Anna Elena Worley | Candidate Questionnaires | Indy Week
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Anna Elena Worley 

Candidate for Wake County District Court Judge

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Name as it appears on the ballot: Anna Elena Worley
Date of Birth: February 9, 1971
Campaign Web Site:
Occupation & Employer: Attorney with Herring Mills & Kratt, PLLC
Years lived in Wake County: 5

1. What do you believe are the most important issues facing the District 10 District Court? What are your top three priorities in addressing these issues?

While the District Court faces several issues every day, I feel strongly that the families of Wake County deserve a judiciary that remembers that children feel the effects of our courts’ decisions, even when they are not parties to an action. In our juvenile courts, dealing with abuse, neglect and dependency, and in custody and child support matters, the rulings that are made today, affect our county’s citizenry for years to come.

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

When presenting at Continuing Legal Education seminars, I not only present my prepared lecture, but invite discussion and questions. The exchange of information, not only inside a courtroom, but throughout our professional lives, is the best way to reach just and equitable resolution to disputes. As a DRC-Certified Family Financial Mediator, as well as in my practice as a Family Law Specialist, I have tried to continue to find creative and constructive ways for families to manage the several difficult issues that the separation of a family entails. As a member of the Board of Governors of the North Carolina Academy of Trial Lawyers, I have taken my representative capacity seriously, attending all but one of the regular meetings over the past six years of my term, in addition to numerous voluntary meetings; listening to the discussions and debates; and then voting what I feel to be the best direction given the available information. I have served as an officer in both the Guilford and Wake County Democratic Parties, voting on often contentious resolutions. Through these and other experiences I have been well prepared for the duty of a District Court Judge -- to apply the law neutrally, after receiving all of the relevant evidence.

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

Although judicial races are non-partisan races, my political philosophy cannot help but show itself in both on my curriculum vitae and in my campaign. Our founding fathers promised justice for all, and I have done what little I can to maintain that promise. I have chosen to participate in groups and organizations that work to protect those with the least access to resources, the least access to education, and the least access to justice. I earned a grant to represent asylees fleeing oppression and seeking refuge on our shores. I tutored in an elementary school, meeting with youngsters whose lack of English proficiency disadvantaged them in their classrooms. I volunteered and taught with the Red Cross for over a decade, passing on what I had learned about how to protect the injured and ailing. I have represented victims of domestic violence free of charge. As a member of the Board of Governors of the North Carolina Academy of Trial Lawyers, I am proud of the banner that reads “[p]rotecting people’s rights,” and that provides continuing inspiration to us members. I believe that our courts are not only responsible to the people, but responsible for providing a fair and balanced playing field to the people who are at highest risk.

4. 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.

Spanish is my second language. I understand that immigration issues are hot-button issues, especially in a rapidly growing and changing county like Wake County. However, I remain committed to making certain that every resident of Wake County, regardless of skin color, regardless of nationality, regardless of immigration status, and regardless of language restrictions, be provided with fairness in our courtrooms. No one should be scared to come before a court of law in our county or our country to prosecute an assault, to report a theft, to provide the best for his children.

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

The District Court is the face of the entire court system. The majority of people who have any dealings with a court find themselves in court for either a traffic matter, or a domestic matter. True, the court has other vital civil and criminal functions, but if we cannot dispense these most basic services in a just manner, then the rest of the court’s services will be questioned by all parties. I am more a listener than a speaker. I am committed to giving everyone a fair hearing, respectfully listening to the evidence provided, and allowing everyone her say in court.

I believe that I have a background that will enhance the court. As a Spanish-speaker, I believe that I can make those for whom English is not their original language comfortable to present their cases. As a Family Law Specialist, I have represented both plaintiffs and defendants, men and women, in domestic courts across the State, finding ways to bring cases to resolution. Each county may have its own ways of applying the laws, but all maintain the laws of the State. I understand the need for judges to continue to learn and grow. They need to understand the importance of everything from the length of tire skids on the road to understand the nature of an automobile accident to the manner of acquisition of stock options to determine the value of a marital estate. The application of justice should not be hindered by a judge who has tired of learning, or worse tired of listening. I know that judges need to be able to impose penalties under the law, while maintaining empathy for an offender. I believe that our cultural differences and language barriers should be irrelevant to the neutral application of the law.

6. How long do you plan to serve if elected, and how long will you be able to serve?

Although I enjoy private practice, I hope to become and remain a District Court Judge for the remainder of my legal career. I do not foresee seeking office on a higher court or in another public capacity.

7. North Carolina prosecutes 16-year-olds as adults. (Thirteen-year-old juveniles who are charged with felonies can also be prosecuted as adults, if transferred from juvenile court.) Do you support the raising of the juvenile jurisdiction to 18? Please explain why or why not.

If elected, I would apply the law of the State as instituted by the legislature. However, our judges are elected to apply their knowledge and understanding, their discretion, to the cases before them. Currently those over sixteen are charged as adults whether they are accused of shoplifting, minor scuffles, or life-threatening assaults. I do not believe that judges should change the law through activism from the bench, but would support the legislature in raising the age at which children are presumed to have adult prudence. Thereafter, judges should be allowed to apply the discretion for which they were elected, deciding whether the accused should face adult prosecution, given the gravity and circumstances of each youngster’s case.

8. Are you in favor of raising suggested bond guidelines for serious felonies? Are you in favor of unsecured bonds for Class 2 and 3 misdemeanors? Please explain.

Our Wake County Senior Resident Superior Judge and Chief District Court Judge continually review and, when necessary, revise the guidelines for the setting of secured bonds with the input of the other sitting judges and the Bar. While bonds are set by the District Court judge before whom the first appearance is made, mindful of the recommendations under the guidelines, District Court judges should not abrogate to anyone, including their fellow judges, their duty to independently assess each case that comes before them. Moreover bonds must be within the bounds of the Constitutional restrictions against excessive bails, and should not be imposed in such a manner that those without access to money are punished despite the presumption of innocence. Bonds should be imposed in a manner to insure that defendants return for a full hearing of the matters for which they have been accused, and which protects the community in until their hearings.

9. What is your experience in juvenile court? What can be done to prevent delinquency and gang involvement?

The juvenile court hears matters not only of the crimes of those under the age of sixteen, but also of abuse, neglect and dependency, matters of the termination of paternal rights, and matters of adoption. I have tried cases of termination not only in our District Courts, but also have handled them on appeal. Although I understand that there are many factors, I believe that the strongest remedy to delinquency and gang involvement is making sure that our youth understand that there are options and opportunities available to them – and making certain that there are. That starts before they ever appear in a court. However, once they have done something that brings them before a judge, I believe that the judge should have a full and varied palette of possible punishments, including educational, public service, drug treatment and in appropriate cases, more punitive options.

10. District court judges do not continue cases past 120 days after the first appearance. Is that too long, or too short? Why?

The District Court makes an effort to hear all cases within 120 days of first appearances, not as a rule imposed by the legislature, but as an aspiration to insure that the accused’s right to a speedy trial is protected. However, both the defendant and the prosecutors should have sufficient time to prepare their trial. Neither should be allowed to draw out the process without just cause, nor should either be rushed to trial without time to prepare. Continuances are within the discretion of the judge to allow for that balance to be struck, taking into consideration each party’s situation. So long as we elect judges to the court whose discretion we trust, their efforts not to continue any case past the 120-day mark, may be maintained.

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