A Profile of the Lane Count (Oregon) District Attornet
Oregon’s second city, Eugene, is home of the University of Oregon, storied track and field athletes, and Lane County District Attorney Patty Perlow.
The first woman elected to the top prosecutor’s post in Eugene, Perlow has held almost every position a lawyer can have in serving as a career prosecutor. She began as a deputy district attorney in 1989, soon becoming the trial team’s supervisor, serving on the major crimes team that specializes in prosecution of violent crimes such as assault, homicide, and child physical and sexual abuse. Perlow has served in the office’s No. 2 spot, Chief Deputy, and was the attorney advisor to Interagency Narcotics Team (INET), Lane County’s interagency drug crimes team. In 2015, when her predecessor left the law to become a state police commander, Perlow was appointed by Governor Kate Brown to take the helm in 2015. The next year she was overwhelmingly elected Lane County District Attorney in a heavily contested race.
The Lane County D.A.’s office is considered medium-large by national standards, with 80 employees and a budget of over $11 million. There is a misconception in America that prosecutors’ offices are revolving doors, with people constantly coming and going, but at least for the last 20 years that has not been the case in most of America. There is very little turnover in the top spot, and Perlow is only the fourth person to hold the post in half a century.
Lane County runs from the central Oregon coast to some of the highest peaks in the Cascade mountains, with plenty of space for wildlife and wildlife poachers. Fish and game crimes are prevalent. Wrongful hunting, wildlife crimes, and poaching are taken particularly seriously in Perlow’s stomping grounds. She is proud that her deputies have twice been honored for their commitment to wildlife prosecution and that she was personally recognized for her work in that area by the Oregon State Police.
When Perlow interviews for her professional staff, one of the first questions she asks is whether they have a dog. “This is a dog office, and even though the county has a no-animals policy, we make exceptions for that.” But lawyers with affinity for other animals have been hired by Perlow, so long as they have an appreciation for victims.
“The correlation between domestic violence and people who abuse animals is undeniable,” says Perlow. “A large number of our child abuse and domestic violence cases come from people who abuse animals.”
Animal law in Oregon has progressed in a dramatic way since Perlow’s early days as a deputy D.A. Even the worst animal abuse would receive only token jail time until the early 2000s; current law imposes actual imprisonment of up to five years for the most serious. “Oregon law now allows a judge to impose prison if the person convicted commits the crime in the presence of children or has a previous conviction of domestic violence,” Perlow explained.
Perlow was re-elected in May 2020 by almost 70 percent of the vote and says it will be her last term. Shortly after Perlow was first appointed, she faced another challenger and won that race with more than 75 percent of the vote.
Perlow and her husband share their home with canine friends Lucy, who is 12 (“We just had her birthday party”), and Frankie, who is one. Perlow calls Frankie “their COVID baby” and describes how she and her husband searched animal shelters south of the Oregon/California border to find him, a roundtrip drive of almost eight hours.
Animal law in Oregon has progressed in a dramatic way since Perlow’s early days as a deputy D.A. Even the worst animal abuse would receive only token jail time until the early 2000s; current law imposes actual imprisonment of up to five years for the most serious.