I want to bring Justice with Dignity to the bench.
Understanding of one’s community is a necessity. I was raised and attended school in Orange County, and it is where I practice law and raise my children today. I have worked with numerous community organizations, including serving as President of the Board of Directors of the Orange County Rape Crisis Center and as a Teen Court Judge with Volunteers for Youth. Advocating for survivors and fighting for children has shaped me as an attorney, husband, father, and community member.
Professionally, my primary focus is in District Court. Currently, I litigate in Chatham and Orange Counties every week, focusing on criminal defense, family law, and general civil litigation. As an attorney, I’ve worked hard to identify and eradicate inequities in our judicial system and community. As President of the 15B Judicial District Bar, I worked with our District’s Racial Justice Taskforce and implemented a policy whereby our Judicial District paid for Racial Equity Institute training for all of our Judges and interested Bar members. In addition, I’m the volunteer attorney for EmPOWERment, Inc., an organization based in Chapel Hill that works to provide affordable housing and resources for those in need. Lastly, I’ve represented clients who benefitted from our local diversionary courts related to substance abuse and mental health.
There are a number of ideals upon which the North Carolina Democratic Party’s Platform rests that are applicable to my work as a judge: steadfast commitment to improving the well-being of children and families; alternative dispute resolutions; eradication of racism, discrimination, hate and bigotry; prevention, treatment and recovery of substance abuse disorders; access to quality and safe education; and support of the rights to freedom of speech, freedom of religion, and freedom of assembly. These ideals should be put forth in the courtroom, not because they are from the Democratic platform, but because they contribute to the creation of a more just, fair, and equitable community. The aforementioned points of the Democratic platform fit within my judicial philosophy, which rests upon three key pillars: (i) ensuring equity in the judicial process; (ii) connecting with compassion; and (iii) serving in the best interests of children and youth. My judicial philosophy will not be brought to the court because it is congruent with certain aspects of my political party, but because it is necessary to effectuate a just judicial system.
Institutional racism and racial biases and the negative stigma surrounding substance abuse and mental health are the greatest obstacles to justice.
The criminalization of poverty through court costs/fines is an example of a system built upon institutional racism. In order to combat this specific system, I will meet each person who comes before me with the same amount of dignity, no matter who they are or what they look like, and will consider the full context of their personal circumstances in my decision making process determining costs/fines.
In addition, I’ve worked to identify my own biases through training with the Racial Equity Institute, chaperoning a Civil Rights Trip each year throughout the southeast, and through intentional discussions regarding race. Through these actions, I have shed a light upon many of my implicit biases, which I work to manage every day.
Lastly, the negative stigma of substance abuse and mental health within the judicial system must be eradicated. We must first treat and address the underlying diagnoses and disorders before moving forward. In Orange County, criminal defendants are afforded the opportunity to receive necessary treatment through diversionary courts, specifically Community Resource Court and Drug Treatment Courts. My role would be to continue to champion the importance of these courts to the community and ensure our elected officials and citizens understand the impact these courts have on our community members in need.
In my eighth year of practice at Epting and Hackney, my focus is on criminal defense, family law, and general civil litigation, including juvenile cases. I’m in the courtroom every week and have litigated in all four courthouses in our Judicial District. While experienced in District Court, my volunteer experiences bear equal influence on my judicial philosophy. Working with youth has been very important to me. While in law school, I served as a Guardian ad Litem in Orange County, representing children in abuse, neglect, and dependency court. I have served as a Teen Court Judge with Volunteers for Youth for over four years. Connecting directly with youth, teaching them that they are judged by the totality of their actions, not one bad act, is a consistently powerful experience. Each year, I chaperone a trip, along with my wife, of middle school students from Carolina Friends School on a tour of historic Civil Rights sites. We sit on the steps of the 16th Street Baptist Church, walk on the Edmund Pettus Bridge, and stand in Woolworth’s. Empowering these students to see the change they can bring about and help those disenfranchised is special.
I recognize the impacts, both positive and negative, the court system can have on our citizens, our youth, our families, and our community. I will bring forth my experience in the courtroom and the community to effectuate justice with dignity.