Full Legal Name: Patricia Dianne Evans
Name as it Appears on the Ballot: Pat Evans
Office Sought/ District: District Court Judge/14th Judicial District
Date of Birth: 1/18/56
Home Address: 6015 Grandale Drive, Durham, N.C. 27713
Mailing Address (if different from home):
Campaign Web Site: www.reelectpatevansjudge.com
Occupation & Employer: District Court Judge, State of North Carolina
Years lived in Durham: 39
Home Phone: (919) 544-9303
Work Phone: (919) 808-3200
1. What do you believe are the most important issues facing the District Court? What are your top priorities or issues of concern for the coming term?
The most important issues are serious crimes, lack of funding, increased court costs, inadequate resources to address substance abuse and mental health issues and overcrowded courtrooms My top priorities are trying to implement a process, especially in juvenile and criminal courts, wherein the dockets are managed more effectively and persons not a danger to our community are diverted to the appropriate agencies. Additionally, I will continue to endeavor to partner with the schools and the Juvenile Justice Division to address how to best handle minor matters that do not require court involvement.
2. What qualifies you to serve?
I have thirty years of legal experience with the last four having served as a District Court judge in Durham County. I have presided over Juvenile Delinquency, Criminal, Traffic, Jail and Adult Drug Treatment Courts. This experience has allowed me to evaluate the needs of the judicial system from the inside. I have received extensive training by the National Association of Drug Court Professionals which have proven invaluable in dealing with a huge segment of our population in each of the courts over which I preside .Prior to taking the District Court bench, I had over twenty-six years of legal experience with having served over four of them as a prosecutor in Durham County District Attorney’s Office. I have handled matters on the state level from traffic tickets to murder. Additionally, I have handled matters in federal court. I am a stakeholder in this community.
3. How do you define yourself politically? How does that impact your judicial approach?
Judges in our state are non-partisan. It is improper for me to answer this question. Pursuant to the North Carolina Code of Judicial Conduct Canon 1, I am required to uphold the integrity and independence of the judiciary. Additionally, Canon 3 requires me to perform the duties of my office impartially and diligently. Therefore, it is improper for me as a sitting judge to convey the impression that any group is in a special position to influence my decisions.
4. FOR INCUMBENTS: What have been your most important decisions in your current capacity? FOR CHALLENGERS: What decisions has the incumbent made that you most disagree with?
Every decision that comes before me is important. Any judgment I render affects many areas of the individual’s ability to obtain or retain employment, housing, benefits, receive a conviction, maintain financial stability, or even remain in this country. I currently serve as a Durham County District Court Judge in the adult Criminal and Traffic Courts, the Juvenile Delinquency Court and the Jail Court. I strive to run an efficient and orderly courtroom as all times, so that each individual appearing before me can heard and can address the court without interruptions from the gallery. As a District Court Judge, I feel that I have not rendered a decision on any case that was more important than another. Each person that appears before me is important and so is his or her case. I realize that whatever judgment I pass or sentence I impose, it will impact all parties involved. Undoubtedly, that is very important to those individuals appearing before me. Certainly as a judge, it is important to judge fairly and impartially. I took the oath of office to serve Durham County as such as a judge. No two cases are ever the same, so all my decisions are rendered on a case by case basis. In hearing a matter, I listen attentively to the evidence presented and make sure that burden of proof is met. In non-trials and in sentencing, I listen to the facts of the case and the impact this charge has had on the victim as well as the defendant. I take into account the defendant’s criminal history, background, flight risk information. Also, I listen to what the victims are seeking in the resolution of the matter. All of this information has to be balanced and processed to reach a decision that will affect all parties far beyond just that day in court. That, of course, is the most important decision at that moment for those individuals and for me.
5. What do you feel was the U.S. Supreme Court's most important recent decision? Did you agree with the majority?
The U.S. Supreme Court has rendered important rulings recently on prayer and the government, affirmative action, same sex marriage, the Voting Rights Act, as well as other issues. In my opinion as a District Court Judge, I feel one of the most recent decisions rendered by the U.S. Supreme Court was that of Riley v. California. Riley v. California was unanimously decided on June 25, 2014. The Court held that the police need a warrant to search digital information on a cell phone seized for an individual who has been arrested. I do agree with the Court’s holding and its balancing of the individual’s privacy interest against that of the protection of the officer’s safety and the preservation of evidence. As the Court makes clear, the cell phone is a mini computer that most Americans carry around with them containing digital, personal and oftentimes sensitive information. We all have a vested privacy interest in the data stored in our cell phones. Otherwise, we would not seek to protect our information with passwords and locking mechanisms. The decision in Riley serves to protect us from unreasonable searches and seizures in this age of technology. It further serves to protect the citizens of Durham, as well as Durham police officers, especially in the wake of allegations of institutional racism. This is not to say that the police cannot search and view the digital information stored on the cell phone. They will just have to follow the law and proper procedures and obtain a warrant first. As the Court recognizes in its opinion, “the warrant requirement is an important working part of our machinery of government, not merely an inconvenience to be somehow weighed against the claims of police efficiency.” Therefore, when this law or ruling is followed, the evidence is less likely to be suppressed. Additionally, following the Court’s ruling ensures that the accused will have a fair trial as he is entitled to under the 6th Amendment of the United States Constitution.
6. Have you ever pled guilty or no contest to any criminal charge other than a minor traffic offense? Please explain.
7. 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 would like to see the burden of financing the court system shifted from the backs of those who can least afford it. Toward that end, I often remit court costs for financially challenged individuals and require community service hours instead. For young people involved in minor matters, I require essays if they do not have the cost of court.
8. What improvements can be made in terms of the juvenile justice system? What are the weaknesses or constraints in the court’s handling of juvenile offenders?
Improvements that can be made in terms of the juvenile justice system are better resources. An increase in out of home placements is desperately needed. More funding is necessary to assist in the mental health needs of juveniles and their parents. Parents are ordered to be a part of the process when their child is under court supervision, however, many of the parents have mental health and/or substance abuse issues themselves that need to be addressed along with their child’s. More programs to assist the family as a whole are greatly needed. The weaknesses or constraints are the lack of parental involvement on the front end prior to the juveniles coming to court. In many instances, lack of adequate adult supervision magnifies the problems.
9. What do you think the priorities should be for Durham law enforcement?
Law enforcement in Durham should make violent crimes a priority. It is generally known that many parts of our city are constantly battered with violence and drugs. Also, I applaud the effort for racial sensitivity training. There needs to be a healing in our community between the police department and the citizens so that trust is restored. More manpower and resources should be centered on education, prevention and community involvement.
10. What additional resources would you like to see implemented for defendants? Is there a need for more diversion courts or sentencing services?
I would love to see the mentally ill and substance abusers needs addressed in a different forum. As a practical matter, it could be done as it is in some other jurisdictions. A mental health court would be wonderful. As a presiding judge over Competency hearings, we are woefully lacking in resources and training to deal with many of the issues which are complex. It is refreshing to know that the Sheriff has a literacy program at the jail so inmates are taught to read, write and prepare to take the GED.
11. Many people complain that the criminal justice is clogged with defendants suffering from mental illnesses. How would you like to see this problem addressed?
Mental Health Court. Meanwhile, seasoned judges such as myself who have been in the system for over thirty years are aware of many of the defendant’s needs. It is incumbent upon us to use the resources that are at our present disposal to see that these individuals are afforded treatment.
12. Durham public school suspensions are on the rise, and may people worry about the so-called “school to prison pipeline.” Can anything be done to remedy the problem n the judicial side?
As a judge, parent and grandparent, I am frequently in the schools, interfacing with school personnel. I believe the issue has come to the forefront now. In Juvenile Delinquency Court, if a juvenile is suspended from school, I order him/her to go to ReBound. All of us could become more sensitive to the needs of the students and d a better job of interceding at the warning signals instead of waiting until the problem has escalated. For instance, I am aware that DPS now has a system in place to pick up homeless children and transport them to school. There are a myriad of reasons why children are suspended from school. We must examine each closely and come up with viable alternatives.
13. Persistent domestic violence calls-for-service have befuddled law enforcement, women’s advocates and criminal justice officials across the state. What role can you play to help the situation?
Education and information is the key. For instance, if a person comes before the court on a domestic violence matter, I always ascertain whether a child/ren witnessed the incident. I inform the adults that this will have a detrimental effect on the child and urge counseling for the child as well as the adults. Every case turns on its own facts, but as a judge, the more knowledge and training I have in this complex area allows me to make an informed decision. My prior experience as a prosecutor as well as a defense attorney handling domestic violence cases has proven invaluable.