Tricia Shields | Candidate Questionnaires - Statewide | Indy Week
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Tricia Shields 

Full Legal Name: Patricia Pursell Shields
Name as it Appears on the Ballot: Tricia Shields
Office Sought/District: NC Court of Appeals (Martin seat)
Party: Democrat
Date of Birth: January 4, 1960
Home Address: 104 Rosswood Place, Cary, NC 27513
Mailing Address (if different from home):
Campaign Web Site: www.shieldsforjudge.com
Occupation & Employer: attorney: Hedrick Gardner Kincheloe & Garofalo,
Years lived in Durham: I lived in Durham for 21 years (1962-1983). I have lived in Wake County since graduating from law school in 1985.
Home Phone: 919-380-8902
Work Phone: 919-719-3729
Email: pshields@hedrickgardner.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?

I have not made any pledges or taken any positions on how I might rule on any particular issue, other than to say that I would apply the law as written, uphold the Constitution, and decide any case that comes before me fairly and impartially. These would be my top priorities.

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.

When I graduated from law school in 1985, I was fortunate to have the opportunity to work as a law clerk to Chief Judge R.A. “Fred” Hedrick at the Court of Appeals. Judge Hedrick was a brilliant and wise man, and was a principal influencer on my perspective on the law and on my career. Because Judge Hedrick had lost his sight as a child, I spent every day of my two years as his clerk in his office, reviewing the records of the proceedings in each appeal and the briefs filed by the parties, researching the law, and assisting him in drafting his opinions. He was the model of fairness and impartiality. I never saw him favor anyone because of their power, connections, political affiliations, race, gender, or any other personal characteristic.

After my clerkship, I began my private practice in civil litigation. During these 27 years, I have had an active trial practice and have handled most of the kinds of civil matters that regularly come before the Court of Appeals, including personal injury, products liability, professional malpractice, employment, construction, contract, civil rights, and complex commercial cases, as well as administrative law matters. I have had the honor and responsibility of representing my clients in some of the most difficult circumstances of their lives. I have also represented many disadvantaged clients pro bono.

I have also had a significant appellate practice. I have handled dozens of appeals, and have appeared and argued to the North Carolina Court of Appeals, the North Carolina Supreme Court, and the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals. Because of the depth of my experience in this area, I am often retained to assist other attorneys on their appeals.

I have been fortunate to have received a number of professional recognitions. I have an AV® Preeminent™ 5 out of 5 Martindale-Hubbell rating. I have been in the Top 50 Women Lawyers since 2006 in Super Lawyers and am now listed in the Top 100 Lawyers in North Carolina. I have been listed in Best Lawyers in America in the category of Civil Litigation – Defense since 2003, and am the only North Carolina lawyer now listed for Legal Ethics and Professional Responsibility Law. I also received a Women of Justice Award from North Carolina Lawyers Weekly in 2012, the inaugural year of that award.

I believe that the most effective appellate judges have been excellent lawyers, who are scholarly and have practical trial experience. I would bring these qualities to the Court of Appeals.

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

As indicated above, I am a Democrat. However, this is a nonpartisan race and a nonpartisan position. The cases that come before the Court of Appeals are not political, so my personal politics do not impact my campaign.

My legal philosophy, as an attorney, had been to represent my clients honestly, zealously, and with the utmost integrity. I would bring those traits with me to the Court.

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?

This seat is the way that I can best serve the citizens of North Carolina, and my background and my life’s work has prepared me for this position. I was raised in a home where public service was valued. My father came to North Carolina as a minister, and later worked for the North Carolina Fund and the Low Income Housing Development Corporation. My mother was a career social worker. I have worked in our court system for almost thirty years, representing people in very difficult circumstances. I would like to use that experience to benefit that system and the citizens of our State.

I would not bring a personal or political agenda to the Court of Appeals. I do not have larger political ambitions, and do not see this seat as a path to other opportunities. I know exactly what this job involves, and I am fully prepared to do it well. With my background, work ethic, experience, and skills, I know that this particular position is where I can best serve North Carolina.

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

The Court of Appeals is not a legislative or policy-making body. I believe that it is the role and duty of all judges to apply the law as written by the Legislature, regardless of whether that judge or anyone else personally agreed with the wisdom or the policy behind that law. I imagine that position may not be popular with some voters. Further, all judges must uphold the United States and North Carolina Constitutions, even if that means declaring a statute unconstitutional, and even if that decision would be popular with some voters.

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?

Well over 1,000 cases are filed in the Court of Appeals each year. With this enormous volume, I do not believe that it would be practically possible for the Court to have oral argument in most cases. In my experience, the arguments in most cases are fully developed in the briefs, and the Court schedules oral argument when it needs additional discussion of the issues. I do not believe, therefore, that the development of our case law is impaired by lack of oral argument. However, as a practicing attorney, I am sometimes frustrated by the practice of not publishing opinions. In a number of instances, I have found unpublished opinions that are highly relevant to a case that I am handling, but they are not considered binding authority under the applicable rules.

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

The United States Supreme Court is the final authority on the interpretation of the Constitution of the United States and all federal statutes. Its decisions on those issues are binding on North Carolina’s appellate 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, and I would like to see it reinstated. It is very difficult to educate the voters about a candidate’s qualifications in a statewide judicial election without significant funding. Without public financing, judicial candidates must rely on campaign contributions. My supporters have contributed to my campaign because they know that I will be a fair and impartial judge. I believe, however, that the public would be more likely to have confidence in the independence of the judiciary, generally, if judicial candidates fund their campaigns through public financing, rather than individual donations.

I do not believe that our current system is the best way to select judges, and that a merit selection system would better serve our citizens.

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

I have been in private practice with law firms for over 27 years. These law firms had many clients, so there was often a potential for a conflict of interest. The law firms had procedures in place to identify those potential conflicts, and I have had to decline to represent clients on a number of occasions. This has most often occurred when one of my law partners is representing the opposing party in another matter, or has represented the opposing party in a related matter.

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?

If a state law violates the North Carolina or the United States Constitution, it would be my duty to so hold. Otherwise, it would be my responsibility uphold the law, regardless of my personal opinion about it.

The Code of Judicial Conduct prohibits comment about the merits of any pending proceeding before any state or federal court arising in North Carolina or addressing North Carolina law. At the request of the North Carolina Bar Association, I have also signed a pledge that I will not comment on pending cases or issues that might reasonably become the subject of litigation. This pledge also included my agreement not to pledge to resolve cases or issues in a particular way. There are state laws that make me uncomfortable because of constitutional concerns that I have about them. I feel that identifying them in response to this question could violate that pledge.

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 position that I am seeking is not a policy-making position. This question appears to me to involve a policy question for the Legislature. Unless a law violates the North Carolina or United States Constitution, it would be my obligation to apply it, as written, fairly and consistently.

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

The Code of Judicial Conduct prohibits comment about the merits of any pending proceeding before any state or federal court arising in North Carolina or addressing North Carolina law. At the request of the North Carolina Bar Association, I have also signed a pledge that I will not comment on pending cases or issues that might reasonably become the subject of litigation. This pledge also included my agreement not to pledge to resolve cases or issues in a particular way.

The issue raised in this question could come before our courts. Therefore, I cannot respond to it.

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

I cannot respond to this question, for the reasons stated in response to questions 11 and 12.

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

I am aware of studies concerning the cost of the death penalty, and polls concerning citizens’ opinions about those costs. The decision as to whether the death penalty places an undue financial burden on the state is a policy decision. As I discussed above, such policy decisions are not made by our courts.

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?

As a judge on the North Carolina Court of Appeals, issues of federal prosecutions would not come before me.

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

I cannot respond to this question, for the reasons stated in response to questions 11 and 12.

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

I cannot respond to this question, for the reasons stated in response to questions 11 and 12.

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

There have been some recent changes in our rules of civil procedures that reduce some of the discretionary power of our trial judges. For example, in certain cases, if a party requests that the issues of liability and damages be tried separately, the judge now must order separate trials, unless good cause is shown for a single trial. In the past, this was an entirely discretionary decision. The decision as to whether this change was a good policy decision was for our legislature to make, and not our courts.

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?

Our court system is staffed by hard-working and dedicated professionals who do their best to meet the needs of our citizens. However, many of our courts lack sufficient staff or funding to satisfy the demands placed on our judicial system.

  • NC Court of Appeals

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