Name as it appears on the ballot: Bryant Paris III
Campaign website: www.parisforjudge.com
Phone number: (919) 390-1789
Yeas lived in the state: Thirty-six
Please tell us what in your record as a public official or private citizen demonstrates your ability to be effective, fair, and impartial on the bench? These might include career or community service—please be specific.
In fourteen years of litigation of hundreds of civil and criminal cases throughout North Carolina to either judgment, dismissal, or some sort of settlement, I have represented people from all walks of life who have been the victims of wrongful civil conduct and serious criminal conduct as well as people who have been accused of the same or similar conduct. My vast professional experience in representing a diverse client base has strengthened my life-long belief that all people are equal. My belief in the equality of all has instilled in me the unwavering commitment to serve as a Wake County District Court Judge such that every man, woman, and child that appears in the District Court Division are absolutely entitled to a full, fair, and respectful opportunity to have their case heard as well as decided on the facts of the case as applied to the applicable statutory or case law authority without any consideration of their race, national origin, gender or sexual orientation, religious beliefs, age, disability, or any other factor that lends itself to bias. In my experience, I have watched some District Court Judges reach their decision in a case not based on the specific facts in the case and the applicable legal authority, but based on what they assumed to be the case due to their own bias or beliefs. Judicial decision making based on their own bias or beliefs, and not the law, leads to unjust results and is an affront to justice everywhere.
My vast experience has also taught me that we all make mistakes. That knowledge of disposing of hundreds of civil and criminal cases has enabled me to discern whether wrongful conduct occurred out of some mistake due to normal human error, neglect, illness, whether physical or mental, or some intentional conduct that harmed the injured party such that I can work to reach just legal decisions in each case that comes before me.
Finally, my pro bono service to Saint Saviour’s Center since 2008 and affiliation with StepUp Ministry since 2013 has shown me that many in our community need our understanding and a hand up in their situation in life, not our judgment. Again, this knowledge will guide my service as a District Court Judge in being “faithful to the law” by only considering the specific evidence of record in every case that comes before me, as well as the applicable statutory and case law, when making my rulings and not making any decision based on factors that show our bias or some other improper basis for deciding a case.
What do you believe qualifies you to serve as a district court judge?
In additional to my vast professional experience in litigating and negotiating the disposition of many cases, the opinions and support of my professional peers show that I am well qualified to serve on the District Court bench. The Judicial Performance Evaluation conducted by the North Carolina Bar Association is likely the best indicator of my qualification. My fellow lawyers – colleagues, opposing counsel, and judges – in the anonymous survey rated me higher than my opponent in the following categories: integrity and impartiality; legal ability; professionalism; communication; and administrative skills. They also rated me a letter grade higher than my opponent in overall performance. The Judicial Performance Evaluation can be found at www.electncjudges.org. I encourage all INDY readers to visit the North Carolina Bar Association’s website to review the ratings of all contested judicial races so that North Carolina will have the most qualified trial court judges elected to serve on the bench.
How do you define yourself politically? How does that impact your judicial approach?
I am conservative. A “true” judicial conservative will use Rule 11 of the North Carolina Rules of Civil Procedure as a guide in reaching decisions as follows: that based on the record evidence in each case and the applicable constitutional, statutory, and case law authority, the Court shall reach decisions that are based on the applicable weight of the record evidence as the case may be and warranted by existing law or a good faith basis for the extension, modification, or reversal of existing law. This conservative judicial approach promotes the end of justice by applying each case’s facts to the applicable Federal or North Carolina law. To the extent there is no applicable North Carolina case law on a disputed matter before the Court, a District Court Judge has the authority to reach a legal conclusion by applying other well-reasoned and sound case law authority in reaching a decision. Given the numerous complex issues that come before the District Court in Wake County, we can agree that it is imperative that Wake County have District Court Judges who are faithful to the law, who maintain professional competence in it, and who are courteous and fair.
What do you believe are the three most important qualities a judge must have to be an effective jurist? Which judges, past or present, do you most admire? Why?
Faithfulness to the law, competency, and steadfastness in decision-making. Canon 3A(1) of the North Carolina Code of Judicial Conduct states as much in laying out the adjudicative responsibilities of a judge.
The Research Triangle is fortunate inasmuch as we have many fine judges. I most admire Resident Superior Court Judges Bryan Collins and Michael O’Foghludha. While I do not appear before them often, it has been my experience both in practice and by reputation from other lawyers that both Judges Collins and O’Foghludha make it a point to know the law, provide all parties who come before them with a respectful forum to litigate their matters, and to follow the law in reaching fair and just legal rulings.
The INDY’s mission is to help build a more just community in the Triangle. How would your election help further that goal?
My vast professional experience in representing a diverse client base as well as my pro bono service to Saint Saviour’s Center and affiliation with StepUp Ministry has alerted me to the needs and concerns of many Wake County residents from all walks of life and all ethnic backgrounds. In fact, as a sole practitioner for the past ten years, I have provided legal services to many who could not find representation elsewhere. Again, I am well aware that many in our community need our understanding and a hand up in their situation in life, not our judgment. I will use my vast professional and pro bono experience to craft just, as well as effective, legal rulings that strengthen the community as a District Court Judge.
What do you think are the three most crucial issues facing the state’s judicial system at the moment? Explain how, if elected, you’d help remedy those issues. And how do you think district courts can play a role?
Given my professional and volunteer experience, I think that access to justice in civil court, the representation of indigent defendants, and professionalism are the three most crucial issues facing the state’s judicial system. While there will always be issues related to litigants being able to obtain adequate representation in both civil and criminal proceedings, it is incumbent upon District Court Judges to treat all parties, whether they are represented or unrepresented, with the same level of respect and professionalism while not crossing the line to advocate for either party. District Court Judges can work to remedy the situation in civil court to provide unrepresented parties a forum for a full and fair presentation of their cases, as with represented parties, such that the ends of justice are obtained. With respect to the representation of indigent defendants, and criminal defendants in general, District Court Judges are ethically bound to be impartial jurists who hold all parties to their respective burdens of proof throughout the criminal process such that the ends of justice are obtained. Finally, as far as professionalism is concerned, as a District Court Judge I will be in a position to hold all people who appear before me, whether they be attorneys or unrepresented parties, to the same high standard of professionalism such that the best, most ethical advocacy is obtained in either the Wake County Courthouse or the Wake County Justice Center.
What do you think is the biggest issue facing the district you’re running in?
Efficient administration of justice. As both an associate attorney at Lewis & Roberts, PLLC, the firm where I worked after law school, and as a sole practitioner, I have handled a large volume of cases in many different areas of civil and criminal law. I understand that Wake County is not getting smaller and in fact, is experiencing growth by some estimates of eighty-five new residents per day. As a judge in the “people’s court”, I know that as a District Court Judge I will be called to identify disputed issues quickly in each case and apply the applicable law correctly based on the facts presented to make sure that I reach fair and just legal decisions in the ever-increasing volume of cases that will come before me.
Do you think the judicial system is becoming too politicized? Explain.
Yes and no.
I do think that the appellate judicial races are becoming overly politicized because they are being billed as Democrat versus Republican without a concerted effort by all parties to make sure that the most qualified judges or candidates, as the case may be, are elected to our appellate courts.
As far a campaigns for trial judges are concerned, I think that the North Carolina Bar Association’s Judicial Performance Evaluation is a great step in taking politics out of the decision-making process at the local level for trial judges. The public is able to obtain excellent, anonymous evaluations of the incumbent trial judges and challengers so that an informed electorate can make the most informed decision such that our trial courts have the most qualified judges presiding. Again, I encourage all INDY readers to visit the North Carolina Bar Association’s website to review the ratings of all contested judicial races so that North Carolina will have the most qualified trial court judges elected to serve on the bench. The Judicial Performance Evaluation can be found at www.electncjudges.org.
Some district courts are beginning to implement misdemeanor diversion program for young and/or first-time offenders. What are your thoughts on such programs?
The First Offender, as well as the Alcohol and Drug Education Programs, have been alive and well in Wake County for years. I have utilized all three programs, among other diversion programs, successfully for many clients in the past ten years in representing criminal defendants charged with various criminal offenses. As someone who grew up in a home with “second chances”, I think programs such as these are valuable diversion programs for people who made poor youthful decisions that some additional life experience would have prevented as well as people who have lived within the law for years, but due to one occurrence of uncharacteristic behavior, committed some criminal offense. Of course, in both instances, these people are apprehended and charged with criminal offenses. If the defendants in these cases recognize their mistakes, seek to learn from them, and go forward living lives supporting their community and not engaging in conduct detrimental to the community, then these diversion programs have served their purpose and should continue to be utilized by the criminal justice system in fashioning outcomes that strengthen, not weaken, our community at large.
Bails are often issued to ensure that someone suspected of a crime shows up to court. But in some cases the bail amount is so high that the accused—especially those with lower incomes—cannot afford it and thus will remain behind bars without being convicted. How can district courts work to ensure a fair bail system for everyone?
The Eighth Amendment of the Bill of Rights of the United States Constitution provides as follows: “Excessive bail shall not be required . . . .” Article 1, Section 27 of the North Carolina State Constitution contains identical language. So, the United States and North Carolina State Constitutions forbid excessive bail or appearance bond and it is a major issue in the District Court Division that is often overlooked, notwithstanding the fact that it is an important constitutional issue. Article 26 of the Criminal Procedure Act sets forth the procedure in determining the conditions of a criminal defendant’s release. By being “faithful to the law” as a District Court Judge, I will preside intently at each and every pretrial release hearing to ensure that I have complied with the United States and North Carolina State Constitutions such that I have not required a criminal defendant – an individual who is innocent until proven guilty – to post an excessive bail or appearance bond while at the same time having properly considered all of the statutory and other relevant factors in each case to reach the legally correct and just ruling on the issue of each criminal defendant’s pretrial release. Each bail or bond hearing should be decided on its own merits, both factual and legal, such that the ends of justice are achieved.
What are your thoughts on implementing mental-health treatment courts across the state?
As with felony and misdemeanor diversion programs, and as an attorney who has represented veterans with mental illnesses, I welcome the implementation of court programs that seek to obtain real results for criminal defendants as well as the community at large as follows: treatment for criminal defendants who suffer from mental illness such that their recidivism rates are reduced; and establishing a level of mental health wellness such that these criminal defendants are able to live safely in their communities supporting their community and not engaging in conduct detrimental to the community. Again, these court programs will have served their purpose and should be expanded to be utilized by the criminal justice system in fashioning outcomes that strengthen, not weaken, our community at large.