Sabra Jean Faires | Candidate Questionnaires - Statewide | Indy Week
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Sabra Jean Faires 

Full Legal Name: Sabra Jean Faires
Name as it Appears on the Ballot: Sabra Jean Faires
Office Sought/District: NC Court of Appeals (Martin seat)
Party: Unaffilitated
Date of Birth: 10/09/1955
Home Address: 7401 Ridgefield Drive, Cary NC 27519
Mailing Address (if different from home):
Campaign Web Site: sabrajeanfairesforjudge.com
Occupation & Employer: Attorney; Of Counsel - Bailey & Dixon, LLP
Years lived in Durham: None
Home Phone: 919-481-2785
Work Phone: 919-828-0731
Email: sjfcommittee@gmail.com

1. If you have made pledges, taken positions or otherwise commented on how you might rule in office, what are your top three priorities or issues of concern for the coming term?

The only pledge I have made is to apply the law to the facts in each case in a fair and impartial manner. If elected, my top priority would be to preserve the impartiality of the judicial system and keep it free from political influence. My next priorities would be to seek adequate funding for the court so that it could provide the specialized courts, such as family court, and other services, such as indigent defense, needed to ensure justice.

2. What in your record as a public official or other experience demonstrates your ability to be effective on the bench? This might include career or community service; be specific about its relevance to this office.

A key duty of a judge is to analyze the law and apply it the facts of the case. I have over 34 years of experience and many of those were spent in public service on the staff of the North Carolina General Assembly analyzing laws, writing laws, and explaining laws. Several of those years were spent as an Assistant Secretary at the North Carolina Department of Revenue applying the tax laws to individuals and businesses, writing rules that implement the tax laws, and serving as a hearing officer at the Department. My depth of experience in writing laws and applying laws makes me uniquely qualified.

3. How do you define yourself politically and how do your political and legal philosophies show in your past achievements and present campaign platform?

I am unaffiliated and nonpartisan. This is reflected in the broad bipartisan support I enjoy and in my service at the General Assembly to members and leaders of both parties.

4. The INDY’s mission is to help build a just community in the Triangle. How would your election to office help further that goal?

An impartial judiciary that is free of political influence is fundamental to democracy. My commitment to fairness and impartiality would help ensure that everyone would be treated equally and with respect.

5. Identify a principled stand you might be willing to take if elected that you suspect might cost you some popularity points with voters.

I support the following changes concerning election to various offices:

• Selection of judges by a process other than election.

• Appointment, rather than election, of the NC Superintendent of Public Instruction, the Agriculture Commissioner, and the Secretary of State.

• Election of the Governor and Lieutenant Governor as a team rather than in separate races.

6. The Court of Appeals does not hold oral arguments for a large portion of cases, and a large portion of opinions go unpunished. Is this an adequate way to build a body of case law?

Having unpublished opinions does not necessarily equate to a lack of a body of case law. There are guidelines used to determine which opinions to publish and reasons why some opinions are not published. Published opinions are binding in other cases and the unpublished ones are not. If an opinion involves the same principle as numerous other published opinions, then publication adds nothing to the body of law. More detrimental to building an adequate body of law is an opinion that does not explain the reasoning of the court.

7. What is the role of the U.S. Supreme Court in setting precedent for North Carolina’s appellate courts?

For a state issue in state court, decisions of the U.S. Supreme Court can be persuasive but they are not binding on NC. If the issue in state court is a federal issue, then the decisions of the U.S. Supreme Court are binding on the NC courts as well as all other federal and state courts.

8. Do you favor or oppose public financing of judicial races? Please explain. What changes would you make to the current system to improve it?

I favor public financing of judicial races and the reinstatement of the public financing laws that were repealed in 2013.

9. Have you ever recused yourself from a case or, as a lawyer, faced a conflict of interest? Please describe the case.

In my 34 years of practice, only the last four have been in private practice. I do not take clients if I have a conflict with that representation.

10. Sometimes state laws conflict with personal beliefs. Please list the two laws with which you are most uncomfortable personally. How do you deal with those conflicts?

Judges should apply the law to the facts regardless of their personal preferences for or against the law. I agreed to abide by the NC Bar Association’s Judicial Election Campaigning Resolution, which precludes comment on issues that may come before the court. Identifying laws that conflict with my beliefs falls in this category, so I cannot provide a fuller response.

11. The passage of mandatory minimum sentencing laws has removed some of the discretion judges, juries and prosecutors used to exercise in the sentencing phase of criminal trials. Should judges have more or less flexibility in the sentencing phase than currently allowed under North Carolina law? Please explain.

The goals are to have a sentence that matches the crime and the facts of the case and to treat those in similar circumstances the same. Greater discretion leads to wider variation in sentences for similar offenses but may result in a more appropriate sentence under the facts of a specific case.

12. In this new technological world, do you perceive a conflict between government surveillance and the need to protect an individual’s privacy?

Yes. It is technologically possible to gather data on practically every aspect of an individual’s life. The ability to gather data is not a justification for doing so.

13. What are your thoughts about criminal culpability for young people? Is the North Carolina criminal justice system treating them appropriately?

North Carolina treats juveniles differently than adults and it is appropriate to do so. I decline to comment on specific laws.

14. Does the death penalty place an undue financial burden on the courts?

If the state has a death penalty, spending the resources to ensure that innocent people are not killed is not an undue burden. Financial impact pales in significance when considering the possibility of putting an innocent person to death.

15. Justice Department Officials had instructed federal prosecutors across the country not to focus federal resources on individuals who were complying with state laws regarding the use of medical marijuana. As a judge, do you find this philosophy confusing?

No. This is a decision about how to use limited resources effectively. All law enforcement agencies must decide how to use their resources. Here, the government has apparently decided that there are greater threats to the safety and well being of the citizenry than arresting individuals whose behavior is legal under state law.

16. The law offers special protections to racial and ethnic minorities. Are members of the LGBT community sufficiently protected?

I must decline to answer questions about the adequacy of the law.

17. Has the current processing for redistricting served the State well?

No. It has resulted in districts that look like meandering ink splats, in the “packing” of minorities, and in districts that split communities of interest as well as numerous precincts. It has also resulted in fewer competitive districts.

18. Have the legislative branch unduly depleted the power of the judicial branch in terms of civil procedure?

Article 4 of the North Carolina Constitution sets out the powers of the judicial branch and in Section 1 of that Article provides that the “General Assembly shall have no power to deprive the judicial department of any power or jurisdiction that rightfully pertains to it as a co-ordinate department of government.” The General Assembly cannot deplete any power of the judicial branch given to that branch by the people through the Constitution. The courts will determine if three-judge panels for hearing particular issues or other procedures mandated by the General Assembly are constitutional.

19. There is not complete judicial uniformity across the state; some jurisdictions, for example, have family and drug courts while others do not. Are we meeting the needs of the entire state?

No, we are clearly not meeting the needs of the entire state. Underfunding of the judicial branch is a serious issue that undermines the entire system.

  • NC Court of Appeals

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