By Staff at Crescent City Times – February 8, 2023
Two attorney’s are vying for the position of Judge for Del Norte County now that Bob Cochran is not running. Allow us to express what a pleasure it has been to interview these two well qualified people. Either one will make a great judge. They like each other. They work with each other and you won’t hear either one say a bad word about the other.
How refreshing is that?
We’ve got local Karen Olson who has lived here and worked here as an attorney for the past 23 years. She’s been on both sides of the law. Prosecutor, defense attorney, public defender, private attorney with clients. Ms. Olson has worked here all her life.
We’ve got Keith Morris who has worked here off and on over the years. He and his wife love the area and have relocated here permanently with their family. He also worked both sides of the law. Prosecutor, defense attorney, public defender, private attorney with clients and administrative hearing officer in Calaveras County. Mr. Morris has been fortunate to work in 15 different counties in California from 2008 to 2017.
Olson and Morris were both in the District Attorney’s office under Mike Riese. In 2003 Morris became Deputy DA until the end of 2004. He then left for Amador County at twice the gross pay for the same position.
While introducing himself at the candidates forum held at the Masonic Hall he said, “I love the law. I love to practice law and I love to help people.”
Olson introduced herself and explained that when she left the DA’s office and was in charge of the public defenders, in 2014 there were some vacancies. The first person that came to mind was Keith Morris. She called him and at that time he declined. In 2016-2017 they had a shortage and again, she called him to come up here and was finally able to talk him into it.
Why does she want to be a Judge?
“First, its the natural progression of my legal career. I’ve been practicing solely in Del Norte County. As an attorney in private law I’ve done civil rights violation, family law, and juvenile dependency. I have a wealth of experience that I can bring to the table for this community.”
“Second, almost more important reason is that this is my home. I have lived here for over five decades I have a vested interest in doing what’s best for this community. I want to make this community a safer place for my children and hopefully for my grandchildren.”
What is nice these days is that there are different courts like Veteran’s Court. Some Vets have mental health issues and can earn to have charges dismissed by going to therapy on low level offenses.
Olson spoke about the Community Assistance, Recovery and Empowerment (CARE) Act. That it sounds good but is almost impossible to enact. California Senate Bill 1338 passed in 2022 and became law in 2023. To put it succinctly, those with mental problems and addiction problems would be compelled to go into treatment while providing them with housing and other services. Del Norte County currently does not have the wherewithal to do this. But our county could be subject to fines and penalties if we do not put this into effect.
Both candidates agreed that because of laws passed over the last few years like Prop 47, it’s complicated to address recidivism. Judges have no say over the laws currently on the books. Plus our jails don’t have the space or man power to hold all the offenders.
While interviewed by the staff at Crescent City Times, Ms. Olson was asked about local corruption years ago in light of people who were fired or retired at the City that wanted to become whistleblowers but wouldn’t because of their fear of retaliation.
She was well aware of that and believes there is less corruption today because we have good leaders in law enforcement with Police Chief Richard Griffin and Sheriff Garrett Scott as well as other areas.
Keith Morris made a good impression talking about his missionary days in South Korea as well as while attending law school he discovered he had no interest in Intellectual Property (IP) law but he was put in a class and had to defend IP which he did, but was still not interested in it.
Both agreed that Gov. Gavin Newsom’s policies are not only crippling law enforcement but making it so much harder to keep our towns safe. Misdemeanors include assault, theft, shoplifting and DUI’s. Keith Morris said he’s always busy in January from DUI’s over the holidays. Felonies include murder, robbery, rape and burglary. Our area is safer than most of California in that murder and rape are rare. But crime is on the rise. Each indicated that Prop 47 needs to be reversed.
Both are in favor of the death penalty.
Just remember, Judges don’t make laws, they interpret the law.