Name as it appears on the ballot: Margaret Eagles
Campaign website: www.EaglesforJudge.com
Phone number: 919-801-5575
Years lived in the state: 43
1) Please tell us what in your record as a public official or private citizen demonstrates your ability to be effective, fair, and impartial on the bench? These might include career or community service—please be specific.
As a District Court Judge, I have presided in criminal, civil and juvenile courtrooms. I have worked with families in crisis during my tenure in the Abuse, Neglect and Dependency Courtroom. I am currently the lead Domestic Violence Judge, presiding in the criminal Domestic Violence Courtroom, and the civil Domestic Violence Protective Order Courtroom. I worked alongside the Administrative Office of the Courts and multiple stakeholders to implement remote electronic filing of complaints for emergency domestic violence protective orders from Interact, our local rape crisis and domestic violence agency. I am the co-chair of the Wake County Domestic Violence Task Force and a member of the Wake County Domestic Violence Fatality Review Team. I have attended multiple national seminars about domestic violence and its impact on children and families. I am also a member of various civic and professional organizations.
2) What do you believe qualifies you to serve on Court of Appeals?
I am the only candidate in my race that has judicial experience. I have served on the District Court bench since 2009 presiding in criminal, civil and juvenile courtrooms. I received my judicial juvenile certification while presiding in the Abuse, Neglect and Dependency Courtroom and am currently the lead Domestic Violence Judge, presiding in the criminal and civil Domestic Violence courtrooms. I started my legal career as a judicial clerk for Justice Wainwright on the NC Supreme Court, working on appeals in criminal and civil cases. As an Assistant Attorney General, I represented the State in environmental enforcement litigation and in criminal appeals in the NC Court of Appeals. In private practice, I was a civil litigator, handling numerous jury trials in District and Superior Courts. My strong appellate background, coupled with my experience multiple areas of the law, demonstrates that I will be effective on the NC Court of Appeals if elected. I also have a proven record of hard work on the district court bench. In addition, I have been endorsed by numerous former justices and judges because they believe I am the best candidate for this seat.
3) How do you define yourself politically? How does that impact your judicial approach?
I am a lifelong Democrat, and I have a history of public service. However, my personal political philosophies do not impact my judicial approach on the District Court bench, and they will not impact my judicial approach if elected to the Court of Appeals. I am dedicated to the rule of law, and will abide by my judicial oath. My judicial decisions are and will continue to be based on interpretations of the law as written, not as I wish it were, in light of the NC Constitutions and US Constitution.
4) What do you believe are the three most important qualities a judge must have to be an effective jurist? Which judges, past or present, do you most admire? Why?
I am dedicated to the rule of law, steadfast in my respect to the public trust and committed to impartiality for all who appear before me. I believe that each of these are important qualities for a judge to have.
I admire many judges for the work they do and have done. Just to name a few, I admire former Judge Martha Geer for her hard work and dedication to the rule of law and former Justice Patricia Timmons-Goodson for her consistent judgment and consummate professionalism. Of course, the judge that I admire the most would have to be former Chief Judge Sidney Eagles, not only because he is my father and I love him, but because I respect his work on the Court, his true belief in the system and the grace and courtesy he shows to everyone he encounters. My father used to teach at Campbell Law School, and for years, he would write a note of encouragement to any Campbell student who failed the bar examination. When I was young, before I had sat for the bar myself, I asked him why he didn’t write to the students who had passed. His response was that folks who had passed the bar didn’t need a note, but the folks who had not been successful needed encouragement and a kind word. It was an amazing example of thoughtfulness and collegiality that our profession should offer to each other. I was and continue to be very proud.
5) The INDY’s mission is to help build a more just community in the Triangle. How would your election help further that goal?
As I stated above, I am dedicated to the rule of law, am steadfast in my respect to the public trust and committed to impartiality for all who appear before me as a district court judge, and would continue to do so if elected to the NC Court of Appeals. If elected, I would continue to treat all parties in the same manner, regardless of who they are or who represents them. As I stated above, I would never allow political pressures or outside influences to affect my judicial determinations.
6) What do you think are the three most crucial issues facing the state’s judicial system at this moment? Explain how, if elected, you’d help remedy those issues. And how do you think the Court of Appeals can do to address those issues?
One significant issue facing the judicial system is concerns about the public’s access to justice. There are concerns about the challenges individuals face when navigating the civil justice system without legal representation, in very important cases dealing with housing, child custody, debt collection and domestic violence. The NC Equal Access to Justice Commission, along with Legal Aid and the NC Bar Association are all working to address this, including by encouraging pro bono work by attorneys, providing resources for unrepresented individuals, and encouraging the increase of free interpretive services in civil matters.
Another crucial issue facing the judicial branch is lack of resources. Throughout the State, multiple aspects of the judicial system are underfunded and at times, overwhelmed by the needs of the public. Many different agencies within the judicial system have begun using technology, updating systems and processes and creating other innovative ways to improve efficiency throughout the legal process.
Another significant issue facing the judicial system is the significant number of litigants who are in need of mental health or substance abuse treatment. The number of involuntary commitments within Wake County alone has significantly increased, which is impacting not only law enforcement, magistrates, but also local hospitals and our mental health treatment facilities. Various jurisdictions are implementing diversion programs or specialty courts in an attempt to address some of these issues.
7) Do you think the judicial system is becoming too politicized? Explain. If elected, how would you address any perceptions that politics play a role in judicial decisions?
With the removal of public financing, judicial elections require raising an increasingly large amount of money to advertise a judicial candidate’s qualifications and provide information about his or her race. The challenge, however is that having sitting judges and prospective judges asking for money, could potentially bring the impartiality of the entire judicial system into question.
However, as a district court judge, I do not make any decisions based on politics, and would continue to not allow politics to impact my decisions if elected to the NC Court of Appeals. As I stated above, I would follow and support the law as written, and any precedent available, so long as it is in compliance with the NC Constitution and the US Constitution.