford one and also decides what amount bail will be.
A judge’s role during a trial is to ensure that everything that happens in the courtroom follows the rules outlined by the law. In criminal cases, judges determine the sentence and in civil cases, assign fines.
Judges are also responsible for signing warrants for arrests and searches.
“I believe when people come to court they’re looking first and foremost for a decision. They want an answer,” he said. “It’s incumbent upon the judge to provide a clear, decisive answer in a timely manner. I’ll have a real focus on providing that service to the community.”
Houchin believes the court provides a community service. “I truly see it that way. Like all government, the judge is providing a service.”
Houchin said a judge is responsible for ensuring that everybody in the legal system is performing, from defense attorneys to staff to service/treatment providers and vendors to the court. “It’s the judge’s role to make sure if you’re connected to the court, you do your job competently and are held accountable if you don’t. Only the judge can do that. You have to provide that leadership.”
Having been entrusted with overseeing the prosecutor’s office for so many years, Houchin said he is extremely grateful for the trust the community has placed in him and wants to repay that.
“I feel an obligation to give back to the community. This is a way to do that,” he said. “I see the system and ways I believe I can make it better. I feel compelled to do that.”
Houchin and his wife, Erin, live in Salem with their three children.