When we elect judges, the least relevant information of all should be whether a “D” or an “R” follows a candidate’s name. But here we are anyway. Republican lawmakers in Raleigh have foisted partisan judicial elections on us.
So the best way to deal with it? Ignore the party labels.
What matters more, of course, are the candidates’ qualifications: the depth and breadth of their professional experience; their knowledge of the law; their integrity; and their sense of fairness.
In Guilford County Superior Court District 18A, two sitting judges are vying for the seat left vacant by the retirement of Judge Patrice Hinnant on Aug. 31.
Earlier this week, Gov. Roy Cooper appointed sitting District Court Judge Lora Cubbageto finish the remainder of Hinnant’s term, which expires in December. Cubbage faces a familiar opponent in District Court Judge Mark T. Cummings.
Until recently they were old friends. Now they are former friends, and the race between them has grown bitter.
That’s unfortunate. Both overcame tall odds to get to where they are today. She was a young single mother. He grew up in Section 8 housing.
The candidate’s personal differences aside, the better choice in this race is clear. Cubbage’s solid performance in two years on the District Court bench and her impressive resume set her apart. She worked as a barber to pay for her undergraduate education at N.C. A&T. She went on to receive her law degree from UNC-Chapel Hill. Many of the issues that come before her, she said in an interview, “are based on people’s need to survive. I understand.”
Cubbage was an assistant district attorney in Guilford County for 12 years and has served on the state attorney general’s staff. Her evaluations by legal peers in the N.C. Bar Association are consistently positive.
She is far and away the better choice in this race and deserves to retain this seat.
Superior Court 18D
William Wood hasn’t been a judge for long, but he has been practicing for the job for decades. Wood was appointed to the bench by Gov. Roy Cooper in 2018.
There is no apparent reason that he should be replaced by challenger Gavin Reardon, an experienced and well-spoken attorney who served as a military lawyer and has worked in various levels in state courts.
Reardon appropriately touts that he is one of “35 to 40” appellate specialists in North Carolina, but Wood spent 29 years as an assistant district attorney prosecuting what he terms as thousands of cases. He is well respected by peers and by former supervisors, and his North Carolina Bar evaluation includes 90 percent Excellent or Good in every category. He takes pride in saying that he tries “to treat all with respect and dignity.”
Reardon is a candidate worthy of consideration. He notes that he doesn’t come to the job “with the Wizard of Oz effect. I know I don’t know it all.”
But Wood’s credentials make it clear that he does know quite a lot. This is his election. Reardon should try another time.
District Court 2
The incumbent, Jon Kreider, was appointed by Gov. Pat McCrory and is well-respected in legal circles.
Before taking the bench three years ago, he was a highly regarded litigator. On the N.C. Bar Association’s evaluation, his share of Good or Excellent ratings ranged from 88 percent to 95 percent.
Kreider say he strives to give everyone in his court a fair hearing. And he cites his own upbringing “in a broken family with substance and addiction problems” as informing his desire “to treat anyone who come before me with respect.”
Kreider faces Democrat Larry L. Archie, an attorney and a 31-year military reservist who has achieved the rank of lieutenant colonel. Archie, who has practiced law for 12 years, cites an abiding interest in the challenges faced by juveniles, especially African-Americans, and veterans in the justice system. And he believes some fines and penalties are so high that they trap poorer defendants in a vicious cycle.
But Kreider’s proven record as an effective judge gives him the edge and merits his re-election.