COQUILLE — Coos County’s new Superior Court judges Andrew Combs and Brett Pruess were sworn in Tuesday morning, with enough time to don their robes and get to work.
It’s not often that two judges are sworn in at the same time. Retired Judge Paula Bechtold believes it might be the first time in Coos County’s history.
The need for these judges was made apparent by their almost immediate introduction to the bench. Just two hours after being sworn in Combs and Pruess were hearing arraignments and cases. After the long appointment process, the two new judges didn’t mind getting thrown into the fire. Both expressed nothing but excitement for the new challenges ahead.
“Right now, I’m just excited about getting to work. The process has been about six-months long, and now that it’s over I’m ready to get to work,” Combs said.
The two will be filling very different roles in Oregon’s 15th Judicial District. Combs will be hearing criminal trials, while Pruess will deal more with civil cases.
“I think it’s historic to have two new judges sworn in at the same time, I suspect that’s never occurred before in the history of the 15th Judicial District…They are both very bright and experienced in the law and will no doubt make outstanding judges,” Bechtold said.
Combs was born and raised in Myrtle Point. After graduating from the University of Oregon, he returned to his hometown to pursue his legal career, he eventually became a partner at one of the most prestigious law firms in Coos County, Whitty, McDaniel, Bodkin, & Combs, LLP. Combs was appointed by the governor to replace Judge Richard Barron.
To his law partners Combs said, “Thank you guys for training me in how to do all this stuff. I’ve been able to go and be a lawyer and now a judge and you guys have been great to me. I’m going to miss you guys a lot. Thank you for what you’ve done.”
Pruess will be filling the bench seat left open by Judge Bechtold. He moved to the area after finishing law school in Wisconsin. Pruess took a job at Oregon Law Center, a statewide non-profit law firm that specializes in providing legal service to those who can’t afford it. He will be the third judge to work at the North Bend Courthouse Annex.
“I’m honored, encouraged and humbled to see so many people here that I really respect professionally and personally. It’s tough to leave. I’m looking forward to the challenges and opportunities, but I’ve got some great memories from my time at Oregon Law Center. So, thank you again for being here,” Pruess said.
Both men gave much thanks and praise to their families in their brief speeches as well.
Having two new judges on the bench will no doubt be difficult. Judge Martin Stone, who performed the swearing in ceremony said along with many other judges in attendance that it took a couple of years to really understand the position.
Judge Baron said, “I think it’s a great day to have two new judges. It’s always good to have new perspective and new blood in the office. I’m sure both of them will do a good job, they’ve been great attorneys in this county. It’ll be an exciting time for them, and a new learning experience for them and I think that’s great for the county.”