Vitolins to soon move to the bench
Daina Vitolins was appointed Crook County Circuit Court Judge more than a month ago.
However, she has spent the past few weeks preparing for her transition to the bench while tying up loose ends before leaving her district attorney post of nearly nine years.
That will soon change as her investiture — or official swearing-in ceremony as judge — is set to take place on Friday, Aug. 11 at the Crook County Courthouse. The event, which is open to the public, will take place in Courtroom A at 4 p.m.
Vitolins will continue a pattern of local district attorneys ascending to the bench. Gary Thompson, who was once the DA and became judge, later saw Gary Williams leave his DA post to succeed him. Now, Vitolins will fill the position vacated by Williams.
"I have asked Gary Williams to swear me in as circuit court judge," she said of the investiture. The event will also include some speeches from guest speakers.
Vitolins will begin work as a judge on Aug. 14, the Monday after her ceremony takes place. After spending much of her worktime in Prineville, she will commute often as her judgeship begins.
"Until Oct. 1, I will work four days in Jefferson County, and I will be in Crook County on Friday," she said.
By doing so, Vitolins will avoid presiding over cases that she worked as a district attorney.
"Beginning Oct. 1, I will be here (Prineville) every other week for three days. I am mostly handling civil cases here — no criminal cases."
Vitolins was appointed to the circuit court judge position by Gov. Kate Brown after submitting an application for the position in advance of Williams' retirement on June 30. She will serve until the next general election in November 2018, at which time she will need voter approval to retain the position.
As her investiture and first day on the bench near, Vitolins says she is equal parts excited and nervous about the change.
"It is very different," she said of being judge. "It's one thing to sit in a courtroom and make arguments when the judge asks you questions. It's quite another thing to be presiding over the case."
However, leading up to that first day, she has leaned on the experience of Williams, as well as Daniel Ahern and Annette Hillman, whom she will join as judges of the 22nd Judicial District serving Crook and Jefferson counties.
In addition, having seen the docket for her first week, she is not expecting to take on difficult or complex cases right away.
"I think there is a short learning period," she said.
Vitolins plans to listen to everybody and hear from all sides of an issue as judge and use that information to make decisions that are fair and just.
"I really like the phrase, 'Seek to understand before you are understood,'" she said.