Jefferson Griffin Appointed as Wake County District Court Judge

Congrats to Jefferson Griffin on his appointment by Governor Pat McCrory to the Wake County District Court bench. Jefferson mounted a strong campaign in the Republican primary to replace Colon Willoughby last spring that ultimately resulted in a run-off.

Lorrin Freeman, the Democrat, ultimately won over John Bryant last fall.

Judge Griffin fills the vacancy left by Judge Green who passed away in the fall.

Lucy Inman Endorsed for Court of Appeals

The News & Observer today endorsed Lucy Inman, a Superior Court Judge appointed by Governor Perdue in 2010, in her bid to become a North Carolina Court of Appeals judge. The N&O noted:

Lucy Inman gets The News & Observer endorsement because of her experience in a higher level court and because of an illustrious career as a private attorney that preceded her appointment to the bench. She has run a far-reaching campaign that has appealed to a cross-section of voters. (It should be noted that Inman is a member of the Daniels family that once owned The N&O, though that was not a factor in the endorsement.)

That’s a good endorsement. I’ve never appeared in front of her opponent, but I have appeared in front of Judge Inman on numerous occasions, including a jury trial.

First, Judge Inman is sharp. My understanding is that she comes from a civil background, but her understanding of criminal law, criminal procedure, and sentencing is as good as any other judge I’ve appeared before. She takes time to read briefs carefully, to consider arguments, and to reflect upon the law. She reads cases that are handed up to her to ensure that the lawyers are accurately representing the holdings.

She keeps lawyers on their toes.

Second, Judge Inman has the right temperament. She is pleasant in court, shows respect to all parties, but is no pushover. I’ve never seen her behave in anything other than an entirely appropriate manner. And she’s consistent.

I think that’s why so many lawyers like appearing in front of her. They know they will be treated well, that they will get a fair hearing, and that she will be consistent day to day.

Finally, she has been on the Superior Court bench for four years. Her opponent is a sitting District Court judge. Since the Superior Court is the only trial court of record in criminal cases, it is a logical move to go from Superior Court to an appellate court like the Court of Appeals. That experience helps her understand the factual basis of cases that are later distilled into a record for appellate review.

Judge Inman has been endorsed by seven former North Carolina Supreme Court justices, seven former Court of Appeals judges, and more than a dozen former Superior and District Court judges.

Wake County District Court Races: Croom v. Gilliam and Ansley v. Meyer

The North Carolina Bar Association conducts election-time surveys of lawyers (pdf) in the state about the qualifications of people who are running for judgeships. While the Judicial Performance Evaluation Surveys are not widely distributed, they are designed to inform the general public about the candidates for judicial seats. In North Carolina, while we have elected judges, the legislature years ago eliminated partisan elections for judges. Each party lists its party's candidates for judge, but on the actual ballot the judges have no party affiliation.

While we have 19 District Court judges in Wake County, not all are up for election this year, and of the ones who are, just two involve contested elections.

Croom v. Gilliam

Craig Croom, a former District Court and Special Superior Court judge, is running against Charles Gilliam, who was appointed earlier this year by Gov. McCrory to fill a vacancy left by James Fullwood's retirement.

Croom is a former sheriff's deputy and former prosecutor, and current administrative law judge who was on the District Court bench and well-regarded as a fair judge before being, essentially, promoted by Gov. Perdue as a Special Superior Court Judge. He has presided over thousands of bench trials, hearings, and juvenile court sessions.

The NCBA received hundreds of responses to an evaluation sent out asking for feedback on Craig Croom. He was rated much more highly in every category – Integrity & Impartiality, Legal Ability, Professionalism, Communication, Administrative Skills, Overall Performance – than his opponent Charles Gilliam. The NCBA, by contrast, received only about 65 responses to a questionnaire sent out about Gilliam. That's not surprising given that Gilliam has been on the bench for such a brief time, having been appointed by Gov. McCrory and having previously been a lawyer in the corporate world with apparently little courtroom experience.

Croom has been endorsed by the Indy Week.

See more:

Ansley v. Meyer

Ronnie Ansley is running for District Court Judge to replace Louis Meyer. Meyer, whose father served on the North Carolina Supreme Court, was appointed by Gov. Bev Perdue in 2012 to replace Kristin Ruth. He has served since.

Ansley is a private practice lawyer who is a familiar face in Wake County District Court. He is well-liked by fellow attorneys, and has been endorsed by the North Carolina Police Benevolent Association, and the Indy Weekly. Both Ansley and Meyer received hundreds of responses to the North Carolina Bar Association's survey of lawyers. Ansley outscored Meyer in every category, although the difference between Ansley and Meyer is not nearly as stark as between Croom and Gilliam.

 

Bar Election: Winners and Losers

Wethepeople
Who are the big winner’s in today’s bar election to fill the opening left by Ned Mangum’s appointment:

  1. David Snipes
  2. Matt Lively
  3. “Woofer” Davidian
  4. Chris Dozier

These four Republicans were nominated by the bar to serve the rest of Mangum’s term. Seth Blum was nominated, but he is a Democrat and stands no chance of being appointed by a Republican governor.

Who is the big loser? Paul “Skip” Stam. Stam had sent out two emails in support of Charles Gilliam. But Gilliam was unable to garner even the minimal number of votes to get in the top five nominees. This is good news for Craig Croom who is running against Gilliam in the fall election to fill Judge James Fullwood’s vacancy.

Wake Judicial Candidate Watch: Chris Dozier

Dozier Wake District Court JudgeThe appointment by the governor of sitting District Court Judge Ned Mangum as the acting interim District Attorney leaves a vacancy on the Wake County District Court bench until next January.

(Mangum is running unopposed for judge, and will resume his post in 2015 once Wake County has a new elected District Attorney.)

Chris Dozier, an assistant district attorney, announced his candidacy this afternoon to fill the Mangum seat for the balance of the year.

Dozier joined the Wake County District Attorney’s office in 2010 as a misdemeanor prosecutor. He has prosecuted many hundreds of misdemeanor cases in the general misdemeanor courts, several hundred in the specialized Driving While Impaired courtroom, and still more criminal cases while he served in the Domestic Violence courtroom. Dozier then spent more than a year in the Misdemeanor Appeals Superior Court where he tried dozens of jury trials, and handled hundreds of felony probation violation cases.

Most recently he has served as a felony prosecutor in the office.

Prior to his work as a prosecutor, Dozier worked in the civil litigation firm of Hall, Rodgers Gaylord & Millikan in Cary. But it’s his experience in criminal District Court that would serve him well since he would be well versed not only as a former District Court ADA, but also as a Misdemeanor Appeals ADA, in the way in which District Court affects Misdemeanor Appeals Superior Court.

Members of the Wake County Bar will vote in a special election that will take place on Wednesday, April 30, 2014 from 8:00 AM in courtroom 102 (across from Disposition Court) in the new Wake County Justice Center.

In the past, the governor was required to select from among the top three vote-getters in the bar election. But a recent change in the law makes the election purely advisory. In this particular case, where the term is only for the balance of the year, it’s likely that the Governor would respect the local bar’s election and select one of the top Republican (although the election is non-partisan) vote-getters. Dozier is a registered Republican.

Wake County Elections Watch: Final Tally

The filing period for local elections closed Friday, February 28 at 12:00 PM. The key races I’ve been watching are the Wake County District Attorney race, the Wake County Clerk Race, and various local Superior Court and District Court races.

These races will probably have more direct impact on Wake County voters lives than various state or federal elections, even though they are less closely watched than the more prominent races.

The DA’s race has turned into a four-way contest in the Republican primary between two felony assistant district attorneys, Jefferson Griffin and Jeff Cruden, and two candidates from the private bar, John Bryant and long-shot candidate Allen Swaim.

On the Democratic side, the DA’s race is a two-way contest between current Wake County Clerk Lorrin Freeman, the establishment candidate, and Benjamin Zellinger, a felony assistant district attorney with a good deal of family money.

The Clerk’s race has turned into a three way contest in the Republican Primary between sitting District Court Judge and Jesse Helms granddaughter Jennifer Knox and lesser known Barbara Moore and Joe Teague.

On the Democratic side, Sam Bridges, a former mayor of Garner, and Blair Williams, a former assistant clerk, have filed to run.

Most of the District Court bench up for election breathed a sigh of relief. Only Louis Meyer, who was appointed by Bev Perdue to finish out Kristen Ruth’s term, is facing a challenger. Meyer, a Democrat, came from Poyner Spruill where he practiced in the employment law section.

James Ronald “Ronnie” Ansley, who has run for judge in the past and is a solo practitioner, is running again against Meyer.

James Fullwood’s open seat is being sought by two candidates. Former District and Special Superior Judge Craig Croom, who enjoys wide support in the courthouse, will be facing Charles Gilliam Phillips.

Wake County Elections Watch: Candidate Filings

Candidates who have filed with the relevant Board of Elections as of 9:00 am, Friday, February 28, 2014:

Wake County District Attorney

Jefferson Griffin Candidate for District Attorney

  • Jefferson Griffin – Republican
  • Jeff Cruden – Republican
  • T. Allen Swaim – Republican
  • John Walter Bryant – Republican

  • Lorrin Freeman – Democrat

  • Benjamin Oren Zellinger – Democrat

    Wake County Clerk of Court

  • Jennifer Knox – Republican
  • Barbara Moore – Republican
  • Joe Teague – Republican

  • Samuel Bridges – Democrat
  • Frank Blair Williams – Democrat

    Wake County Sheriff

  • Donnie Harrison – Republican

  • Willie Louis Rowe – Democrat

    Superior Court District 10A

  • Paul Ridgeway

    Superior Court District 10C

  • Paul Gessner

    District Court (Fullwood Seat)

  • Craig Croom
  • Charles Gilliam

    District Court (Rozier Seat)

  • Vinston Rozier

    District Court (Mangum Seat)

  • Ned Mangum

    District Court (Denning Seat)

  • Michael Denning

    District Court (Eagles Seat)

  • Margaret Eagles

    District Court (Bailey Seat)

  • Kris Bailey

    District Court (Gregory Seat)

  • Keith Gregory

    District Court (Meyer Seat)

  • Louis Meyer

  • Wake County Judicial Election Watch: Craig Croom

    Wake County Justice Center

    Craig Croom, a former Wake County District Court judge, has announced his bid to be re-elected to the bench. A Carolina, grad, Judge Croom has an impressive and varied resume, beginning as a Wake County Sheriff’s Deputy, then attending law school at North Carolina Central in 1994, working as an assistant district attorney, before joining the District Court bench in 1999.

    Before he was appointed to the Superior Court Bench as a Special Judge in 2011 by Governor Perdue, Judge Croom served as a District Court judge for more than a decade.

    He frequently presided over juvenile court as a District Court judge, and is widely respected around the courthouse as a fair judge who takes a special interest in young folks.

    Judge Croom has announced a campaign kickoff next week, sponsored by 30 Wake County attorneys.

    Croom is seeking to fill James Fullwood’s seat. Croom’s website doesn’t yet appear to be working.

    Judge Fullwood has served on the Wake County District Court bench since 1989, and faces mandatory retirement pursuant to N.C.G.S Sec. 7A-4.20:

    No justice or judge of the General Court of Justice may continue in office beyond the last day of the month in which he attains his seventy-second birthday, but justices and judges so retired may be recalled for periods of temporary service as provided in Subchapters II and III of this chapter.

    Judge Fullwood reaches 72 years of age on November 3, 2014, which means he would be required to retire from office by the end of that month this year.

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