Elaine M. Bushfan | Candidate Questionnaires | Indy Week
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Elaine M. Bushfan 

N.C. Superior Court

Full Legal Name: Elaine M. Bushfan

Name as it Appears on the Ballot: Elaine M. Bushfan

Seat Sought: Superior Court, Judicial District 14B

Partisan Affiliation: Democrat

Date of Birth: March 18, 1962

Home Address: 1216 Theodore Lane, Durham, North Carolina 27703

Mailing Address (if different from home): Post Office Box 16280, Durham, NC 27704

Campaign Web Site:

Occupation & Employer: Chief District Court Judge, North Carolina State Government

Bachelor's Degree Year & Institution: B.S. Math 1984, North Carolina Central University

JD Year & School: 1991 North Carolina Central University, School of Law

Other Degrees:

Years lived in North Carolina: 48

Home Phone: (919) 596-9859

Work Phone: (919) 596-7240

Email: ElectJudgeElaine@gmail.com

1. What do you believe are the most important issues facing the Superior Court? What are your top priorities or issues of concern for the coming term?

In a time of decreasing revenues, funding for the Superior Courts (and all courts) coupled with the ever increasing number of complex criminal and civil cases on the dockets are, I believe, the greatest challenge to the administration of justice. To that end, I will work diligently with the Senior Resident to continue the excellent manner in which the dockets are managed. My experience as a trial judge makes me uniquely qualified to handle both jury and non-jury matters. As the Chief District Court Judge for Durham County, I understand the economics of the judiciary. We must continually strive to make efficient use of our court resources and our community partners. With regard to civil dockets, I have seen an increase in the number of pro se litigants who choose to represent themselves in matters before the court. The law requires that we as judges do not give legal advice to these individuals. We must have user friendly courts without compromising the integrity of the judicial process for lawyers and non-lawyers alike. During my tenure as Chief, it has always been a priority for my staff and I to implement policies and procedures for the fair administration of justice, including but not limited to, an Administrative Traffic Court, a Probation Court, and new local rules for several courts. The administration of justice requires a diligent eye and constant oversight. If I am elected, my priority is the learning curve for my job as Superior Court Judge.

2. What qualifies you to serve? I have fifteen years of experience as a presiding judge. I have been the Chief District Court Judge in Durham County since 2002. I am from Durham; have never lived any place else. I am a product of its educational system, from nursery school thru post graduate school. I know Durham and Durham has known my work and what I stand for as a public official. I believe that I am uniquely qualified to become the first female Resident Superior Court Judge in my hometown. The citizens of Durham, my family, friends and professional colleagues have made me who I am. I am a "child of the village." Who better to represent you than one of your own....from the cradle to present?

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

I am a registered Democrat, but judicial races are nonpartisan as they should be. On the bench, I am a judge for all people, regardless of political affiliation or lack thereof.

4. FOR INCUMBENTS: What have been your most important decisions in your current capacity? FOR CHALLENGERS: What decisions has the incumbent made that you most disagree with? N/A

5. What do you feel was the U.S. Supreme Court's most important recent decision? Did you agree with the majority?

Safford Unified School District #1 vs. Redding (08-479). Yes, I agree with the majority.

6. Do you feel that North Carolina's current system of judicial elections serves the state well? Are there other forms of selecting judges you feel would function better or worse than the current one? I have mixed feelings about our current election process. Most of the general public knows very little about judges because of the unique nature of our campaigns. Our races are very different from others because we are judges. It is very difficult to run an election that requires fundraising (which we are normally prohibited from participation in) and political activism. But, I was an unknown attorney with three years of legal experience when the people of Durham elected me initially in 1994. I do not know if an appointment by a small group of persons would have afforded me the same opportunity to serve as a judge because I had so little legal experience. I believe that a mix of an initial election with a retention vote by a group of people from all walks of life may be a good compromise.

7. Have you ever pled guilty or no contest to any criminal charge other than a minor traffic offense? Please explain. No.

8. 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.

The process of expunging a criminal record is very limited and should be expanded for persons who have convictions for certain nonviolent offenses who have satisfied the requirements of the court and have had a period of time of good behavior. Having a conviction on one's record is a life long brand. For certain convictions, it is appropriately so. However, I believe it serves as a barrier for people who have been convicted of certain nonviolent offenses and who are motivated to change their lives around and become productive citizens. A person convicted of a nonviolent offense who has satisfied the courts and has had a period of good behavior should be allowed to have their record expunged. It should not serve as a scarlet letter for life.

9. What specifically about your qualifications do you think will enable you to improve the administration of justice in Criminal Superior Court? My record of community service to the people of Durham; particularly our youth. If people are productive law abiding citizens, they don't come to Superior Criminal Court as defendants. Before I became a judge, I was actively involved in helping the youth of my community. During my law school years, I received several awards, including one from the North Carolina State Bar, for a program that I started at NCCU School of Law pairing elementary and middle school students with law students as mentors. I have been involved in many boards, task forces, etc. to address issues to support our children and young people. Three years ago, I co-founded Restoration Institute for Leaders (RIL) , a course recovery/drop out prevention program for high school students. In January 2010, my husband Joseph and I began a three business venture in northeast central Durham - Joe's Diner, where we employ residents of the community; Godspeed Internet Café, which we hope to open when funding becomes available and TROSA Community Grocery, which is slated for an April 2010 opening. Durham has been good to me and I will continue to be good to Durham, on and off the bench.

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