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Candidate for N.C. Court of Appeals

Dan Barrett 

Candidate for N.C. Court of Appeals

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Name as it Appears on the Ballot: Dan Barrett

Date of Birth: March 27, 1959

Campaign Web Site: www.BarrettforJudge.com

Occupation & Employer: Attorney; The Barrett Law Firm

Years lived in North Carolina: Native



1. What in your record as a judge, lawyer and/or public official, or other relevant positions, demonstrates your ability to be effective on the bench? This might include career or community service; be specific about its relevance to this office. When speaking about your legal experience, please be specific about the nature of positions held, and whether you were hired, appointed or elected.

A practicing attorney for 23 years, I have been recognized by fellow lawyers as one of the leading employment attorneys in the state. I have received the highest rating (AV) from the Martindale-Hubbell national legal directory. Demonstrating my ability to work in a fair and balanced manner, I have served as Chair of the Labor and Employment Law Section of the North Carolina Bar Association, which is composed of both plaintiff and defense attorneys.

As Chair of the Davie County Commissioners (elected), I worked to bring needed changes for our citizens, including reopening and revitalizing Davie County Hospital, working to improve mental health services, and supporting much needed new school facilities. Among the honors I have received are the North Carolina Hospital Association Trustee Service Award, the Dr. Slate Community Service Award, and recognition as the ARC Member of the Year (Davie County). My fellow commissioners and I were recognized as County Commission Board of the Year by the North Carolina School Board Association.

As a candidate for governor in 2004, I advocated for a more cohesive, efficient working relationship between state and local governments. As part of that campaign, I walked 582 miles across North Carolina to get to know the people of our state. My book, "A Million Steps", recounts my experiences in that journey.

My record as an attorney and in public service demonstrates my commitment to work cooperatively with others to bring needed change. I will bring that same spirit of reform to the North Carolina Court of Appeals.

2. If you have experience as a judge, please cite at least one majority opinion, and one minority opinion, which you feel best demonstrate your understanding, and interpretation, of the law. If you have experience as a lawyer, please cite at least one case that you argued that demonstrates this understanding. (Please be specific; provide docket numbers, and—if necessary—include documents.) If you have other legal experience, please point to an article, opinion or other piece of writing that best demonstrates the same. Please indicate why you have chosen this particular opinion, case and/or piece of writing.

I wrote the definitive treatise on employment law in North Carolina (North Carolina Employment Law, Lexis Law Publishing 1998), which has been utilized by attorneys across our state. This hornbook traces the evolution of the at-will doctrine, and addresses statutory and judicial exceptions to the terminable at-will rule, as well as all aspects of employment law in North Carolina, from defamation to discrimination. The research, analysis and writing of this treatise demonstrate my judicial capabilities and commitment to a fair and balanced presentation of the law.

3. Have you ever recused yourself from a case or, as a lawyer, faced a conflict of interest? Please explain.

On a number of occasions, I have declined representation due to potential conflicts of interest. It is important that judges recuse themselves in cases in which there could be a legitimate perception that they cannot be fair and impartial. Our justice system depends upon public trust in the fairness and impartiality of judges.

4. In the case of N.C. v. Frank Delano Washington, which came before the N.C. Court of Appeals, all charges against Washington were dropped because, the appellate court determined, Washington's right to a speedy trial was denied. What is your interpretation of a defendant's right to a speedy trial, and what are the implications of releasing a convicted felon, in an effort to preserve that right? Please provide your opinion of the case, and the role you see judges playing in preserving constitutional rights, versus preserving public safety.

The judicial branch is the safeguard of our constitutional rights, including the constitutional right to a speedy trial. I do not believe that the judicial obligation to protect constitutional rights is inconsistent with preserving public safety. Our Constitution and Bill of Rights protect individual freedoms against governmental encroachment while maintaining the police power that protects all citizens from lawlessness.

5. This year, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled, in a 5-4 decision, that enemy combatants held in the United States Naval Base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba have a right to file habeas corpus petitions under the federal court system. What is your opinion of Boumediene v. Bush? More generally, what is your opinion of granting constitutional rights to enemy combatants captured in the "War on Terror"?

I do not believe it would be appropriate for me to articulate my personal opinion of Boumediene or related issues. Regardless of my personal opinions, I would be obligated to follow principles of stare decisis if I was called upon to rule in such a case.

6. One of the most controversial issues in this election year is illegal immigration. Recently, several N.C. counties—including Alamance, Johnston and Wake—have employed the 287(g) program, which streamlines local law enforcement and federal immigration enforcement. What is your opinion of these counties' handling of this program? Critics say that sheriff's departments in these counties are arresting non-citizens for petty offenses in order to enter them into federal deportation hearings, while local law enforcement agencies insist they are following the rule of law. As someone who, if elected, will interpret the law, what is your legal assessment of these arguments? More generally, can there be discretion in deciding when to apply the rule of law?

The 287(g) program is a legislative, rather than a judicial decision. Since this or a related issue could be subject to legal challenge, it would be inappropriate for me to state any opinion I may have on the handling of these programs. I pledge to impartially interpret and apply governing law on any issue that comes before me. I believe in the equality of all before the law.

7. In Kimbrough v. U.S., the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the mandatory minimum sentencing laws for the possession of crack cocaine were unconstitutional. What is your opinion of this ruling, and on mandatory minimum sentencing laws in general? Should judges have more or less flexibility in the sentencing phase than currently allowed under North Carolina law? Finally, do you feel that state judges can ever apply discretion in interpreting cases differently than federal guidelines mandate? Please provide examples.

I do not believe it would be appropriate for me to articulate my personal opinion of Kimbrough or related issues. Regardless of my personal opinions, I would be obligated to follow principles of stare decisis if I was called upon to rule in such a case. Mandatory sentencing laws are a legislative, rather than a judicial prerogative. Since this or a related issue could be subject to legal challenge, it would be inappropriate for me to state any opinion I may have on mandatory minimum sentencing laws. I pledge to impartially interpret and apply governing law on any issue that comes before me.

8. Does the North Carolina Constitution afford more rights than the federal Constitution, or the same?

My role as judge will be to faithfully support, maintain and defend the North Carolina Constitution, consistent with the United States Constitution. I do not believe it would be appropriate for me to comment further in response to this question, since issues concerning the scope of constitutional rights will likely come before the Court of Appeals.

9. Do you think that drug courts and mental-health courts have a place in the North Carolina judicial system? What is your opinion on "alternative sentencing" and restorative justice? Have you ever issued judgments, or advocated for judgments, that emphasize a mutual resolution between victims and defendants, and/or judgments that emphasize treatment over punishment? Please be specific.

I would certainly support legislative and judicial reforms that would improve our system of justice. I would welcome a study of the concepts outlined by the above question, as well as other constructive ideas for possible reforms.

10. What is your interpretation of the purpose of bail?

The purpose of bail is to ensure that a defendant will appear for all required court proceedings. Section 27 of the North Carolina Constitution provides that excessive bail shall not be required.

11. Do you favor or oppose applying a plain error review to all alleged errors in capital cases? Do you favor or oppose mandating appellate review in post-conviction capital cases to help avoid arbitrariness in review of post-conviction capital cases by superior court judges? Please explain.

The North Carolina Court of Appeals does not review capital cases.

12. Do you favor or oppose public financing of judicial races? In particular, how do you view Canon 7 of the N.C. Judicial Code of Conduct regarding the personal solicitation of campaign contributions, taking positions on issues and endorsing candidates for other offices? What changes would you make to the current system? Please explain.

If we are to have an informed electorate, it is critical that accurate information be disseminated to voters about the candidates for judicial offices. Public financing appears to be a practical solution to this problem. However, the system needs to be fine-tuned to more effectively inform voters of the qualifications, records, and judicial philosophies of judicial candidates.

Canon 7 of the North Carolina Judicial Code of Conduct and other applicable standards for judicial campaigns should be reviewed and clarified in light of the need for an informed electorate and the changes brought by public financing. Of course, candidates should not offer their views on cases or issues that may undercut their ability to be viewed as fair and impartial in future cases. However, current norms tend to inhibit candidates from providing needed information to the public about performance and judicial philosophies.

13. The Independent's mission is to help build a just community in the Triangle. How would your election to office help further that goal?

Our Constitution and Bill of Rights represent the collective genius of our founding fathers to build and maintain a just community. Our government only falls short in creating a just community when we, as humans, fall short of the principles articulated by these documents.

I will adhere to my sacred oath to support, maintain and defend the North Carolina Constitution, consistent with the United States Constitution. The best way to build a just community is to be worthy of the founding documents and principles that should inform and guide all judicial decisions.

  • Candidate for N.C. Court of Appeals

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