Abe Jones | Candidate Questionnaires - Statewide | Indy Week
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Abe Jones 

Full Legal Name: Abraham Penn Jones
Name as it Appears on the Ballot: Abe Jones
Office Sought/District: NC Court of Appeals
Party: Democrat
Date of Birth: March 7, 1952
Home Address: 2337 New Bern Avenue, Raleigh NC 27610
Mailing Address (if different from home): PO Box 326, Raleigh NC 27602
Campaign Web Site: www.voteabejones.com
Occupation & Employer: Attorney, Law Office of Abraham P. Jones
Years lived in Durham: 0 years lived in Durham, Fifty years of living in Raleigh
Home Phone: 919-817-2711
Work Phone: 919-817-2714
Email: abe@voteabejones.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? Judges cannot make pledges per se, except to say that they will follow the law and establish precedence. However, I do have a judicial philosophy consistent with enforcing the rights and privileges contained within the Bill of Rights. My top three priorities are: A.) To be fair; B.) To display an even-tempered judicial temperament; and C.) To protect all citizens from governmental excesses.

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.

I was a Wake County Commissioner from 1990-1994 and made many decisions in which I had to weigh and balance competing interests and concerns of citizens. Also, my 17 years serving as a superior court judge gave me an opportunity to demonstrate my ability to weigh competing concerns and interests, and to give all persons a fair hearing. I have also been an adjunct law professor at UNC School of Law for many years, teaching trial advocacy. The Court of Appeals reviews the work of trial judges, from the superior court which is the level of court where I served. I have the broadest legal experience of any candidate for this seat. I have served as both a prosecutor and defense attorney in criminal cases. I have represented both plaintiffs and defendants in civil cases. I have tried numerous cases before the bench and, during my many years as a judge, I have presided over numerous cases from behind the bench. These diverse perspectives give me the balanced, practical skills that are necessary to fulfill the duties of an Appeals Court judge. On the bench, I was tough on crime, approached each case with an open mind, treated everyone before me with respect, and ensured that everyone received a full and fair hearing.

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 define myself politically as progressive on civil rights, defendant’s rights, and most social issues with some distinct exceptions. I am conservative on punishment for those who have been fairly tried and convicted. These values are reflected by my lifetime membership in the NAACP, and active participation in the Democratic Party. I am also an active church member and have participated in Big Brother mentoring programs.

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?

I believe judges should be active members of their communities and attempt to maintain and improve the social and political climate. To wit, I am a member of the Wake County Library Commission, Martin Street Baptist Church, The Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity Inc., The Justice Theater Project Board, and a former member of the YMCA Board of Directors (8 year term).

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 am a very strong believer in the principles established by the Fourth Amendment guarantee against unreasonable searches and seizures, which includes prohibition against frivolous “fishing expedition” stops of citizens by police. When evidence was presented to me in my 17 year career as a jurist that such tactics had been applied by the police, I consistently ruled with the citizens, even if it meant an alleged “guilty” person may have gone free.

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?

I do not feel that all cases require oral argument, but I do believe that the decision in all cases should be published. This could be organized into: A.) Those published in written volume reporters, and B.) Those published on an internet service (which are currently unpublished). The present system builds a body of law but could be more transparent.

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

The role of the US Supreme Court for North Carolina is the same as it is for any state. When state law is impacted by the Federal Constitution the US Constitution prevails. These dictates and precedents of our highest federal court clearly direct and override any state rulings.

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 strongly favor public financing of judicial races. I find it regrettable that the legislature eliminated the public funding for these races against the advice and judgment of both Republican and Democratic judges and lawyers. I hope that our prior system can be reinstated so that appellate judicial candidates can avoid the need to raise inordinately large amounts of money from members of the bar. The current system invites large infusions of cash from groups and PACs interested in “steering” the courts in directions that may not be, in many instances, in the public’s interest.

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

Yes, I recused myself as a judge from a case involving some distant relatives. They were squabbling over the division of land. I have not faced any such conflict as an attorney.

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?

I am most uncomfortable with the law which allows impeachment of a defendant with prior convictions if he takes the stand. Also, I am uncomfortable with the law which allows a defendant to be charged with a habitual felon status, which then is used to increase the bail bond to levels that deny the defendant reasonable bond and liberty until he is proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. As a judge, I try to limit the latter practice, but could not do anything about the former.

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.

Yes, judges need more discretion. The use of mandatory minimal sentences has limited that discretion. The use of mandatory minimal sentences takes away the ability of the judge to apply his/her wisdom and knowledge, to fashion a more appropriate punishment tailored to the circumstances. This can vary drastically from case to case though the charge may be the same.

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

There is actually no real conflict between technological capability and individual rights, so long as governmental authorities (agents, police, etc) get proper approval from judicial officials for surveillance. Surveillance through invasive techniques – hidden cameras, wire taps, etc. – should only be done through lawfully approved warrants acquired through due process.

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

Young people today are engaged in far more complicated and serious activities than their predecessors of their age in an earlier time. Therefore, if one acts in a criminally culpable manner at a young age, that individual must bear the serious consequences of his/her actions. The system is treating these young people appropriately given their deeds. More home training and parental/community influence is necessary, if possible, so that these young people will not stray into trouble at such early ages.

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

No, the death penalty does not place an undue financial burden on the courts. Our justice system allows substantial due process and appeals in capital cases because of the gravity of the punishment. This heightened level of process is justified and is the cost of our constitutional system.

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?

Use of medical marijuana for medical purposes is distinguishable from use of marijuana for recreational purposes. One is based on need, and the other is based on volitional desire. I find this distinction sufficiently clear to eliminate any confusion on the part of the individual.

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

Members of the LGBT community are not sufficiently protected. They should receive the same protections as racial and ethnic minorities, not less.

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

The current redistricting policy does not serve the State well. Redistricting needs to be done through a bipartisan commission comprised of persons from both parties who are not involved in the current legislative process, and who are highly respected in academic and governmental circles. They should do the hard work of redistricting in a deliberative, balanced, and transparent manner. The process should be systematized using preset, clear checkpoints and standards.

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

The rules of civil procedure have been modified by the legislature to make it more difficult to litigate or bring certain kinds of actions (e.g. malpractice cases). I do not think this depletes the judiciary as much as it indirectly deprives injured citizens of sufficient relief for real injuries. If the citizens are offended by this, they must change the trend by changing the legislature, not the judiciary.

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?

More money is needed in certain areas of the state for drug and family courts to provide consistent uniformity of services throughout the state.

CANDIDATE STATEMENT:

"I am running for the Court of Appeals in my home state of North Carolina as a seasoned criminal and civil trial attorney as well as a former, long-standing Superior Court judge. While there is an abundance of legal talent in our state, I believe it would be difficult to find another candidate with the depth of my experience. I have served as both a prosecutor and defense attorney in criminal cases. I have represented both plaintiffs and defendants in civil cases. I have tried numerous cases before the bench and, during my 17 years as a superior court judge, I have presided over numerous cases from behind the bench. These diverse perspectives give me the balanced, practical skills that are necessary to fulfill the duties of an Appeals Court judge. On the bench, I was tough on crime, approached each case with an open mind, treated everyone before me with respect, and ensured that everyone received a full and fair hearing. Fairness, honesty, a working knowledge of the law, and a strong work ethic are qualities that I both value and possess. It would be my honor to serve the citizens of North Carolina once again, and I would greatly appreciate your vote."

CANDIDATE POINTS:
1. I have the most judicial experience of any candidate in this race (17 years superior court)
2. I have the most trial court experience of any candidate in this race (20 + years)
3. Currently, there are no African American males serving on the NC Court of Appeals or the NC Supreme Court. Along with my broad experience, I would provide this much-needed perspective over a criminal justice system where 80% of the defendants are African American males.

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