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NC District Court Judge District 26 Seat 9

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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    Rex Marvel

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    Sunny Panyanouvong-Rubeck

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?

email address
Twitter @Judge_Marvel
Position/philosophy statement Helping courts work better for families and children by promptly issuing orders so families can move forward while ensuring equal access to justice.
As a child, my life was impacted by the family court system. My mother suffered from addiction, which kept my siblings and I in and out of family court. I know how hard it is on families that’s why I work to make the court experience better for families and children.

I currently serve our community as a District Court Judge working in Family and Domestic Court. I was appointed to the bench by Governor Roy Cooper last year after I was nominated by lawyers from the Mecklenburg County Bar.

Prior to joining the bench I worked an Assistant Public Defender at the Mecklenburg County Public Defender’s Office. In that role I represented thousands of our communities most vulnerable in court. I am one of only a handful of Board Certified Criminal Law Specialists in State Criminal Law in our community.

Beyond working as a Public Defender I also worked as an Adjunct Professor of Legal Writing - teaching subjects of criminal, civil and of course family law.

I am an active member of the Mecklenburg County Bar a member of the Board of Directors and Community Service Board. Additionally I have led a number of 'Know Your Rights' sessions with the Mecklenburg County Bar.

I am a judge that knows how important family court is to children and families in our community. I am therefore committed to serving families and children as District Court Judge.
Judicial races in North Carolina used to be nonpartisan and it is unfortunate that Republicans in the North Carolina General Assembly led an effort to change this. District Court judges do not make political decisions. I am a family court judge and everything I do is focused on "the best interest of the child." I never ask or consider whether a family in front of me is a Democrat, Republican,or Libertarian.

Regardless, I do seen firsthand that the North Carolina Democratic Party has supported fair and independent courts, fair elections for judges and openly supports judges that are committed to ensuring access to justice for all.

Although I do not like that the partisan sphere has impacted judicial races I fully stand by the fact that I am and always have been a Democrat.
Currently our courts have been greatly challenged by COVID-19 and this pandemic has illuminated many longstanding inequalities for black and brown people in our country.

Throughout the pandemic I have been committed to working to ensure children and families still have resolutions to their cases. I have been working with stakeholders to ensure that technology can safely and equitably bring court to families instead of people having to risk coming to court. We therefore have court remotely via phone or computer every day. For families that do not have access to technology I still have court in the morning session. I enforce social distancing, masks, hand sanitizer and limit the number of people in the courtroom to make sure court is safe for everyone.

Concerning racial inequities: I currently stand with a number of my District Court Judge colleagues who have pledged to do better and improve the equity in our court systems. We are doing so under the leadership of our phenomenal Chief Justice Cheri Beasley. Our judges are already identifying and implementing ways to better serve our community and ensure equitable justice for all.
Although as a lawyer I have significant experience practicing criminal law. My seat is in Family Court. I therefore hear cases of Child Support, Child Custody, Divorce, Separation, Alimony and Domestic Violence.

Since my seat is in Family and Domestic Court I currently sit on the Family Court Judges Committee and the Domestic Violence Committee in Mecklenburg County. I am committed to ensuring equal access to justice for families and children.
My parents understood that staying in Laos after the Secret War would mean raising their children in a communist regime. In 1980, they exchanged country and heritage for freedom.

The barefoot journey was long and treacherous. When we finally reached the Mekong River, my crying grew louder. My mom did not hesitate to sedate me, as images of soldiers killing one another crossed her mind. She was afraid my crying would give away our position, so she kept feeding me, pill after pill, until I became silent. My aunt realized the dosage given was too much for a toddler. She grabbed my limp body and submerged me underneath the cold Mekong River, to revive me. My parents risked our lives in order to give us a future. My family was part of the 32 migrants that departed to America for permanent resettlement. We learned the new language, welcomed a great democracy and proudly earned our citizenship.

In America, we were poor but free. As a child, I lived in Section 8 Housing, stood in the school cafeteria line for free lunches and survived through government programs. I still remember the feeling of having to pick eyeglasses from a special drawer reserved for children on Medicaid. I’ve embraced life’s challenges with a positive outlook.

I believe common ground can be achieved when we respect and listen to different perspectives. My life experience includes being a child refugee who is now running to become judge. My journey and my struggles have prepared me for this judgeship.
The law now requires the inclusion of our political affiliation on the ballot. Our community deserves judges who will impartially apply the law without regard for politics or personal preferences. I promise to do this by upholding our Constitution, and by treating every person who comes before me with dignity, fairness and respect.

The greatest obstacle to justice is access and inclusion. I have always faithfully believed that education would change my life. When I graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of California, Los Angeles in 2002, my entire family graduated. When I graduated from law school in May of 2009 from the North Carolina Central University School of Law, Laotians graduated. I am running for District Court Judge because building a more inclusive judiciary adds value to our city, ensuring that we all rise. My story is about dedication, perseverance and achieving the American dream. My story is about hope.

I have been practicing law as an Assistant Public Defender in Mecklenburg County for over a decade. I understand Judge Diaz was on the bench in Mecklenburg County, but that was before I started with the Public Defender's Office. However, in Mecklenburg County, I have never personally taken a matter before the court and stood in front of an Asian-American or a Hispanic-American judge. This is surprising since I practice in the big city of Charlotte, North Carolina. I further understand that if elected, I would be the first Lao-American women to hold a judicial seat in America. I believe my personal experience, unique background, and having the courage to run fully demonstrates my role in the legal profession and as a candidate for judge. Having access and inclusion to justice can start by a person's willingness to lead.
My legal experience began at the age of 19 when I first worked for a small law firm. I pounded the pavement to secure the job by going door to door, hand delivering my resumés to every firm I could locate in the yellow pages. Since then, I have worked as a legal assistant to various law firms specializing in family law, insurance defense, estate and probate, and civil law.

For over a decade, I have been dedicated to public service as an Assistant Public Defender. I started practicing with a misdemeanor caseload in District Court and have since worked my way up to my current position as supervisor of the Felony Drug Unit. My supervisory position has allowed me to become an outstanding advocate for drug treatment. Fortunately, the ‘Raise the Age’ initiative prevents older youths from automatically being charged as adults for many crimes, but prior to the change in law, I have represented many 16 and 17-year-old clients.

I believe my work experience uniquely qualifies me to handle the kind of cases that will likely come before me in court.