Name as it appears on the ballot: Glenn Gerding
Date of Birth: March 8, 1971
Campaign Web Site: www.GlennGerding.org
Occupation & Employer: Attorney - Law Office of Glenn Gerding
Years lived in Orange County: Ten (2002-08) (1989-93)
1. What do you believe are the most important issues facing the district 15B District Court? What are your top three priorities in addressing these issues?
A. One of the most important issues facing District 15B is the growth of our senior citizen population. As Boomers retire in record numbers, and as Orange and Chatham Counties continue to be ideal locations for retirement, growth in the senior citizen population in our District will likely outpace most other districts in the State. Unfortunately, senior citizens are more often becoming crime victims who end up having to appear in court. Senior citizens who are abused often need to seek civil restraining orders. And senior citizens whose mental health has significantly declined sometimes need the court to appoint a guardian of their person and property.
If elected, one of my priorities will be to work to create an Elder Protection Court designed for senior citizens. Older victims face problems younger victims usually do not: difficulty hearing in court, getting to court, and moving in and out of cramped courtrooms. Older victims may have memories that fade with time and/or medication. Older victims accustomed to living more private lives frequently feel embarrassed when their private lives are exposed in open court. And given the hectic pace of a typical day in District Court, elderly victims can get lost in the shuffle of cases. I propose an Elder Protection Court to address the unique needs of elderly victims.
Our District already has specialty courts to address the needs of the mentally ill and substance abusers. Our District also has courts designed to meet the unique needs of domestic violence victims and families. We have led the state and nation in our cutting-edge approaches to helping defendants and victims in criminal cases, but we do not have a formal way to address the unique needs of elderly victims. I will work to create a specialty court to fill that void.
The specialty court I propose would handle a mix of civil and criminal cases, much like our domestic violence court. If a senior citizen is being abused and taken advantage of, then he or she will need a civil restraining order and will also participate in the criminal prosecution of the abuser. One court date for both events can eliminate the need for multiple trips to court. The courtroom can be set up to be more accommodating, with hearing devices to assist the hard-of-hearing. The process can be made more personal with the assignment of an Elder Protection Court case-worker to guide the senior citizen through the process and to be a point-of-contact to answer questions and facilitate the victim's needs. I can also help mobilize community non-profit agencies such as A Helping Hand and the Charles House to assist seniors outside of court with issues that arise from their cases in court.
Currently, Orange County has a Master Aging Plan adopted by the County Commissioners. The Master Aging Plan is a proactive and farsighted plan to provide government and community services for the growing number of senior citizens in Orange County over the next five-year period. It includes a "Bill of Rights for Older Persons." Orange County's Master Aging Plan does not, however, include any goals or plans for courthouse facilities or the judicial process involving seniors. Chatham County does not have any similar Master Aging Plan for seniors. If elected, I will reach out to the County Commissioners and Departments of Aging in each County, and work with them to include the judicial system in their Aging Plans.
I have the leadership abilities and experience to achieve my goal of protecting our elderly and helping them negotiate the judicial process through an Elder Protection Court.
B. The failure of our state's mental health system is another of the most significant issues we face in District 15B.
There is no doubt that our mental health system has fallen apart. In our District we've lost service providers, including Caring Family Network, who provided a baseline of mental health care for many people. I've had clients this month who have started to live without counseling and appropriate medication due to the closing of providers' offices.
Without adequate mental health care, we'll undoubtedly see an increase in criminal cases, as those who were receiving care don't get the medication and treatment they need to live stable lives. Mental illness touches the lives of everyone--juveniles to senior citizens, rich and poor, people of all races, and men and women. We need to be prepared and proactive and to plan for the inevitable increase in mentally ill defendants.
Fortunately, our District Court has a nationally recognized specialty court called Community Resource Court for criminal defendants who commit minor offenses and suffer from mental illness. I've had many clients participate in this program. The goal of the Court is to monitor a defendant's behavior over the course of about a year, focus community resources on him or her to provide support, and assign mental health professionals to stabilize medications and treatment. The hope is that with enough oversight and positive support, a defendant can regain footing in the community, be self-sufficient, comply with mental health treatment, and not re-offend. The community and the individual benefit because we don't imprison a mentally ill defendant, waist money and resources on his incarceration, and let him back on the streets. Instead, we help the person become self-sufficient and, compliant with treatment, thereby reducing recidivism. Our Community Resource Court has been a resounding success and is a progressive model for social justice. But with the loss of mental health care resources and an increase in defendants, Community Resource Court is sure to become overburdened.
If elected, one of my priorities will be to actively engage community non-profit agencies, such as Club Nova, Empowerment, KidSCope, Orange Enterprises, Chrysalis Foundation, El Futuro, and Extraordinary Ventures, to coordinate with our efforts in Community Resource Court. I will work with Chief District Court Judge Joe Buckner to expand the Community Resource Court to include more offenders as necessary. I will also work with Judge Buckner in seeking more resources to keep our Community Resource Court effective and successful.
C. Another significant issue we face is the increase in serious criminal activity by juveniles. I believe that children are not born criminals, but are influenced by the environment in which they live. Therefore it is important to consider all aspects of a juvenile's life when determining a course of action if he is found to be delinquent. It is important to engage a child's parents in the child's rehabilitation. It is important to mobilize community resources to support the parents if they need support, so they can focus their attention on their child's development, rather than worrying about where the next meal might come from.
Our District is fortunate to have a Truancy Court to work with parents of children who have not been attending school. We also have a Family Treatment Court, which works with child dependency and neglect cases. If elected, I will make it a priority to work to centralize our resources and ensure coordination between our specialty courts, juvenile court, and probation to ensure that delinquent children are adequately monitored and helped. We've already lost several generations of youth to drugs and crime, and cannot afford to lose any more. I will do everything within the bounds of the law to work with juveniles and focus resources helping them and their families.
2. What in your record as a public official or other experience demonstrates your ability to be an effective district court judge? This might include career or community service; be specific about its relevance to this office.
To be effective, a District Court Judge must be fair, respected by his or her peers, willing to put in a full day's work, and able and interested in learning new areas of law. An effective judge must have recent experience in District Court, have represented individuals from a variety of backgrounds with a variety of problems. It is also important to have legal experience outside the confines of District Court, having practiced in Superior Court and the Court of Appeals, for example. A judge must be a good listener and a good communicator with a patient but firm demeanor. And he or she should continually work to improve the District Court process.
As an attorney in private practice, at the Public Defender's Office, and in the Navy, I earned the respect of my peers for my fairness, honesty, and hard work in and out of the courtroom. I'm respected for my patient and professional demeanor. I'm also respected for always working hard and being prepared in court. I will bring all of these qualities to the bench.
I currently practice in District Court on a regular basis in both counties. I've represented hundreds of clients who have come from diverse backgrounds, from all across the country, and who had unique problems. Our District is probably one of the most diverse in the State. In particular, our district has a significant and growing Hispanic population. An effective District Court Judge will therefore need experience like I've had, representing men and women, young and old, rich, middle class, and indigent, and people of a variety of races and backgrounds, including Hispanic clients. I've had that experience as an attorney throughout my career and have been able to connect and communicate with my clients regardless of their backgrounds.
A good District Court Judge is a leader--someone who can take charge in the courtroom and set the tone for the progression of the day. As an Officer in the Navy and as Vice-Chair of the Human Services Advisory Board for the Town of Chapel Hill, I've developed the skills necessary to be a leader in District Court. An effective District Court Judge keeps cases moving, but does not micromanage. An effective judge is decisive, but not arbitrary. A District Court Judge should act with authority, but not arrogance and should set an example for everyone by starting court on time and working a full day.
An effective District Court Judge also exercises leadership to help improve the District Court process. As President of the Dan Pollitt Criminal Defense Bar for our district, I've had the opportunity to work with Judge Joe Buckner, District Attorney Jim Woodall, and Public Defender James Williams on ways to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of our District Court's processes. I've also worked with members of the community as a board member on the Adolescent First Offenders Advisory Board to help improve the District Court process for youthful offenders who have been charged with alcohol-related offenses. Of all the candidates, I have the most leadership experience and will be the most effective leader in and out of Court.
Recent experience in District Court is critical to having an understanding of not only the current state of the law, but also the current practices and procedures in District Court. District Court today is often crowded and hectic. Not having practiced in the fast-paced District Courts in Hillsborough, Chapel Hill, Siler City, and Pittsboro in recent years will put a Judge at a disadvantage when making serious decisions. My recent, extensive experience in both counties will allow me to hit the ground running as a District Court Judge.
Finally, an effective District Court Judge has experience outside the confines of District Court, and can appreciate the "big picture" view of the legal process. I haven't spent my entire career in District Court. Instead, I have experience not only in District Court, but also in Superior Court, before the North Carolina Court of Appeals and Supreme Court, and in military courts. I've seen first-hand how cases that start in District Court continue to Superior Court and finally to the appellate courts. An appreciation of that process helps a District Court Judge make better reasoned and legally sound decisions.
3. How do you define yourself politically and how does your political philosophy show itself in your past achievements and present campaign platform?
Philosophically, I believe in social justice, which, in appropriate cases, includes exploring options for punishment and treatment outside of prison; restorative justice; reconciliation between offender and victim if possible; involving the community in rehabilitative efforts; and considering social and economic factors that result in a party's appearance in court when exercising discretion in cases. I believe the justice system should protect the rights and liberties of all people. I also believe the justice system should protect those in our society who are often unable to protect themselves, such as the indigent, juveniles, the elderly, and those with mental illness.
I've spent most of my legal career protecting and defending the rights of indigent persons. Serving first in the United States Navy, I represented service members at trial and on appeal who were unable to afford civilian attorneys to defend them. I then served as an Assistant Public Defender in Orange County, just as retiring District Court Judge Pat Devine did before she became a judge. I defended indigent persons in District and Superior Courts in Orange County. I'm now in private practice and represent clients in a variety of matters, although a large percentage of my clients are court-appointed indigent defendants.
I routinely work to find mental health and substance abuse treatment options for my clients. I work to find rehabilitative options for them. I engage community support to help them improve their lives. Due to my efforts, I've had clients enter and succeed in programs such as Freedom House, TROSA, and UNC's Horizons. In appropriate cases I seek to have my clients mediate disputes and reconcile with the aggrieved or injured parties.
The three priorities I discussed in question #1, and the answer below in question #4, reflect my judicial philosophy: each person in court is unique and needs individual, patient, and understanding consideration of his or her case; each person deserves an attentive and thoughtful judge; each person deserves a judge who will consider all legal options before deciding a case.
4. Identify and explain one principled stand you would be willing to take if elected that you suspect might cost you some popularity points with voters.
I believe District Court is not a "one size fits all" Court. Having represented hundreds of individuals, each with a unique background and life story, each with differing reasons for being in District Court, and each with diverse needs, I know every case is different. Every case is important to the person whose future depends on my judgment.
Therefore, I'm willing to stand up for exercising the full range of options in cases that are provided for by law. I might place a convicted person on probation, although some voters might believe that the person belongs in prison. I might send a person to prison, when some voters think the person should be given a second or third chance. But I will always exercise my discretion without prejudice or passion. I will always consider all options before making a decision, and make the decision that I believe is allowed by law and is best for the individual and the community, regardless of whether some voters might object.
5. The Independents mission is to help build a just community in the Triangle. How would your election to office help further that goal?
A just community must protect its most vulnerable citizens -- those who are least able to protect themselves. Most of my career has been spent protecting the rights of citizens who are unable to represent themselves.
As a District Court Judge, I will help build a just community in Orange and Chatham Counties by protecting the rights of the people. I will listen to each case with an open mind. I will treat all parties with dignity and respect. I will make reasonable and rational decisions based on the law and the facts, not based on politics or raw emotion. I will do everything within the law to ensure that victims' rights are protected. And I will do all that I can to ensure that justice is served in my courtroom every day.
6. How long do you plan to serve if elected, and how long would you be able to serve?
I would like to serve as a District Court Judge as long as I am able to make a positive difference for people and as long as the voters of the district support me. I'm 37 years old and, if re-elected after each four-year term, could serve until I reach mandatory retirement at 72 years of age. So I could serve 35 years.
7. North Carolina prosecutes 16-year-olds as adults. (Thirteen-year-old juveniles who are charged with felonies can also be prosecuted as adults, if transferred from juvenile court.) Do you support the raising of the juvenile jurisdiction to 18? Explain.
The age for prosecuting juveniles as adults should be raised to age 18. Psychiatrists and psychologists tell us that a child's brain continues to develop and mature well into the late teenage years. As a society, we should accept the fact that many poor decisions by juveniles are the result of physiological conditions as well as environmental influences. Philosophically, we should be opposed to punishing juveniles as adults. I've represented too many sixteen- and seventeen-year-old children who have been saddled with the burden of felony convictions for the rest of their lives. A felony conviction might not close every door in a person's future, but it is a significant impediment to gaining education, employment, housing, government benefits, and financial assistance.
As a District Court Judge, I will follow the law and enforce the law as it is, rather than how I would prefer it to be. However, I will remain sensitive to the fact that a sixteen- or seventeen-year-old defendant might be in court for different reasons than a mature adult with similar charges. I will craft my judgments and exercise my discretion in cases involving sixteen- and seventeen-year-olds with an appreciation for their lack of maturity.
I also favor changing the law regarding expunctions to allow teenage offenders to apply for an expunction of felonies after a period of good behavior, such as 10 or 15 years. Senator Ellie Kinnaird has pursued such legislative changes unsuccessfully, but will hopefully continue her efforts.
8. Are you in favor of raising suggested bond guidelines for serious felonies? Are you in favor of unsecured bonds for Class 2 and 3 misdemeanors? Please explain.
This district's Pre-Trial Release Policy (bond guidelines) was recently revised by Superior Court Judge Carl Fox when Judge Wade Barber retired. Many felt that Judge Barber's bond policy was too lenient and that bonds were being set too low. Judge Fox significantly raised the amounts for bonds in most cases in his policy issued February 2, 2006. Magistrates and District Court Judges may deviate from the policy and impose higher bonds upon making written findings that a higher bond is necessary to protect the public and the defendant, and to ensure the defendant's presence in court.
I intend to follow the United States and North Carolina Constitutions, North Carolina law, and Judge Fox's bond policy when setting bonds. I favor Judge Fox's guidelines of setting unsecured bonds in appropriate non-violent Class 2 and Class 3 misdemeanor cases.
9. What is your experience in juvenile court? What can be done to prevent delinquency and gang involvement?
I've represented clients in this district's specialty courts, including our mental health court, drug court, and domestic violence court. I've also represented many 16- and 17-year-old juveniles in District and Superior Court, but have not represented clients in our district's juvenile court.
Our district has several options that I believe can help prevent delinquency and gang involvement. First, we have a Truancy Court, which is currently administered primarily by Judge Beverly Scarlett. Truancy Court seeks to get kids back in school by working with their parents and school resources. Keeping kids in school and off the streets is one step in preventing delinquency and gang involvement.
Another great option that is available is Teen Court, which is available in Chatham County. Teen Court allows kids to consider cases of minor misconduct by their peers and determine an appropriate punishment if found responsible. This program empowers kids through positive peer pressure to stay out of trouble and to take responsibility for their actions.
We're also fortunate in our district to have a wealth of non-profit agencies that can be mobilized to mentor and help juveniles, such as Street Scene, Big Brothers - Big Sisters, the Boomerang Program at the Chapel Hill-Carrboro Y, Chatham County Together, Communities in Schools, and El Centro Latino. Community involvement and engaging children at a young age in healthy activities is an important step in preventing delinquency and gang involvement.
10. District Court judges do not continue cases past 120 days after the first appearance. Is that too long, or too short? Why?
There is no one-size-fits-all answer as to how many times a case should be continued; however, 120 days is a reasonable goal to resolve misdemeanor cases. By doing so, everyone involved, including victims, witnesses, and defendants, have closure in their lives and can move forward.
Every case is different and requires a different amount of time for resolution. There are many cases in District Court in this district that have been continued beyond 120 days after the first appearance. There are also many cases that are resolved within the first couple of months of the first appearance. Cases are continued for a variety of reasons including the availability of witnesses, the availability of law enforcement, too many cases on the docket, cases not reached for trial by the end of the day, and personal needs of the attorneys such as vacation, illness, and family emergencies.
11. Do you favor or oppose the creation of a Family Court system in district 15B District Court? Please explain.
I support a Family Court in District 15B. There are eleven judicial districts in the State that have designated Family Courts. The Family Courts in our state offer a coordinated effort by judges, prosecutors, social workers, attorneys, DSS, and community resources to resolve family disputes. Typical cases could include issues such as divorce and custody, children removed from their home because of neglect or abuse allegations, juvenile delinquency, and truancy. Family Court is a regular District Court proceeding, but is intended to offer a less adversarial and more therapeutic process. The hope is to openly address and help solve family problems, thereby keeping the family unit intact, when possible. Families receive individualized attention from the judge and other parties in the judicial process. Families also receive the focused attention of community resources that can work with parents and juveniles.
This District already has a Family Treatment Court which is administered by Bethany DeArmond, and a Truancy Court, presided over mostly by Judge Beverly Scarlett. Those two courts already provide some degree of support and monitoring that a Family Court could provide. However, a unified Family Court structure could aid the District in monitoring juveniles and families who need assistance, and better focus our community resources.