Two Seek District Judge Post
Two candidates vying to succeed Chief District Court Judge Bill Neely in the Nov. 4 election say they have the experience required for the job.
Judges are elected on a nonpartisan basis. Neely has been on the bench since 1980.
Marcie Quist, an attorney from Vass, has spent 20 years practicing family and criminal law in District Court. During that time, she served as staff attorney for Legal Aid of North Carolina (10 years) and as a special prosecutor for Moore County Child Support.
"A good judge treats all parties with dignity and respect," Quist said. "A judge needs to have extensive knowledge of the law, must not be subject to influence of politics, and has to avoid impropriety, bias or favoritism."
She said her years of legal experience handling everything from divorce, complex custody cases, housing, employment and estate matters, as well as 100 jury trials in criminal cases, have prepared her well for the challenges to be a judge.
"A District Court Judge presides over delicate family matters and criminal cases such as DWIs and theft," she said. "For 20 years, I have dedicated myself to representing the rights of families and worked to ensure everyone receives equal protection under the law."
Her opponent is Robert M. "Rob" Wilkins who lives in Asheboro. He is a retired U.S. Coast Guard officer who is now an Assistant Attorney General working with the N.C. Child Support Enforcement Agency in establishing and enforcing child support orders.
"I intend to use my background in the military, in law enforcement, in private practice and as a prosecutor to identify and confront the challenges facing the courts in our three counties," Wilkins said. "I will remember and apply the core values I learned as a Coast Guard officer: honor, respect, devotion to duty."
Wilkins graduated from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill with a degree in business administration. He worked in marketing before joining the Coast Guard in 1981.
It was the service that changed his course, selecting Wilkins for postgraduate law training that led to his 1993 graduation from the University of Miami School of Law. He was admitted to practice law in Florida and became a Coast Guard law specialist (judge advocate general). He took the North Carolina bar exam in 2000 and was admitted to practice here.
District Court judges make decisions on some of the most painful and tragic areas of life, such as awarding child custody in divorce cases. They can also terminate parental rights. In North Carolina, District Courts are the primary trial courts and hear cases on everything from speeding tickets to suits over land titles as well as drug cases, misdemeanors and lower-level felonies. They are the state's juvenile courts.
The new Family Court, opened by Neely, will change some of the ways family issues are handled.
District 19B was chosen to become a Family Court for 2007-2008 based on its interest in establishing such a program as well as its efforts to implement Family Court Best Practices, including judicial leadership, limiting continuances and the assignment of one judge per family, according to the Administrative Office of the Courts.
Before creation of the new Family Court, the Child Custody and Visitation Mediation Program has been operating in Randolph and Montogomery Counties since 1995 and in Moore County since 1998. This mediation program is an integral part of the success of existing Family Courts, the AOC says. Once a domestic case is filed, it can now continue in a more timely, predictable and effective manner
Quist is a graduate of Duke Universities Mediation Program. She hopes the new system will reduce delays and make things easier for people who find themselves caught up in some of the most painful of human conflicts.
Neely agrees, clearly proud of being able to see this come before he leaves the bench.
"The development of Family Court within the District Court has been one of the most heartening improvements in the court system since I came on the bench," Neely has said. "With the resources of Family Court we will be better able to provide court services in a timely and responsive fashion in domestic cases."
Wilkins, like Quist, is concerned about "the law's delay."
"I will work with my fellow judges, with the district attorneys and with the attorneys throughout the district to identify and eliminate the causes of the excessive delays which plague our judicial system," he says. "Justice delayed is justice denied. (Delay) undermines the credibility and effectiveness of our entire system."
The names of both Quist and Wilkins appear on the back side of the 2008 ballot, where voters make choices on nonpartisan races and political parties are not involved.
Contact John Chappell at 783-5841 or by e-mail at email@example.com.
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