[Editor’s note: As part of our ongoing effort to inform North Carolinians about the state judiciary, Policy Watch is publishing a series of Q&A’s with the candidates seeking statewide judicial office this fall. Each of the 16 candidates (six who are contesting three Supreme Court seats and 10 who are contesting five seats on the Court of Appeals) was asked the same seven questions by former PW Courts, Law and Democracy Reporter Melissa Boughton. Candidates were not given instructions about the length of their responses, which have been edited only for grammar.
Regrettably, unlike in 2018 when all candidates responded to our inquiries, some did not provide answers this year. To help inform voters in these cases, we will provide links to the unresponsive candidate’s website as well as available information about any public debates in which both candidates for the race in question have participated, or are expected to participate.]
North Carolinians will decide in November who will fill the next five spots on the State Court of Appeals.
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.
Installment No. 6 in our series of profiles focuses on the race for Seat No. 7 on the North Carolina Court of Appeals between incumbent Democrat Reuben Young and Republican challenger Jeff Carpenter.
Candidates for Court of Appeals Seat 7:
Name: Reuben Young
Party affiliation: Democrat
What characteristics do you believe make a good judge, and why should North Carolinians vote for you (please include info about any courtroom and or trial court experience)?
The characteristics that make a good judge are the following:
- Knowledge of the law
- Strong work ethic and prompt rulings
- Respect for parties, attorneys and court personnel
Over the course of my 32-year legal career I have been a prosecutor, defense attorney, civil litigant, Secretary of two state agencies, legal counsel to the Governor, superior court judge and now appellate judge. As a trial judge, I presided over 99 jury trials and numerous bench trials. As an appellate judge I have authored over 55 opinions. This broad range of experience has allowed me the opportunity to see the justice system from various perspectives. I work hard every day to ensure that our system of justice is accessible to all people.
How will you balance being an independent judge and an elected official?
Being an independent judge is necessary to the fair administration of the law. As an elected official, my commitment to North Carolinians is to be fair, independent and impartial. As both a judge and elected official, I am committed to these principles.
How has COVID-19 changed your election campaigning if at all?
The inability to visit and communicate with voters in person has been the greatest challenge. Through contact via telephone and social media, our campaign has continued to communicate our message across North Carolina.
Do you believe systemic racism permeates our criminal justice system? If so, how do you plan to dismantle it to ensure equal access to justice for all North Carolinians under the law?
Systemic racism permeates all aspects of our society, not just the criminal justice system. In order for us to “dismantle it” we have to ensure that the law is applied equally to everyone. Our system of justice cannot continue to be perceived as a dual system promising justice for some, but not for all.
How do you define injustice?
Injustice is the unfair and unequal treatment of people.
To what extent do you believe that a judge should or should not defer to actions of a legislature?
It is a judge’s responsibility to fairly and impartially interpret and apply the law when matters are properly before the courts, not to defer to the actions of the legislative or executive branches of the government.
What are the biggest changes you think North Carolina needs to make to its judicial system?
The biggest changes that need to be made to the judicial system in North Carolina is ensuring fair and equal access to the courts for all North Carolinians and the fair application of the law to all citizens.
Name: Jeff Carpenter
Party affiliation: Republican
Note: Carpenter did not respond to multiple emails over a two-week period asking for his participation in the Policy Watch voter guide Q&A.
Earlier this month, the two candidates appeared in a WUNC-TV segment that can be viewed by clicking here.