Q&A with state Court of Appeals candidates – the Elmore seat

Q&A with state Court of Appeals candidates – the Elmore seat

As part of an ongoing effort to inform North Carolinians about the upcoming judicial elections, Policy Watch is publishing a Q&A with each person running for a statewide judicial office. Each of the 11 candidates was asked the same six questions, and their answers will appear throughout the week alongside those of their challengers.

North Carolinians will get to decide in November who will fill the next three spots on the state Court of Appeals. Two current judges are retiring from the court: Judge Ann Marie Calabria and Judge Rick Elmore – both have served since 2002. The third seat is a vacancy created by former Judge Doug McCullough and filled by current Judge John Arrowood. He was appointed by Gov. Roy Cooper and will be the incumbent in that upcoming race.

The court is currently made up of 15 judges who review trial court proceedings for errors of law or legal procedure. They decide only questions of law, not questions of fact, according to the state Administrative Office of the Courts. The role of the court is to decide if the trial court correctly applied the law, or if there was prejudicial error in the conduct of the trial.

*A note about the Q&As: Candidates were not given instructions about the length of their responses, and they have only been edited for grammar.

Candidates for the Elmore Court of Appeals seat:

Name: Allegra Collins

Party Affiliation: Democrat

Website: www.allegracollins.com

What characteristics do you believe make a good judge, and why should North Carolinians vote for you?

A good appellate judge is an analytical thinker, a thorough researcher, an articulate writer, and an independent arbiter. As a former appellate law clerk and a current appellate law professor, advocate, and scholar, I am uniquely qualified to be a judge on the Court of Appeals. I will use my experience and expertise in appellate law to be an appellate judge citizens can count on to do the job fairly and accurately.

How will you balance being an independent judge and an elected official?

As an independent judge on the NC Court of Appeals, I will not promise to vote a certain way, to take a certain case, or to act in accordance with a certain agenda. The only promises I will make are contained in the Oath of Office: • to support the Constitution of the United States, • to be faithful and bear true allegiance to the State of North Carolina and her established constitutional powers and authorities, • and to support, maintain, and defend the constitution of North Carolina and the constitution of the United States.

Who is a judge responsible to, or what is their ultimate authority, and how do you view the appropriate balance of power amongst the governmental branches?

A judge’s ultimate authority is the law. The three separate and equally important branches of our government – Executive, Legislative and Judicial – check each other’s powers through the system of checks and balances. These checks and balances help ensure no one branch can gain too much power and influence, to the detriment of the system and society.

What are the biggest changes you think North Carolina needs to make to its judicial system?

The North Carolina judicial system can continue its efforts to improve technology across all courts. Technological advances will allow attorneys, litigants, and all citizens to use our court system more efficiently and effectively, and enjoy greater ease of access to important judicial system information. As part of advancing our technology, our citizens would benefit from access to live streaming and video replay of oral arguments in both our NC Court of Appeals and Supreme Court. Access to these arguments would allow citizens across our State to stay informed about processes, procedures, and cases before our appellate courts.

How do you define injustice?

Injustice is a breakdown in the process or procedure of the justice system which results in an inaccurate and unfair outcome.

How will you work to ensure equal access to justice for all?

The North Carolina Appellate Pro Bono Program is a newly-implemented initiative to assist litigants who, because of limited financial means, are attempting to represent themselves in our State’s appellate courts. The Program – a collaboration between the NC Court of Appeals, the NC Bar Association’s Appellate Practice Section, and the NC Pro Bono Resource Center – pairs the litigants with pro bono appellate attorneys. As an attorney and member of the Appellate Practice Section, I participated in the training of the pro bono program attorneys. As a judge, I will continue to support the Program by participating in the attorney training, helping with Program’s outreach efforts, and assisting in identifying litigants who qualify for the Program.

*****

Name: Chuck Kitchen

Party affiliation: Republican

Website: www.kitchenforcourtofappeals.com

What characteristics do you believe make a good judge, and why should North Carolinians vote for you?

To be a good judge, a person must act impartially and fairly to all parties applying the law as passed by the General Assembly and interpreted by the Supreme Court. Additionally, to be a good judge, a person must have experience in both litigating cases and appealing cases. I have a broad range of experience based on litigation and appellate work over the past 38 years, and firmly believe that the General Assembly is charged with making law, and the judiciary should not try to act as a super legislature.

How will you balance being an independent judge and an elected official?

If I am elected, I would be only serve as an independent judge as due to my age, I can only serve one term and could not run for a second term.

Who is a judge responsible to, or what is their ultimate authority, and how do you view the appropriate balance of power amongst the governmental branches?

An appellate judge derives his or her authority from the people of the State, and the Constitution of North Carolina. The three branches of government are coequal with each having its own responsibilities. Each branch should endeavor to fulfill its obligations without intruding on the responsibilities of the other branches.

What are the biggest changes you think North Carolina needs to make to its judicial system?

Changes to the judicial system are policy matters for the General Assembly and the citizens of the State. This is not within the province of the office to which I seek election.

How do you define injustice?

In order to give a definition of injustice, it is necessary to know the context of the question. The standard to be applied to determine if an action constitutes injustice is very different if a court is deciding to suspend the rules to prevent “manifest injustice” or the court is determining whether to stay a trial court’s order to prevent “injustice” to a party.

How will you work to ensure equal access to justice for all?

Equal access to justice is a policy matter for the General Assembly. The North Carolina Bar also has a role to play in ensuring access to legal opinions and access to the courts. However, a Court of Appeals judge should respect the separation of powers and defer such decisions to the legislative branch.

*****

Name: Michael Monaco

Party affiliation: Libertarian

Website: www.nc-monaco-2018.com

What characteristics do you believe make a good judge, and why should North Carolinians vote for you?

Integrity, first and foremost. A couple of years ago I was told my big problem in my job at the time was that I was always concerned with doing the right thing. To me that “problem” was the epitome of integrity and I made the hard decision it was time to move on.

How will you balance being an independent judge and an elected official?

Running as a third party candidate makes it relatively easy right now for me to be relatively immune from excessive partisanship. My assumption is that since all other elected officials are Democrats or Republicans there will be relatively no pressure on me from the executive or legislative branches. One hopes that these will be good ingredients for independence.

Who is a judge responsible to, or what is their ultimate authority, and how do you view the appropriate balance of power amongst the governmental branches?

A judge is ultimately responsible to the people. With regards to the other branches of government, appellate judges in particular should be responsible for good governance and enforcing the “rules of the road” – following the North Carolina Constitution. Unfortunately, the acrimony between the legislative and executive branches over the past couple of years has led to some extra-constitutional actions by both branches that the judicial branch has to arbitrate.

What are the biggest changes you think North Carolina needs to make to its judicial system?

In my opinion, the state judicial system is the highest functioning of the three branches of state of government these days. The biggest to challenges to the judicial system I see are adapting to the complex and ongoing opioid drug problem and figuring out how to equitably accommodate the increasing immigrant community in our state.

How do you define injustice?

Injustice to me is defined when who you are or how much money [you] have allows you to get a different or better outcome from the judicial system.

How will you work to ensure equal access to justice for all?

Looking for more incentives to engage more pro-bono attorney representation with the relevant experience to be effective. Perhaps pro-bono representation as a substitute for some portion of CLE [Continuing Legal Education] obligations would be one such incentive.