District Attorney – Terry Swaim

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What is the central role of the district attorney?
The District Attorney is an administrator of justice. A lot of people say the DA is a prosecutor; well, prosecuting cases is one of his or her duties. The chief job is the administration of justice, in other words a DA has to make hard decisions because sometimes you try cases, sometimes you don’t try cases. Sometimes there’s a home invasion where the homeowner wants to shoot someone who’s invading, that’s always a controversial thing, whether you bring charges or follow through on charges that are brought

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 we tried to figure that out today, 65-80 percent of cases are minor misdemeanors or traffic expenses. We are speaking with the legislature on how to streamline it so that people who in come in don’t have to take a whole day off work to sit in a courtroom for a speeding ticket.

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?
Well we’ve been tossing around several ideas, nothing that has come to fruition because of course I’m not the district attorney, but if fortune smiles upon us and people like us and vote us in, we would to streamline that. But you’ve got to careful when you say streamline, because you don’t want to step on people’s rights. You know you have criminal cases that they’ve got to be tried because the only thing to find out is the question of fact, then you have cases that have to be tried because you have questions of law, then you have cases that are questions of both. But if you streamline things, you start stepping on people’s rights and you’re not being an administrator of justice, you’re being a prosecutor. When you’re a prosecutor, everything’s a nail when you’re a hammer.

How do you view minor drug offenses?
Well, with seven kids, somebody could take that one out of context. The law, as my professor told me one time, the law is a river and he always envisioned himself as a river captain and said the law is a river and if you ever think that the law is not a river, you’re going to hit a rock. But the law is always changing, there’s ebbs and there’s flows. The river is never the same from one day to the next.

Would you have taken the same approach to prosecuting the Moral Monday protestors and why or why not?
I work 80 hours a week and have seven kids – I do not have enough knowledge about the Moral Monday protestors to make an opinion. I’m going to have to reserve comment.

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