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Two lawyers set sights on county circuit court

Two lawyers with strong ties to the North Clackamas community this month filed for the Clackamas County Circuit Court position being vacated by (not so) retiring Judge Ron Thom.

Anyone replacing Thom has big shoes to fill. The former Oregon City mayor has remained active in volunteering for the Clackamas County Historical Society and many other causes.

In his more than a decade on the state bench, Thom had distinguished himself as a no-nonsense hardliner on several high-profile drunk-driving cases, including the case of a Gresham police detective who last year pleaded guilty to driving under the influence of intoxicants.

Thom in court has frequently expressed his distress at the continued poor judgment that lead to cases such as the 2008 case of a drunk-driving man killing an Oregon City woman.

'Unfortunately, as long as people continue to drink and operate motor vehicles we will continue to see these tragedies occur,' Thom said in the sentencing hearing.

William Shepley, a former Oregon City municipal court judge and prosecutor, filed for the position of Jan. 9. Shepley is the municipal judge for Lake Oswego. 

Shepley worked for Metropolitan Public Defender Services and the Commonwealth of Massachusetts Criminal Justice Statistical Analysis Center during the 1980s.

Prior to that, he had received his doctorate from Northwestern School of Law and his bachelor's degree in political science from Bradley University in Illinois.

Shepley said no candidate could hope to replace Thom's work in the field of DUII law.

'I believe that Judge Thom has always tried to do the right thing in terms of the law and the facts - and in that sense I'm looking to do the same,' Shepley said. 'I have a deep respect for our system of justice. Despite imperfections, it remains the very best system for true justice in comparison to all others.'

Mike Wetzel, a Clackamas County lawyer and resident, filed as a judge candidate the day after Shepley. Both lawyers with more than 15 years experience in private practice are candidates in the county primary election on May 15.

'I look forward to serving the citizens of Clackamas County,' Wetzel said. 'I feel privileged to have lived in Clackamas County most of my life and honored to have represented countless individuals and businesses in this community for many years.

'I plan to approach my job as Clackamas County Circuit Court Judge with humility and impartiality, and will always strive to treat all parties with respect and dignity. I possess a passion for the law and the desire to work hard to the benefit of all parties involved. I believe my diverse experiences and commitment to justice will make me an asset on the bench.'

Wetzel, who received his doctorate from Vanderbilt University Law School in Nashville, is a partner with the law firm of Fitzwater Meyer LLP in Clackamas. He also received a bachelor's degree in economics from Willamette University.

In addition to his legal practice, he has more than nine years of experience with the Oregon Army National Guard and Reserve JAG Corps. He holds the rank of captain and is scheduled to be promoted to the rank of major.

Wetzel grew up in Damascus, served on the Clackamas County Economic Development Commission and has coached youth sports in the Clackamas area. He, his wife, Lisa, and his children live in Clackamas.