Full Legal Name: Brian Michael Aus
Name as it Appears on the Ballot: Brian Aus
Seat/ District: Bushfan Seat/ 14th Judicial District
Partisan Affiliation: This is a non-partisan race. I am, however, a registered Democrat.
Date of Birth: August 17, 1954
Home Address: 5826 Wilma St., Durham, NC 27712
Mailing Address (if different from home): PO Box 1345, Durham, NC 27702
Campaign Web Site: firstname.lastname@example.org and Facebook
Occupation & Employer: Attorney-at Law/ Self-employed
Bachelor's Degree Year & Institution: 1977 Rutgers University
JD Year & School: 1985 UNC-Chapel Hill
Other Degrees: MSPH 1979 UNC-Chapel Hill
Years lived in North Carolina: 32 years
Home Phone: (919) 471-9064
Work Phone: (919) 688-3704
1. What do you believe are the most important issues facing the District Court? What are your top priorities or issues of concern for the coming term?
I believe the top priority is to protect our children by assuring they have safe homes and schools, that they get needed services delivered by appropriate agencies and that non- paying absent parents be forced to financially contribute to their children's upbringing.
District Court also must continue its efforts with substance abuse treatment and improving the employment prospects of criminal offenders through drug treatment court, the S.T.A.R.R. [Substance Abuse Treatment and Recidivism Reduction] Program at the Durham County Detention Center and the Criminal Justice Resource Center. These are programs that help reduce the crime rate, produce responsible citizens and help limit the costs to taxpayers for additional law enforcement and repeated incarceration of offenders.
District Court needs to improve the process of identifying mentally ill and mentally handicapped citizens that come into the criminal justice system. The Court must assure that these persons have access to available mental health resources. Making this connection to outside agencies can help reduce the strain on our limited judicial system resources.
2. What qualifies you to serve?
I have been practicing law for twenty five years in state and federal court and have been a civil arbitrator making decisions effecting our citizens in District Court for more than 15 years. I have been involved in the following community service programs in Durham: Truancy Court Judge, Instructor for the S.T.A.R.R. Program for substance abuse treatment and lifestyle changes at the Durham County Detention Facility, board member with the Criminal Justice Partnership [which helped establish the Criminal Justice Resource Center where offenders report for treatment, education and employment opportunities] and a board member for Durham County Mental Health. I believe these life experiences would enable me to "see the entire picture" when making important and fair decisions that effect people's lives.
3. How do you define yourself politically? How does that impact your judicial approach?
I am a middle-of-the-roader. My political views on any given subject should not and would not influence my decision-making process.
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?
There is no incumbent in this race. I do, however, disagree with some sitting judge's decisions to utilize supervised probation for marijuana offenses involving less than ounce. Ideally, most criminal offenders should be subject to some form of supervision, but our limited resources must be used more effectively.
5. What do you feel was the U.S. Supreme Court's most important recent decision? Did you agree with the majority?
Crawford v. Washington, 541 U.S. 36 (2004) reaffirmed a criminal defendant's constitutional right to confrontation of witnesses against him. Too often the courts gave a nod and a wink to the right of confrontation by allowing unsworn, out-of-court statements of absent witnesses to be introduced as evidence against a criminal defendant. This was done under the guise of an "excited utterance." This is no longer the case. The legal principle enunciated in Crawford recently was extended to chemical analyses [and DNA testing] by the Supreme Court through Melendez-Diaz v. Massachusetts, ___ U.S. ___, 129 S.Ct. 2527 (2009). As a citizen and practicing attorney, I welcomed the Supreme Court's decision as being long overdue.
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?
The current judicial selection system has served us well. I am, however, concerned that with the ever-increasing amounts of money being spent in judicial races, that the process is becoming more about who can raise more money rather than about who is best qualified to serve as a judge. A publicly-funded judicial selection system may prove to be the answer.
7. Have you ever pled guilty or no contest to any criminal charge other than a minor traffic offense? Please explain.
8. Is there anything else you'd like to add about yourself or the issues that are important to you?
I believe my life experiences as a lawyer, my work in this community and my role as a parent and husband have instilled in me values that Durham wants in one of its next District Court judges. District Court should not only be about fairly enforcing the laws but must be about making this community an even better place to live in.
9. 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.
Offenders who are on supervised probation and violate the terms of their probation need to be jailed for some period of time. I am not talking about offenders who are unable to pay money due to their poverty; these people could do community serve in lieu of paying money. Keeping in mind that probation is a "grace" bestowed upon offenders by the General Assembly to show that they can be productive citizens, violators wanting another chance already got one by being on probation. Giving second, third and fourth chances simply gives the message that we are not serious about law enforcement.
10. On the District Court level, what improvements can be made in terms of the juvenile justice system? What are the weaknesses or constraints in the court's handling of juvenile offenders?
We need more court counselors, treatment facilities and educational alternatives for these children. Unfortunately, this need arises due to lack of money. I would use the office of District Court Judge to lobby for improvement of the juvenile system.
We also need to identify children with needs early in the process. All too often, children are well down the road toward a life of crime before they even surface in the juvenile justice system. We therefore need to expand truancy court to every school within Durham Public School system. This can be done with a minimal investment of resources.