Judge hopefuls hold court at Elon Law

The Guilford County Defense Lawyers Association and the Greensboro Bar Association Family Law Section hosted a forum on February 6, 2024, where candidates vying for seats on the local bench made their cases for voter support.

Elon Law welcomed candidates seeking election to the North Carolina District Court and the North Carolina Superior Court to a February program for sharing their backgrounds and judicial philosophies before an audience of local attorneys.

Co-hosted in partnership with the Guilford County Defense Lawyers Association and the Greensboro Bar Association Family Law Section, the Judicial Candidates Forum on February 6, 2024, featured remarks by nearly a dozen candidates. Some are seeking office for the first time, with others running for reelection and facing challenges in March’s primary elections.

Participants in the Judicial Candidates Forum at Elon Law on February 6, 2024

Candidates took turns answering the questions read by Lexie Alston L’24, who moderated the program as president of Elon Law’s Student Bar Association. In chronological order:

  • Have you ever been publicly sanctioned by the state bar, and if so, what lessons were learned?
  • Being a judge doesn’t make someone infallible or grant them all the legal knowledge in the world. How will you maintain humility when attorneys who appear before you may have more knowledge or experience than you do in a particular area of the law?
  • Judges in North Carolina hear cases where minors seeking abortion can petition the court for a bypass of the parental consent requirement. Are you pro choice? If not, would you commit to recuse yourself from hearing any of these cases if they were to come before you?
  • What is a change you would like to see made in the judicial system?
  • Describe your judicial philosophy.

An evening networking reception in Elon Law’s Cemala Foundation Commons preceded the forum.

Student Bar Association President Lexie Alston L’24 moderated the forum.

“When the school asked me to serve as moderator, I was honored and accepted because I believe it is yet another way Elon Law students can network with the local legal community,” Alston said. “This was an informative event for my colleagues to learn about local candidates, including their reason for running, judicial philosophies, and what they would like to see change in our local court system.”

Organizers with the Greensboro Bar Association Family Law Section and the Guilford County Defense Lawyers Association said it’s important to shine a light on local elections.

“Judges in North Carolina, especially on the District Court bench, decide many types of cases that have significance in the daily lives of so many people: divorce, child custody, spousal support, misdemeanor criminal offenses, traffic offenses, and lawsuits where the amount in controversy is under $25,000,” said attorney Christon S. Halkiotis, who helped organize the forum with attorney Andrew Clifford. “Sometimes people who don’t work within the court system don’t even realize just how much these local, down-ballot elections have the potential to affect their lives in really powerful ways.”

The Judicial Candidates Forum was held in Room 207, Elon Law’s largest classroom.

Halkiotis described the value of watching candidates answer questions “off the cuff” compared to survey responses and campaign literature that may stand in stark contrast to how candidates present themselves in person.

“I like how in-person forums offer more of a ‘courtroom’ view of judicial candidates,” she said. “These forums offer insight into a candidate’s temperament, how they receive questions, how they interact with others, how they craft a response on the spot, and how they think in real life. Judges must do all of these things at the same time, on a daily basis.”

North Carolina’s primary elections take place March 5, 2024.

Participants in the Judicial Candidates Forum at Elon Law (in Alphabetical Order)

For North Carolina Superior Court

  • Georgia Nixon (R)
  • Stephanie Reese (D)

For North Carolina District Court 

  • Charlene Y. Armstrong (D)
  • Walter W. (Trip) Baker (D)
  • ShaKeta D. Berrie (D)
  • Tomakio Gause (D)
  • Stephanie Goldsborough (D)
  • Cynthia Hatfield (D)
  • Gabriel Kussin (D)
  • Moshera Mills (D)
  • Kelvin Smith (D)