Often overlooked by voters, local judges play an important role in the criminal justice system.
They are the ones who have the final say on how much money and under what conditions a person accused of a crime must pay to get out jail before trial.
They also have opportunities to evaluate whether the justice system treats people fairly, looking at whether law enforcement officers and prosecutors obtained evidence appropriately, for example, and making sure the legal process resolves criminal charges in a fair and speedy manner.
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District Court judges serve four-year terms. They hear criminal cases involving misdemeanors and infractions, along with cases for juveniles under 16 that involve delinquency and other issues. They also hear divorce, child custody and child support cases, along with civil cases seeking $25,000 or less.
Superior Court judges serve eight-year terms and hear criminal cases involving felonies and civil cases seeking more than $25,000.
In Superior Court criminal trials are held before a jury; in District Court they are held before a judge only.
Every six months Superior Court judges rotate to other districts within their division. There are 50 districts, including one that encompasses Durham County, and eight divisions across the state.
Durham County District Court
Durham County has a total of seven district court seats, and six are up for election in November. Only two races have more than one candidate. The district court seats are at-large races.
▪ Judge Fred Battaglia faces Dave Hall, a former attorney for the Southern Coalition for Social Justice.
▪ Judge Jim Hill faces assistant district attorney Clayton Jones.
In a change from previous elections, all the judicial races will be partisan, meaning judges’ political affiliation will appear beside their name on the ballot.
Hill is the only Republican. The rest are Democrats.
Patricia Evans, Amanda Maris, Doretta Walker and Brian Wilks are running unopposed.
Durham County Superior Court
In Durham County there are four Superior Court judges’ seats that are elected by two districts.
Orlando Hudson is the only judge elected in Durham County’s 14A district, where voters and candidates for that seat must live within a defined area.
Hudson’s seat is not up for re-election until 2020.
Durham’s 14B district surrounds the 14A district and includes a larger portion of the county’s geography.
The three judges elected from that district are up for re-election.
The two incumbents running, Jim Hardin and Michael O’Foghludha, have no challengers.
Judge Elaine O’Neal, who was recently named interim dean of the N.C. Central University School of Law, isn’t running for re-election. Assistant district attorney Josephine Kerr Davis and assistant public defender Dawn Baxton are seeking the seat, which O’Neal has held since 2011.
All of the Superior Court judge candidates are Democrats.
The only judge up for re-election in Orange County is District Court Judge Joe Buckner, who has no opposition.
Orange County has two superior court judges who are up for election in 2022 and a total of five district court judges.
N.C. Superior Court Judges District 14B (Durham County)
Seat 1 (Unopposed)
James E. (Jim) Hardin, Jr. (incumbent)
Occupation: Superior Court judge
Political experience: Elected to one, eight-year term as resident Superior Court judge in 2009; appointed special Superior Court judge from April 2005 to June 2007; September 2007 to September 2009; district attorney from January 1994 to 2005; June 2007 to September 2007
List one other relevant experience: Served in the U.S. Army and U.S. Army Reserve, being commissioned in 1988 as a judge advocate and was a military judge for six years and chief trial judge of the U.S. Army Reserve.
Why are you running: Serving the public comes in many forms, whether in one’s place of worship, civic club, or vocation and as we perform service in our community, we should strive to use our talents, interests, and aptitudes to the best of our ability. Serving in the justice system for the last 35 years as I have has allowed me to meet, what I believe is, my civic obligation to the community where I was born and raised and I wish to continue.
Seat 2 (Unopposed)
Occupation: Superior Court judge
Political experience: Elected to one eight-year term in 2011
Other relevant experience: Board of Directors, Durham Center for Senior Life, 2007-10
Why are you running? I have been a Resident Superior Court judge since 2011, I am committed to a fair and impartial judicial system that provides an equitable and just system for the resolution of criminal prosecutions and civil disputes for all of North Carolina’s citizens.
Seat 3 (2 candidates)
Occupation: Senior assistant public defender from 2006 to present; assistant public defender since 1999
Political Experience: None
Other Relevant Experience: Democratic representative on Durham County Board of Elections for seven years
Why are you running: I decided to run for Superior Court judge because I have the necessary skills and experience to be a fair and impartial judge that will be dedicated to making sure the justice system is accessible and works for everyone. As a Superior Court judge, I will ensure that the citizens of Durham County, as well as the citizens of other counties where I am assigned, will have access to equitable justice regardless of race, gender, socio-economic background, or the status of their attorney.
Josephine Kerr Davis
Occupation: Assistant district attorney, from November 2010 to present
Political experience: None
Relevant experience: People’s Alliance, former board member January 2017 – June 2018
Why are you running: As a mother, wife and Durham native, I have experienced all sides of the legal system — as an assistant public defender, a prosecutor, an assistant attorney general, and an appeals hearing officer. We are at a critical moment - a moment when those committed to justice must fight for fair courts; justice requires accountability and mercy, and I am committed to seeking the justice we need with the compassion we deserve.
N.C. District Court 14
Seat 1 (2 candidates)
Fred S. Battaglia Jr. (incumbent)
Email address: email@example.com
Occupation: Durham County District Court judge
Political Experience: District court judge since January 2015
Relevant experience: Sunday school teacher for high school students for the past 20 years
Why are you running: I serve the citizens as the judge in drug treatment court and seek re-election to continue to help all people suffering from addiction. There is much more work to be done to help restore people to society and help restore all our families.
David (Dave) Hall
Occupation: Attorney since 2008
Political experience: None
Relevant experience: SEEDS Board member 2010-2016 Board President 2015
Why are you running: Equity, accountability, and opportunity in our justice system are the keys to safe and thriving communities. I am seeking a District Court judicial seat in order to serve, protect, and empower both victims and justice involved individuals to ensure access to justice and safe communities.
Seat 2 (unopposed)
Doretta L. Walker (incumbent)
Occupation: Durham County district court judge
Political Experience: District Court judge since 2011
Relevant experience: Assistant district attorney in Durham County from 1997 to 2010
Why are you running: I enjoy being a public servant and protecting children is my passion. I want to continue to serve the citizens of Durham with fairness, impartiality, compassion and ensure that justice is the ultimate goal in our court system.
Seat 3 (unopposed)
Patricia Evans (incumbent)
Evans didn’t respond to questionnaire.
Seat 4 (unopposed)
Brian C. Wilks (incumbent)
Occupation: District Court judge July 2008-present
Political experience: District Court Judge 2008-present
Relevant experience: Assistant Attorney General 2003-2006;
Why are you running: To continue to serve the citizens of Durham as a fair impartial judge.
Seat 5 (2 candidates)
James T. (Jim) Hill (incumbent)
Occupation: Chief Durham County District Court judge
Political experience: District Court Judge since Dec. 1, 2002
Relevant experience: 100 Men in Black Male Chorus
Why are you running: I have considered it a privilege and honor to serve the citizens of Durham as one of our District Court Judges for the past 16 years. I feel that I still have a lot to give and would like to continue to serve and put the many and varied experiences that I have attained over these last 16 years to benefit and serve the citizens of Durham.
Occupation: Assistant District Attorney April 2016- present; Assistant Public Defender Durham County, September 2003- April 2016
Political experience: None
Relevant experience: Vice Chair of the 14th Judicial District Bar Grievance Committee 2015-present
Why are you running: Durham County deserves a judge who is in sync with the pulse of the community. A progressive judge who will treat all people with dignity and respect.
Seat 6 (unopposed)
Amanda Maris (incumbent)
Occupation: District Court judge appointed in July 2017
Political experience: Current position is first elected position.
Relevant experience: Durham County Teen Court and Restitution Program (2009-2018), Board chair, member and volunteer judge
Why are you running for election? I am seeking to retain my seat as a District Court judge to continue working hard to ensure that all people have equal access to the court system and receive fair and just outcomes in our courts. This means improving the administration of justice within the courtroom, by applying the law fairly and with respect for all parties, and by taking action outside of the courtroom to develop solutions in partnerships with other government and community stakeholders on significant issues related to the justice system.
N.C. District Court Judge District 15B (Orange County)
Seat 1 (unopposed)
Joseph Moody (Joe) Buckner (incumbent)
Occupation: Chief Judge, Chatham and Orange Counties, 1994-present (appointed Chief Judge in 1996)
Political experience: Elected District Court judge 1994, 1998, 2002, 2006, 2010, 2014
Relevant Experience: Past President, NC Conference of Chief District Court Judges
Why are you running? To continue our work to protect children and families in dangerous circumstances; to improve outcomes for criminally charged persons with mental illness and substance disorders; and to oversee high volume courts and provide accountability for those who put our communities at risk.