What is the central role of the district attorney?
To enforce the laws that are enacted by the legislature, but I think the office has to be a great deal more than that. I think its more of an apolitical office, even though we’re running for parties, I think it ought to be more like the positions for judges in the state that are supposed to be nonpolitical. The job is supposed to benefit everybody.
Some judicial districts around the state make use of special courtroom procedures or pleas for minor offenses like traffic violations. How would you handle cases like these in Wake County?
I think one of the things you can do is try to reduce the traffic in the courthouse, which you can do if you go to these high schools with these young kids that are killing themselves on the weekends and driving like maniacs. If they understand better what they’re putting at stake or risking, I think it would go a long way to help reduce the amount of folks we have coming into the courtroom.
The District Attorney’s office needs to take a more active role in helping to educate the people that would be willing to listen to you about what the laws are and what the impact of them is and how you can avail. The long and the short of it is, if you don’t do anything that’s going to hurt yourself or somebody else, if you don’t take anything that doesn’t belong to you and you don’t lie, if you can take care of those three things, you can really observe the law.
District Attorneys around the state have taken different steps to manage the flow of cases. What will you do to improve the speed and efficiency of the criminal court docket in Wake County?
I want to make sure to have the mindset that you can do it efficiently. One of my first jobs as a lawyer was working for a federal judge, and he had two carts that would roll around the office and he had case files that were stacked standing on end. I left the job in 8 months and came to work in Raleigh and when I walked out of the door, there wasn’t a single file on either of those two carts. So I busted my butt and that’s something that I learned growing up in the fields of Northeastern North Carolina – working hard is not a substitute for working smart, but it does help if you’re willing to do both.
How do you view minor drug offenses?
Well like I said, I think we can avoid a lot of that by having people be educated about it. This is sort of a two-part question. It’s whether or not someone’s doing it for the first time and they’re experimenting with it, or if they’ve got a serious problem they cannot control. What would be helpful to do is when I worked in criminal defense, and I probably cost myself thousands of dollars for this attitude, when I had a kid come in, I tried very hard to have them not come back to see me. If I can do that, it makes my society better, it makes me help some kid out of a problem they had and make them a productive member of society. There’s a lot to be said for making sure people get a second opportunity.
Would you have taken the same approach to prosecuting the Moral Monday protestors and why or why not?
You’re not gong to have complete discretion, you may not be able to keep your job very long if you don’t use good, judicious discretion. There’s some merit to be said for when the Moral Monday Protestors are kind of in their house, and it is their house, but it doesn’t mean they get to disrupt it. I think Mr. Willoughby’s suggestion that folks be issued citations rather than getting arrested and clogging the courthouse, that might’ve been something to do.