At least six judges spoke to NC Policy Watch over the past two weeks to discuss how judicial redistricting plans could affect their future and impact the communities they serve.
Every single judge made a point to note that the plans were not about them specifically but about the bigger picture of an independent judiciary with access to fair and equal justice for all.
Their concerns are highlighted here, but it’s worth noting that they each bring different experiences and perspectives to the bench that would be a loss to the state should they lose their seat due to judicial redistricting.
Here are snippets of their stories, presented in order of how they were quoted in the PW story:
Robinson has been a district court judge in New Hanover and Pender counties since 2011. She is mainly a family court judge, but also works in the DWI and drug treatment courts and presides over juvenile and other district court cases, including civil, criminal, domestic violence, child support and mental commitments.
She describes her interest in serving on the bench as “more evolutionary than revolutionary” over a long legal career.
Robinson recently received a YWCA Lifetime Achievement Award for her work. The women’s organization’s mission is to eliminate racism, empower women, stand up for social justice, help families and strengthen communities.
Her nomination letter describes her service to her family, community, friends and colleagues.
“From her experience with community service and pro bono work, to her legal career, pioneering the local bar’s alternative dispute resolution process, and qualification as a family law specialist, to her judgeship Judge Robinson has shown herself to be an outstanding member of our community,” it states. “She has set high goals for herself and has achieved them with quiet dignity, intelligence, humility and grace.”
In her PW interview, Robinson said judges try not to think about the impact of judicial redistricting so that they can keep serving the public to the best of their ability.
“Day to day, we want to be free to just do our jobs, which we take very seriously,” she said.
Baddour was first appointed as a superior court judge in 2006. He went into private practice after law school and did “a little bit of everything” until becoming a prosecutor. He hadn’t initially set out to be a judge but his legal experience led him there and he hasn’t looked back.
“I like having a hand in how our system operates,” he said in a recent interview with PW. “I like to think that I don’t care who wins — it’s not about that, but it’s about doing my best to give everyone a shot at a just trial and an efficient trial. I think that’s really important.”
Baddour has held court in more than 25 counties across the state and is certified to preside over complex litigation. He helps educate fellow judges and lawyers, helped lead the design and construction of the new Chatham County Justice Center and speaks frequently with students about law and the courts.
He said he hasn’t decided what he would do in 2022 if still double-bunked with colleague Carl Fox, another superior court judge serving Chatham and Orange counties.
Fox has been a superior court judge since 2005. He was previously a district attorney and assistant district attorney. He described his move to the bench as a “natural transition” from his prior experience in superior court.
Fox said he enjoys traveling across the state to hold court and that he has been to Charlotte six times, Goldsboro at least three times and Greensboro anywhere from 12 to 20 times.
“I’ve gotten to see a lot of different places, a lot of different courtrooms and met a tremendous number of really nice people; lawyers, court personnel, clerks, bailiffs, judicial staff,” he said.
Fox also said he’s gotten to try a lot of restaurants across the state and joked that he could write a restaurant and hotel guide for all the places he’s stayed and eaten.
He was diagnosed in 2015 with a deadly blood cancer and had to set his judicial duties aside, but returned to the bench about a year later after receiving a blood marrow transplant using umbilical cord stem cells that saved his life.
Fox, like Baddour, said he has not yet decided what he will do in terms of 2022 if he is double-bunked.
“I hope we don’t have to attempt to address that at that point, but I realize that’s a real and distinct possibility,” he said.
This year marks Davis’ 18th year on the bench. She previously worked as an assistant district attorney and also practiced law in Guam for three years while her husband worked as a JAG officer for the military.
Davis said she enjoys working in the district court and moving around to meet different people. She described the judicial redistricting plan as an “emotional roller-coaster” for her and her family.
“To my children, my whole identity, they see me as mom and judge, and for that change [to take place] would shock them,” she said. “The mention of it is a shock to them.”
She is considered a senior judge in the first judicial district and said she grew up on the bench, noting that there is a lot to be said about her experience.
“We’ve taken our gut check, we’ve lost, we’ve been appealed, we’ve been reversed, we’ve learned, we’ve made mistakes and we’ve lost lots of sleep at night,” she said. “It’s one of those things where the more I do, the more I realize how much I don’t know.”
Vickery is in her first term on the bench as a district court judge. She was previously in private practice.
“This is the thing I had always wanted to do,” she said. “As an attorney, you touch so many lives and as a judge, you can touch so many more lives.”
She described district court as the “cornerstone of the community.”
Vickery has enjoyed several leadership roles within the legal community. She said still pinches herself some days because she feels so lucky to have her current job.
She said it’s difficult to know what is happening with judicial redistricting because there have been so many changes, but that she feels like the bench in Forsyth County is evenly divided and representative of the makeup of the area.
She added that party labels have nothing to do with her job as a judge.
“The things that I hear have nothing to do with party politics,” she said. “It would be inappropriate for me to try to insert politics in any way into the judiciary or the cases I hear.”
Reid has been a district court judge in the first judicial district for a little over 10 years. She was previously an assistant district attorney.
She made a bid to get on the bench after the retiring judge asked her if she would be interested in the seat.
“I enjoy helping people and I feel sometimes when you’re on the bench, people look at it differently, but it’s really nice to enter a judgement for or against someone and then you to see them out in public and they thank you for doing whatever you did, be it in their favor or not,” she said.
Reid is the only black female judge on the bench in her district and works to be a role model to young people. She said she has “maybe put her head in the sand” in regards to what she would do if her position was eliminated through judicial redistricting.
“I truly enjoy being a judge,” she said.
She described the job now as more political than it was in the past but said she remains independent.
“I’ve always thought that when people appear before me, they don’t really care if I’m a Republican or Democrat,” she said. “All they want to know is that I’m going to apply the law and that I’m going to apply it impartially.”