A Court of Appeals Judge should apply the law as written, fairly and equally to all parties, and uphold the Constitution.
I was raised in Durham, by parents who devoted their lives to the service of others. Discussions of justice and equity were a part of my every day life. Those childhood lessons led me to law school.
When I completed law school at UNC in 1985, I began my career as law clerk to Chief Judge Hedrick of the North Carolina Court of Appeals. Judge Hedrick taught me, by example, that a Court of Appeals Judge must be a student of the law, understand the law’s application to the facts of each case, and make decisions that are fair, impartial, and consistent.
In the years since, I have had an active trial and appellate practice, representing North Carolinians before every level of our Court system, including our Court of Appeals and Supreme Court. I have handled a wide variety of cases, including personal injury and malpractice claims, administrative cases, civil rights matters, and business disputes. I am often hired by other attorneys to assist on appeals in their cases. This breadth of experience is important, because our Court of Appeals hears direct appeals from almost all final decisions in our Superior Courts and District Courts, in nearly every area of the law.
In addition to my practice, I have taught Trial Advocacy at Campbell Law School for the past seven years, helping to shape the next generation of lawyers. I have also been a leader in the Bar, serving as President of the NC Association of Defense Attorneys, and have received awards for my abilities and ethics.
Although the process of running for the Court of Appeals is partisan, the position of a judge on the Court of Appeals is not a partisan one. The platform of my political party should not, and will not, play any role in my work as a judge on the Court.
The North Carolina Code of Judicial Conduct requires all judges to ensure the “integrity and independence of the judiciary.” The Code also provides that a “judge should be faithful to the law and maintain professional competence in it. A judge should be unswayed by partisan interests, public clamor, or fear of criticism.” This means that even though we elect our judges in North Carolina, judges serve all the people, the justice system, and the law.
I have received broad support of my candidacy from members of both political parties, as well as independent voters. I also have support from lawyers’ groups who traditionally represent plaintiffs, as well as those who represent defendants. I believe that I have received this support from all sides of the legal community because of my reputation as a person who keeps her word, and is fair with others.
As a Court of Appeals judge, I will make decisions based on the law, and uphold the Constitution. I come to this position with no political agenda. I will consider each case carefully, make sure that I understand the facts, and carefully apply the law to those facts.
The greatest obstacles to justice are inequities in our system based on race and wealth. I believe that all judges have a role to play in addressing these problems and earning the trust of the public that they serve.
I recognize that all people have biases. It is incumbent on all government officials to be aware of of their own biases, and work to avoid being influenced by them in their decision-making. I believe that judges should engage in implicit bias training, and I commit to do so myself.
I would treat all parties with dignity and respect. It is vital to have judges who will consider the merits of every case with care, including those involving parties who are unable to retain an expensive legal team. I will be that kind of judge.
As a judge, I would honor my oath to uphold our constitution. Our North Carolina Constitution promises that all citizens will be treated equally. Article I, Section 19 provides that “No person shall be denied the equal protection of the laws; nor shall any person be subjected to discrimination by the State because of race, color, religion, or national origin.” When a governmental act is challenged as unconstitutional, it is the duty of every judge, at every level of our court system, to determine if it complies with the constitution. I would seriously analyze any constitutional challenge that came before me and uphold the constitution to the best of my ability.
Everyone should be treated fairly and equally, and no one is above the law, regardless of race, religion, social status, or any other status.
Fairness, impartiality, integrity, and a commitment to adherence to the rule of law all are essential characteristics of a good judge and are my greatest strengths. Another strength that makes me the best candidate for Seat 4 on the Court of Appeals is my almost eighteen years of hands-on judicial experience as a District Court Judge. I am the only candidate with judicial experience.
Since first elected in 2002, I have presided over tens of thousands of cases as a District Court Judge. I preside over domestic violence cases, juvenile cases involving the Department of Social Services, juvenile delinquency cases, child custody and support cases, equitable distribution of marital property, criminal cases, traffic matters, involuntary commitments, and other civil law disputes. As the Truancy Judge in Davie County, I am committed to doing what is necessary to resolve the issues that are causing children to be unlawfully absent from school, and that commitment has helped reduce the dropout rate in the community. Prior to being elected as a judge, I was an attorney in private practice and tried a wide variety of cases in district and superior courts and handled administrative, real estate, and transactional matters. Preparing students for the a career in the legal field, I taught Wills, Trusts, and Estates at Davidson County Community College. As a judge, I mentor new attorneys, and I teach continuing legal education courses for the National Business Institute.
Throughout the years, I have demonstrated that I am fair and impartial. I was first elected in 2002 and have been re-elected every four years thereafter, and I have been balancing being an independent judge and an elected official for almost eighteen years. Every party that appears in front of me is treated with the same fairness, dignity, and respect as any other party regardless of who they are, what position they hold, or who their lawyer is. Each party has a right to be heard, and a judge’s job is to listen to all of the competent evidence presented in court before making a decision. A judge has a duty to follow the law as it is written, not to make a decision based on what he/she thinks the law should be. I have consistently demonstrated that I will uphold the law and will always try to make the right decision without regard to whether or not it will be popular with voters or any political party. Integrity is doing what is right even when no one is watching, and I believe that I have demonstrated that I am a person of integrity. It is my judicial philosophy, not my political affiliation, that guides my independent decision-making on the bench.
Public perception of the justice system is a great obstacle to justice in the courts. Some people believe that status or money can buy anything, even a favorable ruling in court. Some people believe that the entire system is racist because of the actions of a few people. Everyone should be treated equally, regardless of race, religion, social status, professional status or any other status. People should be able to trust that if chance or circumstance lands them in court they can receive a fair and just outcome. Every person handles cases differently based on his or her own individual perspective, and some judges, whether intentionally or not, favor some races or special interest groups over others. There needs to be more training for judges about implicit bias and professional ethics in order for the system to be improved and for equal access to justice to be assured.
Without adequate funding of the judicial system, necessary programs cannot meet their stated goals and the wheels of justice move slowly, if at all. The cost of litigation, court fees, and fees related to the completion of required programs can keep people from doing what is necessary to change their lives, get their drivers license reinstated, or even reunify with their children in foster care. There needs to be substantive changes to the system to remove financial barriers to justice for the people who are trying to fulfill court obligations or change their lives but lack the funding to do so.