Caso appointed as judge in Polk County Circuit

DALLAS — A new judge is presiding over cases in Polk County Circuit.

Gov. Kate Brown appointed Judge Rafael Caso to fill the seat on Dec. 8, following former Judge Sally Avera’s retirement on Nov. 30. She had more than a year left before her term expired.

Caso will run to fill the seat permanently in November 2018, according to a governor’s office spokeswoman.

Avera submitted her letter of resignation this summer.

“I’ve had the pleasure of serving the citizens of this state for more than 35 years and have enjoyed nearly every minute of it,” Avera wrote in her July 6 resignation letter to Brown and Oregon Supreme Court Chief Justice Thomas A. Balmer. “Still, at age 67, I’m ready to spend more time with family, travel, and get in as much hiking and riding as possible while my legs can still support me.”

Avera stated she’s had a rewarding career, but a busy one since taking the bench in Polk County in January 2013. As one of three circuit court judges in the county, she presided over one third of the criminal, family court, civil and juvenile cases.

She issued most of the search warrants and heard all the adult traffic cases. Among her other duties was presiding over Polk County’s Drug Court.

Drug Court is a treatment program that works with the court and its partners to offer those who commit drug-related crimes treatment and a chance to rebuild their lives. If successful, participants’ charges are dismissed.

Avera said she mentioned her work schedule to encourage a swift appointment of a temporary replacement who is willing to take on the responsibility of Drug Court, and the hectic work week.

“My schedule precludes long lunches and prevents three-day weekends,” she said. “With the exception of out-of-town vacations and a head injury last March, I can’t remember a single week in the last 54 months when my sleep hasn’t been interrupted at least twice for a warrant.”

Referring to colleagues Judge Monte Campbell and Judge Norm Hill, she said: “These duties cannot simply be absorbed by my two bench brothers.”

Avera initially cited Dec. 31 as her last day, but changed it to Nov. 30 because of an update to her Public Employee Retirement System retirement benefits, according to a second letter sent to Brown and Balmer on Aug. 2.

Caso is a hearings referee and judge pro tempore in Marion County Circuit Court.

He’s worked as a trial attorney for the Oregon Department of Justice from 2013 to 2016. From 2007 to 2013, he worked as prosecutor at the Josephine County District Attorney’s Office.

He coaches the mock trial team at West Salem High School and mentors law students at Willamette University Law School. Caso completed law school at Florida Coastal School of Law.

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