Harry E. Payne Jr. | Candidate Questionnaires | Indy Week
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Harry E. Payne Jr. 

N.C. Court of Appeals

Full Legal Name: Harry E. Payne, Jr.

Name as it Appears on the Ballot: Harry E. Payne Jr.

Seat Sought: NC Court of Appeals

Partisan Affiliation: Democrat

Date of Birth: 09/11/1952

Home & Mailing Address: 4208 Webster Court, Raleigh , NC 27609

Campaign Web Site: www.payneforjudge.com

Occupation & Employer: Attorney serving as Manager of Compliance, NC-OERI

Bachelor's Degree Year & Institution: Psychology, Political Science UNC-Chapel Hill. 1974

JD Year & School: JD 1977, Wake Forest University School of Law

Years lived in North Carolina: 58

Home Phone: 919 954-9219

Work Phone: 919 733-1567

Email: Cupioni@gmail.com

1. What are your top priorities or issues of concern for the coming term?

To fairly administer the law and make sound, well reasoned and well explained decisions regarding the issues brought to the North Carolina Court of Appeals

2. What qualifies you to serve?

My trial experience came early in my career. I graduated Law Review from Wake Forest University, passed the bar, and set up my own practice without interviewing with a firm. I feared that I would be hired for my writing skills and just had to know if I could compete in the courtroom when someone's freedom, assets or children's custody were on the line.

Politics and a run for the NC House became my opportunity to force myself to climb as many mountains as I could at once. Thought I'd try a jury of 120,000 to make the 12 easier. In the court of public opinion, only I was being judged. To my surprise, I loved it and, even more addictive, it was a real chance to make a different kind of difference.

I was able to blend 15 years of growing a law firm in my hometown with 12 years of legislative responsibility representing it.

As candidate, I was free to campaign on how I could change the law. As a six-term legislator, I devoted every moment to keeping those promises.  My perspective became broader than the focused demands of a particular case.  Though the job of legislator requires one to stretch and be conversant in the full spectrum of legal issues, the reality is that a public body rewards some degree of specialization.

I chose the law of the workplace and, after twelve years of building expertise, the role of NC Commissioner of Labor was a natural next step. After election my knowledge in this area was shaped and tested for eight more years beneath a bright public light that seemed half the distance between the Legislature and the General Court of Justice.

By 2001, I could not return to elective politics without conflicting with my wife's journalism career. I was appointed to Chair (CEO) the North Carolina Employment Security Commission where I served seven years. While the Commission could and did hear important cases, the vast number of cases and appeals was a daily challenge. There were broad complex legal issues we faced affecting the viability of our rating system and your Unemployment Trust Fund. Since the end of my ESC term, I have become the manager of compliance of the billions of recovery dollars coming to North Carolina. I have also been the point person of the NC Office of Economic Recovery and Investment regarding the spectrum of bond offerings.

My path now leads me to the Court of Appeals. This court offers time to study and reflect on tough issues distant from the passions of the trial with the benefit of collective judgment. My background has been perfect training for this and it is in that study and reflection where I have comfort and confidence. That I don't present to you with either a bloody nose or a victory dance from a recent case should be some source of confidence that I can approach the questions in a dispassionate way.

I lay down my previous swords of advocacy and agenda fully understanding the role of the Court of Appeals.  I retain and offer, however the depth of experience, judgment and season that come from a life of legal service and offer a unique understanding of the laws that touch the lives of working people.

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

My politics, decisions, and the perspective that comes from making tough decisions beneath a bright public light are a matter of record. So is my personal love of issue based campaigns. This is not one of them and no election to the NC Court of Appeals should be allowed to become that. Even though current law allows much more latitude in that direction, it does not affect my belief that one should remove themselves from issues where they have "pre-announced" in a campaign environment their leanings. Such statements not only create an expectation (a moral contract) with the voters but undermine public confidence in the Judiciary. The cumulative effect over time is that we slowly evolve into being elected on our vague hints at where we might go on a particular hot button topic. Hints often include which US Supreme justices we identify with, endorsements of persons or advocacy groups with clear public expressions on these issues or nods from judges who, through their decisions are clear in their perspective on the issues of the day. These endorsements are comforting in that you know "how they might go' and are themselves a good reason to look at the process of judicial selection. The farthest place that I can go on that continuum is to refer to my record and to suggest that, beyond the understanding of the process and the Court's place in our judiciary which is shared by all of the candidates, this is a decision for voters regarding each candidates thoughtful, reflective judgment on matters placed before them. Appellate Judges don't try cases, write briefs argue issues or make any decisions off of the "top of their head" as trial judges are required to do. They apply a lifetime of season with legal reasoning to reach their independent result in a case. My judgment has been shaped by this attorney's life and work experience in the laws affecting the North Carolina workplace.

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?

Because of the timing of this election, it doesn't apply. It also tends to hold the potential of a clear statement of position on an issue which might later result in not being able to participate in its decision.

5. What do you feel was the U.S. Supreme Court's most important recent decision? Did you agree with the majority? What is the role of that court in setting precedent for North Carolina's appellate courts?

I can comment on the matters of judicial restraint and am tempted to say Citizens United (citation omitted) allowing corporate money to flood the political arena. I imagine that I am joined in my dismay of judicial overreaching and its impact on civil governance and so there would be little revelation in my point of view. Structurally, I think the Olmstead (citation omitted) case which demanded that states move to the "least restrictive environment" persons in mental health facilities is a study not only of the issue before it but touches on the role of the Court and the measureable impact of its decisions and the costs so inherent in any lack of clear guidance even in the best of decisions. The 1999 case set off fifty states and the most vulnerable population that they serve on vastly expensive, vaguely guided search for just what the Court might deem sufficient. Though Justice Ginsberg touches on the Court's recognition that change cannot be overnight, there is little comfort beyond that. Though the court gives examples of what a state might do, too often it adds a caveat as large as the primary guidance. Though the decision is sound and the intent laudable, it sadly ignores that this is a vulnerable population that is waiting while states spend billions of dollars trying to solve the puzzle created. The deference to legislative action may well be appropriate restraint, but more clarity will insure a greater likelihood of basic rights being protected.

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?

It is awkward, clumsy, expensive, and the fact that it is non-partisan and down-ballot often magnifies the effect of any lack of voter awareness and participation. Just like democracy. What tips the balance in favor of the general elective approach for me is the context and learning afforded each candidate by the process and the effect that it has on the winner of the job. It is both humbling and educational to visit every corner of the state and see, feel, and touch the lives of the people who might grant you their trust. Other systems would change the politics from on the street and transparent to appointive or "who gets to select on the commission that chooses" These processes are further away from the public nature of elective campaigns. As clumsy as the often lengthy campaign can be, the senseless delay of Judge Wynn's confirmation illustrates that an appointive process is still political and that "could be time efficient" doesn't mean that it will be. The money is a problem. The people most likely to give to a campaign for a judicial election are family and close personal friends of the candidate and fellow attorneys. That screams for a better way. The opinion pieces that decry big money fueling campaigns are often right beside the articles that rate "how a candidate is doing" by how much money they have raised. It is a legislative matter which doesn't affect this race, so I am comfortable saying that I would adjust the public system to allow for number of contributors or signatures to hold more weight than the amount raised. That would give those with different sized pockets the same chance.

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


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

Without violating the restraint that I believe necessary for me to later hear the "tough" questions, let me say that in each term that I have served in public office, I identified and faced issues for which I was willing to sacrifice the next election because of the principle involved. I have found that enormously liberating and key to a better night's sleep.

9. Do you favor or oppose applying a plain error review to all alleged errors in capital cases? Do you favor or oppose mandating appellate review in post-conviction capital cases to help avoid arbitrariness in review of post-conviction capital cases by superior court judges? Please explain.

Capital Cases do not come to the Court of Appeals.

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