Vince Rozier - NC Court of Appeals Judge | Candidate Questionnaires - Statewide | Indy Week
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Vince Rozier - NC Court of Appeals Judge 

Name as it appears on the ballot: Vince Rozier

Campaign website: www.judgerozier.com

Phone number: 919-817-8943

Email: judgerozier@gmail.com

Years lived in the state:  40 years

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.

My career, community, and life experiences have allowed me to have an understanding of the need to be fair and impartial and how to achieve these goals. From my time as a judge, prosecutor, and even as a citizen, I have observed and interacted with countless numbers of people who have helped me to understand their varied perspectives and lifestyles. I believe this exposure would support my reputation and ability to be fair, impartial, and effective.

As a Wake County District Court Judge, I have been scored pursuant to the NC Bar Judicial Performance Evaluation. This evaluation allowed for attorneys to rate the performance of judges who they practiced before or were familiar with their reputation for fairness. I have consistently been rated as being one of the most fair and impartial judges in Wake County. This score reflects the general reputation that I have as working to be reasonable in being effective but consistent in trying to be fair or according to the law.

My work as a judge and prosecutor have exposed me the situations various and life circumstances that many of the people who are involved in the court system. As a judge, I have actively supported rival gang members to call a truce amongst one another. I have gone to the scene of an officer involved shooting and spoken to both the police and the community to encourage understanding. I have worked to achieve fairness for students by helping to create a deferral program so that our county’s youth can have consequences without permanent impact.

Additionally, While serving as a prosecutor, I worked with police to reduce drug crimes and rode along with them during drug busts and undercover drug buys. I also rode along with the State Highway Patrol while looking for impaired drivers. Meanwhile, I also experienced what it was like to be stopped and subjected to interrogation for no legal reason. This is in addition to the what I learned during the period that my wife worked as a criminal defense attorney.

I have taken this professional experience to go into the community, to schools and churches in an effort to help people understand how our system works. These efforts have only allowed me to understand how to engage people of different backgrounds and how important it is that the law be fairly applied to all.

2. What do you believe qualifies you to serve on Court of Appeals?

Our courts need judges who are experienced and who will be fair and impartial. I possess the experience our courts need.  The NC Court of Appeals primarily reviews cases that have been appealed from the trial courts of North Carolina. For 10 years as District Court Judge in Wake County, I have presided over thousands of the types of cases heard by the Court of Appeals. In fact, over 70% of the types of cases reviewed by the Court of Appeals are from our trial courts.

Even a significant amount of cases come from our trial courts, only 3 of the 15 judges  on the court had judicial trial court experience prior to serving on the Court. I am running because I want to add my 10 years of judicial experience to the Court of Appeals. This trial court perspective is missing and is needed on the court

I have been certified as a Family Court and Juvenile Court Judge and have presided over countless criminal and child support matters. As a prosecutor, I tried nearly 70 jury trials. In circumstances when the Court of Appeals is in the position to determine how the evidence would have influenced a judge or jury, the perspective of a judge who has been the trier of fact is often missing on Court of Appeals panels of 3 judges.

My qualified experience is needed.

3. How do you define yourself politically? How does that impact your judicial approach?

During my 10 years of service as a judge, my political opinions have not influenced my judicial approach. The legislature has required that judicial candidates for the Court of Appeals to be identified by their party registration. I am a registered democrat and will be identified as such on the ballot. I personally consider myself to be politically moderate because my opinions are issue based and not party based. Often, my moderate nature has allowed me to better understand the perspective of both sides of an issue.

My judicial approach is grounded in a belief that each person is entitled to the full exercise of her/his rights and the full protection of the law. I do not make decisions based on political affiliation unless believing that people are equal is a partisan issue. During my 10 years as a judge, I have observed countless time that people from various backgrounds may have doubts about our court system. Each of them has desired to be treated fairly and know that there was not personal or partisan reason for a ruling against them or in their favor.

I have not granted custody or visitation to a parent based on politics. I have not found someone guilty of domestic violence or driving while impaired for partisan reasons. I have not sent someone to prison or placed placed anyone on probation due to a political leaning. I made each of these decision based on the law, the community, and being fair and consistent to those who appear before me.

4. 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?

I believe judges should be fair, independent, and experienced. The desire to be fair will motivate a judge to take any extra steps necessary to achieve the correct resolution. A judge who is independent will not be afraid to offer the correct answer according to the law even if it conflicts with political supporters. A judge who is experienced will be able to recognize the issues and be able to understand how to be fair and independent.

There are times that I have admired a number of judges for their acts on and off the bench, even though I have disagreed with them at times. I have admired US Supreme Court Justice William Brennan for his understanding of how the law applies to all citizens and how perceived differences should not impact one’s access to justice. I have admired Justice Sandra Day O’Connor for her courage, understanding of the separation of powers, her moderate application of the law, and her refusal to follow a partisan ideology. I admire Justice John Roberts for his desire to follow his opinion of the law regarding the Affordable Care Act even though he understood that it would be unpopular with his political supporters and allow the Act to be considered constitutional.

I particularly admire the historical paths of US Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall and NC Chief Supreme Court Justice Henry Frye for their individual courage displayed on and off the bench. The title and position of Supreme Court Justice was only icing on the cake of careers and lives that had left ripples for so many other prior to reaching the highest US or state court. Their lives reveal that a title is not the ultimate measure of one’s impact in life.

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

In order to build a more just community, I think it is important to have judges who believe in increasing access to justice while on and off the bench. Access to justice may come in the form of what takes place in the courthouse or in the form of understand how to learning about our system of justice. This has influenced how I live my life. I hope to further reach communities around the state with what I have learned in Wake County.

I have worked to create a deferral program that allows for 16-18 year old students to avoid being charged criminally when a minor, nonviolent offense has been committed in school. Because North Carolina still considers 16-18 year olds to be adults for criminal purposes, even the dismissal of a charge may continue appear on a criminal record. This program has allowed for one student be able to serve as a marine and discovered that another child suffered from psychological hallucinations. This is work that I have done to increase justice.

I have regularly hosted groups of young people to the courthouse during the summer to teach them about our system of justice and about possible careers to which they may aspire in the future. These summer visits expanded to working with others and the creation of the annual Youth Law Day that includes chiefs of police departments, jail tours, mock trials, and professional panels.

As a judge, I have developed a relationship with people in various positions of the criminal justice system. These relationships have allowed me the opportunity to educate the some in the African American community about how the courthouse works, to support an expungement program, support a gang truce, and stand for peace after an officer involved shooting.

6. What do you think are the three most crucial issues facing the state’s judicial system at this moment? Explain how, if elected, you’d help remedy those issues. And how do you think the Court of Appeals can do to address those issues?

Judicial Independence

Currently, the influence of politics on decision making in the courtroom is a great obstacle to justice. A significant problem with this judicial polarization, however, is that public trust in the judiciary slowly erodes when it appears that decisions are not made because of fairness, but due to politics.  For example, when issues involving actions taken by police officers are addressed by courts, a lack of judicial independence gives the impression that a judge’s decision is only due to public opinion. With judges being required to raise money for elections, citizens may question whether a judge opined only to remain consistent with her/his political base rather than deciding what is correct under the law

There have been a number of cases where the outcome was predictable simply based on the political leanings of the judges reviewing the case. Political gerrymandering of state and federal voting districts, racial justice, and retention elections are just a few examples of decisions that were decided in accordance with party affiliation. It may be argued that one’s view of government may impact her/his reading and interpretation of the law.

With the influence of politics and with a lack of judicial independence, our system of justice faces a great challenge. I offer myself as someone who is unafraid to step in and do what is right according to the law. I have exhibited courage in trying to do what is right in my community. This is the same courage that I will take with me to the NC Court of Appeals.

I believe I can work to improving the credibility of the court is by making my decisions based on the law.  Even in my campaigning, I have regularly reminded voters that they may not always like my rulings when the decision is not politically popular. I have assured them that their disappointment in the outcome should not equate to disappointment in me because the decision would have been rooted in the law. I share that while judges will consider case law, it is the law makers that would need to be amended if citizens want to changes to the laws a judge must follow..

Implicit Bias

Another significant improvement that can be made in our system is reducing the impact of implicit bias. The goal of the judicial system should be to seek the fair application of the law equally to all. Because of human error in the application and scheme of how to make this happen, we regularly discover the imperfection of our system. The human erred nature of our system means that we bring in our own biases. These are not always related to race, but it is obvious from recent incidents in our state and country to that it important to immediately address and improve this in this area.

Additional research and training is needed to reveal the existence of implicit bias and its impact on the judicial system. It is intellectually lazy to impose this bias only officers. Judges can reveal their biases in sentences, prosecutors may reveal it in whom is indicted, and defenders may reveal it in how they treat clients or believe the facts offered by law enforcement. Therefore, it is necessary to provide access to training on the existence of implicit bias and its collateral impact for all involved in the criminal justice system. Understanding that these biases exist and impact the justice system will make it more possible to provide training on how to address the specific prejudices.

In order to address this issue, statistics can be a useful tool to reveal how implicit bias influences decision makers within the justice system. Statistics that simply address race may be oversimplified. Carefully tailoring what, if any, bias based factors might play a role in decision making can be a useful tool in addressing implicit bias.

Equity in Bond Amounts

There is a concern amongst a growing number of court observers that bail and bond amounts are being set unequally, resulting in significant collateral consequences. The 8th Amendment to the United States Constitution concerns the imposition of excessive bails. What is considered to be an excessive bail amount is a subjective determination. Objectively, there are some occasions when social and demographic factors play a part into a citizen’s bond being higher/lower for reasons that are not supported by the law.

The consequences of bond disparity can be significant. Someone who is likely to appear for court but not able to post a bond (even for a nonviolent offense) is at risk of losing a job. The loss of a job may have other collateral impact. This is particularly true for those who support others or who pay child support. Additionally, those who are unable to post a bond are more likely to plea bargain to charges when there may be a sufficient defense to the charge. As a result, a criminal record is established that becomes an impediment to future employment. This path also has collateral consequences.

This is an issue that I do not believe the Court of Appeals can directly impact. Any case concerning pretrial release conditions that would appear before the Court of Appeals should be determined by the facts of that specific case. An opinion should not actively seek to impact a system wide concern but only to resolve the issues of the case currently before the court.

I believe my impact on this issue is something that would take place off the bench. This is a situation when a judge being willing to share learned through experience can have an impact.

7. Do you think the judicial system is becoming too politicized? Explain. If elected, how would you address any perceptions that politics play a role in judicial decisions?

Currently, the influence of politics on the judicial system is proving to be an obstacle to justice to the appearance of justice in our judicial system. This is even more true with only judges for the Court of Appeals having to run according to party affiliation. In addition to how we are identified on the ballot, the necessity for various courts to decide issues related the constitutionality of various North Carolina election related laws has only increased attention to the relationship of politics and the judicial system. This continues today and has recently given credence to the question of whether our judicial system will become another branch that creates law. This correlation can dampen the public’s confidence in the independence of our courts.

There have been a number of cases where the outcome was predictable simply based on the political leanings of the judges reviewing the case. Political gerrymandering of state and federal voting districts, racial justice, and retention elections are just a few examples of decisions that were decided in accordance with party affiliation. It may be argued that one’s view of government may impact her/his reading and interpretation of the law. A significant problem with this judicial polarization, however, is that public trust in the judiciary slowly erodes when it appears that decisions are not made because of fairness, but due to politics.

For example, when issues involving actions taken by police officers are addressed by courts, a lack of judicial independence gives the impression that a judge’s decision is only due to public opinion. With judges being required to raise money for elections, citizens may question whether a judge opined only to remain consistent with her/his political base rather than deciding what is correct under the law. Even federally appointed judges are now seemingly more predictable based on the President who granted the appointment.

With the influence of politics and with a lack of judicial independence, our system of justice faces a great challenge. I offer myself as someone who is unafraid to step in and do what is right according to the law. I have exhibited courage in trying to do what is right in my community. This is the same courage that I will take with me to the NC Court of Appeals.


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