Kristin Ruth | Candidate Questionnaires | Indy Week
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Kristin Ruth 

Candidate for N.C. Court of Appeals, Tyson Seat

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Name as it Appears on the Ballot: Kristin Ruth

Date of Birth: September 28, 1956

Campaign Web Site: www.JudgeRuth.com

Occupation & Employer: Judge, Wake County District Court/State of NC

Years lived in North Carolina: 23 years



1. What in your record as a judge, lawyer and/or public official, or other relevant positions, demonstrates your ability to be effective on the bench? This might include career or community service; be specific about its relevance to this office. When speaking about your legal experience, please be specific about the nature of positions held, and whether you were hired, appointed or elected.

Having been elected to the Wake County District Court in 1998, I have 10 years of experience on the bench. I am fair and impartial. I have a solid academic record and a reputation for hard work. We need judges on the Court of Appeals who have the perspective and common sense that can only come from the broad experience that I bring. I know how the rulings from appeals courts affect regular folks who appear in courtrooms around the state every day. I want to write brief, clear and concise opinions. I take great satisfaction in public service and doing the right thing. I am fair, impartial, and a creative problem-solver. I will follow the law as written with no personal or political agenda. My decisions reflect thoughtful consideration and balance. The majority of my time in Wake County District Court has been spent presiding in the courtroom designated for the enforcement of child support. This problem-solving court has been recognized in NC and nationally. We were just awarded a Federal Special Improvement Project (SIP) grant to replicate the problem-solving court as a national model for family courts hearing child support cases. The grant will allow me to provide innovative judicial education and to oversee further data analysis of our work. Please see attached document, "Breaking the Cycle: Problem Solving Techniques" which summarizes the preliminary data.

2. If you have experience as a judge, please cite at least one majority opinion, and one minority opinion, which you feel best demonstrate your understanding, and interpretation, of the law. If you have experience as a lawyer, please cite at least one case that you argued that demonstrates this understanding. (Please be specific; provide docket numbers, and—if necessary—include documents.) If you have other legal experience, please point to an article, opinion or other piece of writing that best demonstrates the same. Please indicate why you have chosen this particular opinion, case and/or piece of writing.

While I cannot discuss the specifics of ongoing cases, as a district court judge I write numerous opinions and make many difficult decisions every day. Among the most complicated cases are those dealing with divorce, custody and equitable distribution. My job as the judge is to determine the terms of the order by following the law, be fair, reasonable, and ensure that the children's needs are being met in an adequate and necessary manner. Judicial temperament comes into play while dealing with children, money, and emotions. I must be able to work through the complex issues and maintain a level of stability and control while defusing these highly emotional and argumentative parties who may be unable to communicate with each other. My goal is to be very thorough in my findings of fact, back up all my decisions with the evidence presented, articulate my decision in a written document that will withstand a review by the appellate court and formulate a disposition that will have the best interest of the children in mind. In addition, the decision must be one that the parties can abide by and financially comply with each month. Please see attached document, "Breaking the Cycle: Problem Solving Techniques" which summarizes the tools and results of data collection from the Problem-Solving Court that I created and implemented. In addition, data is now being collected on the drug treatment court that I started to order those with substance abuse issues to get treatment at no cost to the participant. The unofficial data reflects that employment and compliance in child support is improved while non-custodial parents are attending treatment.

3. Have you ever recused yourself from a case or, as a lawyer, faced a conflict of interest? Please explain.

I have recused myself as a judge in cases in which I previously represented a party.

4. In the case of N.C. v. Frank Delano Washington, which came before the N.C. Court of Appeals, all charges against Washington were dropped because, the appellate court determined, Washington's right to a speedy trial was denied. What is your interpretation of a defendant's right to a speedy trial, and what are the implications of releasing a convicted felon, in an effort to preserve that right? Please provide your opinion of the case, and the role you see judges playing in preserving constitutional rights, versus preserving public safety.

This question asks about a specific matter that could come before the court or is current pending in another part of the court system. As such, it would not be appropriate for me to comment on the legal issues involved.

5. This year, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled, in a 5-4 decision, that enemy combatants held in the United States Naval Base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba have a right to file habeas corpus petitions under the federal court system. What is your opinion of Boumediene v. Bush? More generally, what is your opinion of granting constitutional rights to enemy combatants captured in the "War on Terror"?

This question asks about a specific matter that could come before the court or is current pending in another part of the court system. As such, it would not be appropriate for me to comment on the legal issues involved.

6. One of the most controversial issues in this election year is illegal immigration. Recently, several N.C. counties—including Alamance, Johnston and Wake—have employed the 287(g) program, which streamlines local law enforcement and federal immigration enforcement. What is your opinion of these counties' handling of this program? Critics say that sheriff's departments in these counties are arresting non-citizens for petty offenses in order to enter them into federal deportation hearings, while local law enforcement agencies insist they are following the rule of law. As someone who, if elected, will interpret the law, what is your legal assessment of these arguments? More generally, can there be discretion in deciding when to apply the rule of law?

This question asks about a specific matter that could come before the court or is current pending in another part of the court system. As such, it would not be appropriate for me to comment on the legal issues involved.

7. In Kimbrough v. U.S., the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the mandatory minimum sentencing laws for the possession of crack cocaine were unconstitutional. What is your opinion of this ruling, and on mandatory minimum sentencing laws in general? Should judges have more or less flexibility in the sentencing phase than currently allowed under North Carolina law? Finally, do you feel that state judges can ever apply discretion in interpreting cases differently than federal guidelines mandate? Please provide examples.

This question asks about a specific matter that could come before the court or is current pending in another part of the court system. As such, it would not be appropriate for me to comment on the legal issues involved.

8. Does the North Carolina Constitution afford more rights than the federal Constitution, or the same?

Some parts of the North Carolina Constitution do appear to have broader, affirmative grants of rights than those in the Bill of Rights. For example, the North Carolina Constitution has an entire Article (Article IX) with many sections addressed to the right of residents to a public education. Obviously, the Courts only apply these rights to the extent that they are effectively raised in the cases before them.

9. Do you think that drug courts and mental-health courts have a place in the North Carolina judicial system? What is your opinion on "alternative sentencing" and restorative justice? Have you ever issued judgments, or advocated for judgments, that emphasize a mutual resolution between victims and defendants, and/or judgments that emphasize treatment over punishment? Please be specific.

Drug treatment courts can be very effective in heading off further incarceration, by dealing with the root of the problem. I am a firm believer in programs like this that encourage alternatives to incarceration, to keep potential offenders out of jail and in constructive roles in the community.

10. What is your interpretation of the purpose of bail?

Bail is to allow people who have been charged with crimes to remain free pending trial, and thus acknowledge the presumption of innocence, while allowing the court to set the amount to protect the community in the event the person poses a danger.

11. 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 are not reviewed by the Court of Appeals, but go directly to the state Supreme Court. Thus, this question has no application to the job for which I am running.

12. Do you favor or oppose public financing of judicial races? In particular, how do you view Canon 7 of the N.C. Judicial Code of Conduct regarding the personal solicitation of campaign contributions, taking positions on issues and endorsing candidates for other offices? What changes would you make to the current system? Please explain.

I am participating in the Public Campaign fund because I believe it helps remove much of the appearance of impropriety associated with raising large campaign contributions. In general, I do not believe that North Carolina courts or judges have been corrupted by money in politics in the past, but the creation of publicly funded campaigns are a good preventative measure, and an excellent means of increasing public confidence in our judicial system.

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

My experience at the trial level will enable me to appreciate the practical effects of my opinions. Likewise, I believe that my commitment to effective judging results in a more just system. As a judge – at the trial or appellate level – I can only make the process more just, but I cannot attempt to impose what I deem to be just outcomes that do not comply with the law.

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