Abe Jones | Candidate Questionnaires | Indy Week

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Abe Jones

Candidate for Superior Court Judge, Wake County, District 10E


Name as it Appears on the Ballot: Abe Jones

Full Legal Name: Abraham Penn Jones

Date of Birth: 03-07-1952

Campaign Web Site: www.ReelectJudgeAbeJones.com

Occupation & Employer: Superior Court Judge, State of North Carolina

Years lived in Wake County: 35 years, raised in Raleigh, NC

Email: Campaign@ReelectJudgeAbeJones.com

1. What do you believe are the most important issues facing the Superior Court, District 10E? What are your top three priorities in addressing these issues?

The most important issue facing Superior Court in Wake County, District 10E, and the entire district 10, is the question of fairness. It is important that the court not only be fair, but also be perceived as being fair. Otherwise, citizens lose confidence in our judiciary. A second important issue is that we need to do everything that can be done to support, encourage, and maintain a strong, well-functioning probation system. We should keep our experienced probation officers, and inform the probation managers of the knowledge judges obtain in court. A third important issue that faces Superior Court in Wake County, District 10E, is one of judicial independence. Judges must be independent thinkers. They must act in accordance with their conscience and the evidence in all cases, and not simply align with the prosecution or defense.

2. What in your record as a public official or other experience demonstrates your ability to be an effective superior court judge? This might include career or community service; be specific about its relevance to this office.

During the 17 years that I have been on the bench I have demonstrated my effectiveness primarily by being an active listener—striving to be fair to both prosecution and defense in criminal court. Also, in civil court I have been even-handed with the plaintiff and defense bars and their clients. My experience in a large law firm, as a solo practitioner, a defense attorney, and a prosecutor over an 18 year career prior to becoming a judge, gives me a very unique perspective. This depth of knowledge allows me to integrate broad life experiences into the way I conduct my courtroom. My grasp of the other side of the bench, impels me to listen intently and ask questions, read all the materials thoroughly, and weigh all sides before making a decision. My prior service in elected office as a county commissioner (1990-1994) in a large urban county (Wake), gives me a vantage point that many judges and most seeking to be judges do not have. It also affords me real life non-judicial experience in making complex, meaningful decisions.

3. 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.

One stand I take as a judge that may not be popular with some is that I will grant motions to suppress evidence where I deem the law has been violated in acquiring that evidence. Unfortunately, many judges simply deny these in a routine manner. By contrast, I give meaningful hearings on these motions.

4. 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 re-election to the judgeship after two prior terms of service will help the community in the Triangle because it will send a message that seasoned judges who are fair, effective, and independent thinkers should stay on the bench. Since most of the defendants are racial minorities, it serves the whole community that an experienced, well-qualified, African-American judge remains on the bench—reflective of the community's diverse components. Every person that comes through the courtroom should be listened to carefully and afforded a full hearing. It is for this reason, that I question thoroughly and engage all parties in each case before making up my mind.

5. What is your experience with juvenile felony offenders? What can be done to prevent delinquency and gang involvement?

From the perspective of the bench, superior court judges do not have a great deal of interaction with juvenile felony offenders, except when they are tried as adults in superior court. Most of the juvenile cases remain in district court. However, I believe more social intervention in young men's lives by the juvenile justice officers would be beneficial, particularly in the African American and Hispanic communities. As a community, we need to reach these young people where they live, work, and play to prevent them from reaching the court system.

6. What improvements could be made in the Wake County judicial system to expedite the trying of cases and ease caseloads?

Currently, the Wake County judicial system suffers from an over-crowded and loosely organized case docket. One improvement that could be made is to handle homicide cases and probation cases in separate courts for several months at a time. The restructure of the docket and the calendar and would expedite the trying of all cases. Homicide and probation cases have particular characteristics that benefit from singular focus and persistent review by dedicated parties in the judicial process. This reorganization would allow for more efficient use of time and resources.

7. How can the court system make it easier for clients and the public to understand and navigate it?

One way the courts could make it easier for the public to understand and navigate the system would be to add a pro bono access tool to current online services. This facility could allow attorneys to volunteer their time and expertise to citizens with the express purpose of clarifying the court process.

8. There have been several cases of innocent people being sentenced to prison or even to death. While this largely falls to the defense and prosecution, what can judges do to ensure innocent people are not punished?

The most important thing that judges can do to make certain that innocent people are not punished is to use judicial influence and authority to direct and encourage those accused of crimes to get competent counsel. All people who cannot afford a lawyer are entitled to court appointed counsel. Judges should explain and emphasize this entitlement, above and beyond the documented procedure, to all defendants who cannot afford a lawyer.

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