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 no primary. There are 43 districts across the state, most of them either one or two counties.
As a District Court Judge, I believe that judges must treat all with dignity and respect as we administer justice with mercy and compassion.
It remains an honor to serve the citizens of Durham County for the past four years; prior to being a judge I was a prosecutor for almost twelve years. Being a judge is a rewarding position in that I can help those who appear in front of me. Oftentimes, when a person appears before me, they are usually having one of the worse days of their lives. Being a judge has allowed me to develop critical skills such as listening to others, remaining impartial and being patient. A wise judge once told me" That patience is the secret weapon of any judge." This statement continues to resonate for me. My judicial experience matters as well. I have learned a lot of law in areas that I had never practiced in as an attorney. Being humble, studying the law and actually working hard, has allowed me to make decisions where I believe have made a difference in the lives of everyday people. And it is this experience that I will build upon to become a better judge.
My community involvement continues to benefit me as I serve as a judge. Serving my community (i.e. being on various boards or participating in various community organizations) allows me to help those who may be suffering from mental illness and substance abuse prior to them appearing before me as a judge. I feel like it is my sense of duty to be involved with organizations that assist those well before many of them appear before me. For me, I am being proactive to helping people rather than always being reactive.
Although I am well aware that I am running for a partisan judicial position, I strongly believe that my political party should not play any role in my work to administer justice. Our judicial branch of government must remain independent and impartial. The integrity and confidence within our court system is contingent upon all parties being heard and getting equal access to justice notwithstanding one's political affiliation.
Furthermore, impartiality and independence are the reasons why judicial robes are black and not red or blue. Quite honestly, I have never decided a case based on one's political affiliation and I never intend of doing so. When parties appear in front of me, it is my hope that I appear unbiased and will hear everyone's cases by applying the applicable law to make the best decision based on the facts.
In my opinion, the biggest obstacle to justice is poverty. I have been administering justice in our court system for almost sixteen years and I have seen many individuals who have been parties in both civil and criminal courts who are extremely impoverished. In our criminal courts, poverty has led to increased punitive consequences. Many who have been convicted of traffic offenses experience loss of driving privileges and are unable to afford to pay court costs and court fees.
Judge must follow the laws and apply those laws to the facts; however, judges have discretion in remittance of court costs and fees when it has been determined that a party cannot pay. Oftentimes when judges exercise their discretion and remits court costs and fees, this could favorably increase an individual's chances of having their driving licenses restored. Once a person's license is restored then that can enhance the quality of their lives by increasing employment opportunities for them and their families.
Being a judge for almost four years has given me the experience of working with various types of cases. In Durham County, the District Court Judges rotate through various courts. I have presided in all district courts except Family Court. When a judge continues to hear cases involving the same area of law, the judge becomes more familiar with the law with each court session. I have gained valuable experience as a judge from the past four years. I have acquired critical skills that all effective judges should possess - actively listening to others and having an abundance of patience are the two that come to mind now. And although I am in an uncontested election, I look forward to continuing to learn and grow as a jurist.