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NC District Court Judge District 10D Seat 05

The NC District Court hears civil cases involving less than $25,000 and criminal misdemeanors. District Court also oversees juvenile court and the magistrates, which handle things like small claims and evictions.Judges are elected for 4 year terms. Legislation in 2017 changed these elections to partisan elections with party primaries. There are 41 districts across the state, most of them either one or two counties.

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    Debra Ann Smith Sasser

Biographical Information

What unique personal and professional experiences have prepared you for this judgeship?

You are running for a partisan judicial position. What role should the platform of your political party play in your work as a judge on the court?

What do you perceive as the greatest obstacles to justice and do you think there is a role you should play to address these obstacles?

What experiences do you bring to the kind of cases likely to come before you in the areas of family law, criminal law and juvenile justice issues?

Age (optional) 61
Contact Phone (919) 792-4800
email address
Position/philosophy statement My judicial philosophy is fidelity to the law. The obligation of a judge is not to make law, but to apply the law.
I was elected to the district court bench in November 2004, and I have been unopposed in every election since that time. I come from a hard-working family with blue-collar roots, and I was the first in my family to graduate from college (and the only one to become a lawyer). With scholarships, grants, employment income, and loans, I put myself through college and law school. After receiving my bachelor's degree, I worked nine years in the IT field before pursuing a law degree. Through hard work and a God-given intellect, I graduated near the top of my UNC law school class. My legal career includes working for some of the top law firms in the North Carolina, where I developed a broad knowledge of the law and procedure. Yet it is my work with the Wake County and the North Carolina Guardian ad Litem programs that is a highlight of my legal career. Advocating on behalf of abused and neglected children taught me a passion for advocacy.

Despite this passion, from the beginning of my legal career, I knew I wanted to be a judge. After practicing law for eleven years, I filed my first notice of candidacy. I am honored to have served Wake County since 2004, and I am looking forward to more years of service.
Having run for judge 4 times in the past, 2020 will be the first time that I will run for a partisan judicial position. Politics have never played a role in my work as a judge, and the addition of a political label to this seat will not change that.
Lack of money and knowledge are two of the biggest obstacles to justice. While in criminal court, there is a right to a court appointed attorney, often the defendant cannot bond out and remains in jail for an extended period of time. And at the end of the day, getting out of jail becomes more important to the defendant than a "not guilty" verdict. As a judge, I have a duty to set appropriate release conditions and a reasonable court date such that a person does not "max out" while in jail prior to a trial. I also have a duty to make sure that the court appointed attorneys are timely communicating with their defendants.

A litigant in a civil case does not have a right to an attorney (subject to some narrow exceptions). Being unable to afford an attorney means that in a majority of these cases in district court, there is at least one self-represented litigant. Assuring that the self-represented litigant has meaningful access to the courts starts with adequate notice and explanation of why they are in court. It is incumbent on the judge to explain the procedure of the hearing/trial in a way that the self-represented litigant can understand (e.g., not use legal terms).
Since being on the bench, I have regularly presided over every type of case we have in district court except for juvenile delinquency matters. I have been a Juvenile Certified judge since 2007. I was a Family Court judge from 2006 - 2013, first assigned to our child protection court from 2006-2007, then assigned to domestic court from 2007-2013. I served as the lead domestic judge from 2009-2013. I have served as the lead judge in our general civil courtroom since 2013, and I have had a regular rotation in our criminal and civil domestic violence courtrooms for the past three plus years. I regularly preside in our DWI courtroom, our general criminal/traffic courtrooms, and in our courtrooms that handle first appearances, take felony pleas, and conduct probation violation hearings.