Albany attorney and Linn County native Teri Plagmann believes her 20 years practicing family, business and criminal law will be beneficial if she is elected to succeed retiring Linn County Circuit Court Judge Daniel Murphy.
Plagmann has three opponents on the May ballot for the District 23, Position 3 seat: Rachel Kittson-MaQatish, Jennifer Hisey and Rebecca Winters.
Plagmann lives on a rural Albany farm founded in 1913 by her family and says she moved her private practice from Portland to Albany in 2014, “because this is home.”
Although at first glance earning an animal science degree at Oregon State may seem a long way from a law degree, Plagmann said she chose the Northwestern School of Law at Lewis & Clark College specifically because it was considered one of the best schools in the nation and it also offered specialization in water law and animal law.
“Water rights are a huge issue in the West,” she said.
Plagmann worked at the Schroeder Law Firm in Portland during her college years and then at Hagen, Dye, Hirschy and Di Lorenzo after graduation.
She took some time away from the law after the birth of her son and during that time was a CASA volunteer in Multnomah County and also volunteered at the St. Andrew’s Legal Clinic.
When she returned to practice, she worked at Marandas & Perdue as an associate and then became a partner, specializing in family law and civil litigation.
In 2008 she started her own firm in Portland and in 2014, moved to Albany.
“I really wanted to be closer to our family and to have our kids raised here,” she said. “The practice of law is different here as well. My clients are my neighbors, maybe the local grocery store clerk.”
Plagmann said she enjoys the challenge of being in the courtroom and says family law is varied and rewarding, ranging from divorces and child custody issues to restraining orders and child support.
“Family law touches so many areas of the law,” Plagmann said. “We make a difference in people’s lives. They come into the legal system scared and distraught. They feel their life has spun out of control. Everything is changing. They are afraid they are going to lose their house, their children.”
But Plagmann said she can help them navigate through the issues and develop a plan.
“We give them a road they can travel,” she said.
Plagmann said her work has spread over numerous counties. “I have appeared in front of many different judges, in a variety of courtrooms and areas of law.”
Plagmann said one challenge facing all of the candidates for the judgeship is that although Linn County’s population has grown steadily, the number of circuit court judges has held steady for many years.
“That means each judge is dealing with more and more cases,” she said. “There are ways to deal with this, such as more settlement conferences, arbitration and mediation programs and referee judges for juvenile cases.”
Plagmann said that while the Linn County Courthouse is an historical building, more consideration should be given to improving safety.
Plagmann said she was told years ago by a judge that the difference in ruling on a criminal case versus a civil case is that in a criminal case, there is a small bull's-eye.
“Either the person guilty or he isn’t,” she said. “In a civil case, that bull’s-eye is much bigger and there are several options when it comes to rulings.”
Plagmann said her ability to listen is critical in her role as an attorney and would be even more vital as a judge.
“People want someone who will listen to them, understand and be committed to advising them about what to do next,” Plagmann said.