Henry Pruette | Candidate Questionnaires | Indy Week

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Henry Pruette

Candidate for Durham District Judge

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Full Legal Name: Henry Wolfe Pruette

Name as it Appears on the Ballot: Henry Pruette

Office Sought/District: 14th Judicial District (Walker Seat)

Party: Democrat

Mailing address: P.O. Box 61018, Durham, NC 27715

Date of Birth: 12/05/1955

Campaign Web Site: www.pruetteforjudge.com

Occupation & Employer: Attorney, Self-employed

Years lived in Durham: 28 years

Work Phone: 919-294-8412

Email: elect.henrypruette.judge@gmail.com


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?

The overwhelming number of cases the District Court has to resolve on a daily basis in an efficient and fair manner is the most important issue facing the court. District Court faces all of society's challenges every day by default, including but not limited to domestic violence, juvenile delinquency, drugs, alcohol, mental health, and family law matters. Each case has the right to be heard. The challenge is to process and prioritize the cases in an expeditious manner to accomplish this difficult goal.

My top priority is to support any and all viable efforts at alternative sentences, especially with respect to juveniles, defendants with drug and alcohol issues, and mental health needs. Unfortunately, the jail has become the modern catchall for all of our social ills, which it is not equipped to handle. I will continue to volunteer in the Durham community, trying to prevent any of these above problems from making their way into the court system.

2. What qualifies you to serve?

I have practiced law since 1989. I have extensive experience in every area of District Court, including civil lawsuits and criminal defense work, civil commitments, traffic, juvenile, IV-D child support, Department of Social Services cases, adoptions, and family law matters. I have had the opportunity to learn from outstanding District Court Judges from the past and present and all of my colleagues over the years. I will apply my training, experience, and accumulated knowledge to the District Court in a fair and impartial manner.

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

I am a registered Democrat, but partisan politics have absolutely no place in District Court. It is my duty to apply the law to the facts in a fair and consistent manner and I will do so.

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?

In the month of August 2013, Judge Walker was reversed twice by the North Carolina Court of Appeals. In both cases, I strongly agree with the Court of Appeals.

In the first case, Willis v. Roberts (00 CVD 2860), Roberts was held in civil contempt for failure to pay alleged child support arrearages. Because the record contained no effective order that required him to pay arrearages, the court reversed Judge Walker's contempt citation.

Next in, Wood v. Orr, Jr. (92 CVD 5241) Judge Walker held the Defendant in contempt after summarily concluding that he had the present ability to pay child support. The Court of Appeals reversed on a host of reasons, including the trial court's own findings that the Defendant was unemployed and that the Defendant was using his $430 a month SSI check (his only source of income) to contribute to his current household expenses. In a footnote to this unpublished opinion, the Court of Appeals noted that "baby" and "child" referenced by Judge Walker as needing the child support in the contempt proceeding was twenty-one at the time.

5. What do you feel was the U.S. Supreme Court's most important recent decision? Did you agree with the majority?

Did you agree with the majority? McCutcheon v. Federal Election Commission, 572U.S.___ (2014) strikes down the cap on the total amount of money an individual can contribute to federal candidates in a two-year election period. I disagree with the 5-4 majority, which effectively further opened the door to influence brought not by public opinion but bought by money alone.

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

No.

7. 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.

As a District Court Judge, it is imperative that those before me are not only treated fairly but that their sentences meet the expectation of justice. For example, I have a principled stand that the mentally ill and those suffering with addictions should not just be dumped into jail and forgotten. I will constantly look for sentencing alternatives that may cost me popularity points with voters.

8. 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?

I believe that Chief District Court Judge Marcia Morey has worked tirelessly over the years to improve Juvenile Court. I congratulate her on the recent Juvenile Diversion Court that has come to fruition through the efforts of so many people dedicated to that cause. I will support all efforts to find alternative sentencing and help to juveniles.

The weaknesses and constraints in handling juvenile court are obvious: too many cases, too little money, and too few diversionary courts.

9. What do think the priorities should be for Durham law enforcement?

The Durham Police Department would better serve the community if they followed the Sheriff's Department's model. The Durham County Sheriff's Department has done an excellent job moving toward community based law enforcement and prevention .

10. What additional resources would you like to see implemented for defendants? Is there a need for more diversion courts or sentencing services?

There is a definite need for more diversion courts and sentencing services. However, the state legislature is not moving in this direction with appropriate funding levels. Within the reality of the monetary constraints, I will attempt to marshal already existing community resources to fill in these gaps, as well as continue to utilize and increase the number of diversion courts and sentencing alternatives now available.

11. Many people complain that the criminal justice system is clogged with defendants suffering from mental illnesses. How would you like to see this problem addressed?

I would like for the mentally ill to be treated by mental health experts. The sad reality is that the services are not fully funded or in place and the mentally ill have no resources to turn to. I would like to see this problem resolved with diversionary courts and creative sentencing that addresses the underlying problems.

12. Durham Public School suspensions are on the rise, and many people worry about the so-called “school to prison pipeline.” Can anything be done to remedy the problem on the judicial side of things?

The Juvenile Diversionary program is a big step in the right direction. Also, Judges can go into the community to educate both juveniles and the greater population on the court system and its negative impact on them. The "school to prison pipeline" is a waste of potential and talent. I will do all I can to reverse this tragedy.

13. Persistent domestic violence calls-for-service have befuddled law enforcement, women’s advocates and criminal justice officials across the state. What role can you play to help the situation?

This is a serious issue that needs the full attention of the community. I will listen carefully to all of the above groups and support their efforts, while applying their collective knowledge to my own to do the absolute best to deal with this persistent, tragic, and volatile issue.

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