VALE – Malheur County Circuit Court Judge Lung Hung’s job, as he sees it, is to settle quarrels.
“Whether it be you owe me money or that is my property line or I want to raise my kids this way or I did or didn’t commit this crime, I resolve those disputes under the law,” said Hung.
Hung’s work as a judge over a span of 10 years recently captured the attention of his peers who bestowed a state award on the Seattle native.
Hung was presented recently with the Chief’s Award by then-Supreme Court Justice Martha Walters.
“Judge Hung is a terrific leader in eastern Oregon, where he presides, but he has gone above and beyond in strengthening bonds between judges and staff across the state and forging unity in the judicial branch as a whole,” Walters wrote in announcing the award.
The Chief’s Award recognizes one judge each year who has “demonstrated outstanding dedication and service to those who depend on the judicial branch,” according to a press release from the Malheur County Circuit Court.
Hung said he was honored.
“I’ve really tried to build a good relationship with other judges and the chief justice. I’ve worked hard to make sure the voices in eastern Oregon get heard,” said Hung.
Hung was appointed the presiding judge of the circuit court in 2016. A presiding judge of a circuit court is the chief administrative officer – or manager – of the court.
The award cited accomplishments by Hung including spearheading the circuit court’s implementation of Oregon’s eCourt electronic filing and case management system. Hung also serves on a state committee that oversees trial court rules and chaired the chief justice’s communication committee for several years, which helped complete a major overhaul of the state judicial department’s website.
He also helped promote an expert list to connect judges with peers with expertise in a particular area of the law.
Hung began his local law career in 2003 as a deputy district attorney in the Malheur County District Attorney’s Office.
He was appointed to the bench in 2012 and then ran for and was elected as judge that same year. He was reelected in 2018.
Hung said his election to judge was the most significant moment in his career.
“I’d never run for a public office and that people put their trust in me was huge. I did quite a bit of door-to-door when I was running for judge. That experience put into my heart that I am serving the people,” said Hung.
The law wasn’t his first choice when he began college, said Hung.
“I started off as an accountant as an undergrad,” he said.
After he received his bachelor’s degree in accounting from the University of Washington he knew his college career wasn’t over.
“I grew up in a family where graduate school is kind of a natural thing. I wasn’t quite sure what I wanted to do so I chose law school because the law training is useful,” he said.
Once he started law school, he said he realized he “really liked the courtroom.”
After earning his law degree from the University of Colorado School of Law, he moved to the Vale job.
He said he was proud of the work the local court system accomplished during the Covid pandemic.
“We stayed open. We kept jury trials going. Kept hearings going. Not every court was able to do what we were able to do. We kept the machine moving forward,” he said.
Hung said his empathy and ability to fashion compromises are important aspect of his job.
“Especially in cases involving children, having those skills is really important,” he said.
He said he works to “render a decision people may not be happy with but they can accept.”
Hung’s time on the job is one of contrasts. Some days he is in early and departs the courthouse long after the sun has set. Other days he leaves early. His schedule, he said, revolves around the court docket.
“There could be days where I am in the courtroom all day. There is no set schedule. You resolve the cases in front of you,” he said.
Hung said more than 2,000 cases are filed each year in the circuit court. Many end up in court proceedings.
“I will come to court where there will be five, six or seven trials that day,” he said.
Hung said he hopes people know that judges take their jobs seriously.
“We work hard to read the law and listen to your case and apply the facts of your case to the law and make decisions under the law. We are very conscious of not letting our personal beliefs into what the law dictates,” he said.
News tip? Contact reporter Pat Caldwell at [email protected]
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