My judicial philosophy is that a judge should apply the law, how he or she finds it...not how he or she wished the law to be.
Judicial Experience- There are 5 seats on our 15-member Court on the ballot this cycle, with two candidates in each race. I am the only candidate seeking re-election, with more experience on our Court than the other candidates combined. We are losing our two most senior judges to retirement and lost two other senior judges last year to retirement. I believe the Court would be well-served by maintaining some continuity, as we welcome at least 3 new judges onto our Court.
Prior Work Experience- I first ran for the Court because I and others thought it would be a good idea for there to be at least one judge on our intermediary appellate court that has a real estate/financial/business background. Like the other judges on the Court, I practiced law for a number of years. But I also am a licensed real estate broker and worked as a community bank lender for a number of years. Our Court hears most all of the civil and criminal appeals from across the State. And it is important that we have judges with diverse work/life experience. I believe I add to that on our Court
Bi-Partisan Support- When I elected to this Court, I ran in a non-partisan election. The General Assembly voted to make judicial elections partisan shortly thereafter. I have strong support, not only from former Republican judges, but also from a number of Democratic judges and former office holders. I have striven to be aggressively non-partisan in the way I perform my job, as I think a judge should be.
The platform of my political party should play no part in my work, except to the extent that my party favors judges who apply the law - even laws passed by Democratic-controlled legislatures - rather than legislate from the bench. Partisan politics and partisan agendas should play no role in decision-making. A judge should not second-guess the policy preferences of our Governor or General Assembly, where those branches have acted within their constitutional authority. But I have stepped in have voted to declare laws passed by our General Assembly as being unconstitutional, where it was clearly so. For example, when the General Assembly passed a law that provided that certain traffic fines were to be used to fund our prisons, I wrote an opinion striking down the law because our State constitution clearly provides that all fines are to used for education.
Our justice system is perhaps the best in the world. But it is not perfect. One obstacle to having a perfect justice system is that it is populated by imperfect people, each with biases. A perfect system would involve everyone being treated equally. My role is to help keep our Court from becoming partisan. I came onto the Court during a period when we were elected on a non-partisan basis. While politics have gotten more divisive, the courts should not be. If re-elected, I will do all I can to see that we maintain a high level of collegiality and respect on our Court and that we remember that our Court is not a place for politics.
I am running for Seat #06 on the NC Court Appeals. I am committed to the rule of law, following legal precedent, and protecting our Constitution.
I started my career as a law clerk for Chief Judge Sam J. Ervin, III. He told me, “Never forget: cases are about real people with real problems, not about abstract legal theories.” I have carried this lesson and his example with me throughout my career. For thirty years, I have advised and represented hundreds of clients, in different areas of the law, and in every corner of North Carolina – in courtrooms, administrative hearing rooms, and board rooms. I have started my own law firm - so I know what it's like to own and run a business - and now lead a practice group in a nationwide law firm. These real world experiences – finding practical solutions to real problems -- have given me a deep knowledge of the law, sound judgment, and perspective. As an attorney, I understand the consequences of a judge’s decisions.
I have taught legal ethics/professional responsibility at the UNC School of Law and have mentored new attorneys in my law firm and in the local bar - helping them understanding the fundamental principles of the law.
I served as President of the Wake County Bar Assoc. and as President of the 10th Judicial District Bar, on the NC Bar Association (NCBA) Board of Governors, on the NCBA Litigation Section Council, and as Chairman of its Administrative Law Section Council. I have been a certified mediator for Superior Court cases for over 15 years.
My experience and understanding qualify me to now give back to my fellow North Carolinians as a judge.
Judges are elected to their office and are held accountable through an electoral process, but the commitment of a judge must be to decide cases fairly and uphold the rule of law for everyone -- regardless of politics, status, wealth, race, color, religion, or national origin. Our statutes require that we have a (D) or an (R) by our name on the ballot, but, if elected, I will not be beholden to any particular ideology or political agenda. I emphatically believe that's not the role of judges. In the cases before me, I will listen and consider the positions of the parties carefully and thoughtfully, and then use my knowledge of the law, my intellect, and my analytical skills to decide the specific issues in the case fairly and write clear opinions based the existing law and properly-established facts without attempting to further any partisan agenda. I am very concerned that some may perceive the courts as being partisan or certain judges as "liberal" or "conservative." Those perceptions undermine the role and function of the courts that are essential to an orderly, civil society. I will strive to always be fair, impartial, and independent as a judge on the Court of Appeals -- that is what the position requires and what our state deserves.
Anything that tilts the balance of the scales is a threat to justice. One obstacle is the absence of legal representation or advice for those with limited financial means. (I was the co-founder of the “Lawyer on the Line” program to help mobilize more private practice attorneys to provide pro bono legal services.) As the law becomes increasingly complex, too many people don’t know how, and need assistance, to understand their legal rights and navigate the court system. As has been underscored by recent events, another obstacle is systemic racism. It is incumbent upon us all to listen, learn, and thoughtfully examine implicit biases. We need our justice system to be more diverse and inclusive in its hiring and personnel. We also need to look for and eliminate structural or functional barriers to equal access to justice. As noted in my preceding answers, justice should not be partisan, or depend upon the ideology, power, wealth, status, or appearance of the persons whose case is before the court. When it is, or is perceived to be, that is also an obstacle to justice. The judiciary is a separate, but co-equal, branch of government. Judges do not appropriate funds, write statutes, or make law or policy -- we decide the cases before us and apply the law as written -- but we can provide leadership by example in our own personal lives, in how we manage our chambers, in the respect we show others in the courtroom, and in the language we use in writing our decisions.