Paul Holcombe | Candidate Questionnaires - Statewide | Indy Week

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Paul Holcombe

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Full Legal Name: Paul A. Holcombe III
Name as it Appears on the Ballot: Paul Holcombe
Office Sought/District: Judge, NC Court of Appeals (Davis seat)
Party: N/A (Nonpartisan)
Date of Birth: 02-02-2014
Home Address: 94 Normandy Drive Clayton, NC 27527
Mailing Address (if different from home):
Campaign Web Site: www.judgepaulholcombe.com
Occupation & Employer: District Court Judge/ State of North Carolina
Years lived in Durham: None- I grew up in Raleigh
Home Phone:
Work Phone: 919-333-7259 (M)
Email: judgeholcombe@gmail.com

1. If you have made pledges, taken positions or otherwise commented on how you might rule in office, what are your top three priorities or issues of concern for the coming term?

1. To resolve the cases before the NC Court of Appeals fairly and impartially utilizing my broad judicial experience as a District Court Judge and former trial attorney; 2. To ensure through my rulings that everyone who enters a trial courtroom across North Carolina receives a fair and impartial trial or hearing without regard to their social or economic status and 3. To work with the other appellate judges and justices of the NC Court of Appeals and the NC Supreme Court to improve the administration of justice across North Carolina through greater transparency, and increased communication with the public and other elected officials.

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

I have spent my entire career as a public servant-the last six years as a District Court Judge for Johnston, Harnett and Lee counties. Over this time I have handled thousands of cases involving situations faced everyday by the people of North Carolina. These include, among many others, cases involving divorce, child custody, domestic violence, juvenile delinquency and misdemeanor and traffic offenses. After my first term, I was re-elected without opposition based upon my fairness and effectiveness as a trial judge.

3. How do you define yourself politically and how do your political and legal philosophies show in your past achievements and present campaign platform?

When I sought election in 2008, I pledged to make judicial decisions fairly and impartially and to treat each person who came before me the way I would want to be treated. Having effectively kept my pledge for the last six years, I am seeking to continue this service as a member of the NC Court of Appeals. I believe strongly in the separation of powers and the unique role of each of the three branches of government as provided in both the US and NC Constitutions. I also believe it is important for judges to promote the rule of law both inside and outside of the courtroom.

4. The INDY’s mission is to help build a just community in the Triangle. How would your election to office help further that goal?

As I indicated in question number 1, above, my top three priorities would include ensuring through my rulings that everyone who enters a trial courtroom across North Carolina receives a fair and impartial trial or hearing without regard to their social or economic status and working with other members of our appellate courts to improve the administration of justice in the Triangle and across all of North Carolina.

5. Identify a principled stand you might be willing to take if elected that you suspect might cost you some popularity points with voters.

Under our judicial system it is the responsibility of the State to prove that someone charged with a crime is guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. If the State does not prove its case as required, then a judge should find the defendant “not guilty.” One of the many benefits of electing appellate court judges who have previously served as District and Superior Court judges is that a voter can consider their service and determine whether they are willing to suppress evidence or find defendants “not guilty” when appropriate.

6. The Court of Appeals does not hold oral arguments for a large portion of cases, and a large portion of opinions go unpunished. Is this an adequate way to build a body of case law?

I believe the people of North Carolina and the judicial system in North Carolina would be better served by an increase in the number of cases in which oral arguments are held, and an increase in the number of published decisions.

7. What is the role of the U.S. Supreme Court in setting precedent for North Carolina’s appellate courts?

Under our system of government the appellate courts of North Carolina are bound to follow precedent from the U.S. Supreme Court to the extent that precedent provides minimum constitutional standards, or is based on federal law. The people of North Carolina through the NC Constitution can provide for greater constitutional protections for its people, but cannot provide less protections than those provided in the US Constitution.

8. Do you favor or oppose public financing of judicial races? Please explain. What changes would you make to the current system to improve it?

Across the United States, different states use different methods to select and retain judges. In North Carolina we have elected judges and justices for nearly 150 years. The election process allows the people of North Carolina an opportunity to choose who will serve in these important roles. While I believe this is the best system, it is important that we engage in continuing dialogue about how to improve the selection of judicial candidates and how to increase informed voter participation in judicial elections.

9. Have you ever recused yourself from a case or, as a lawyer, faced a conflict of interest? Please describe the case.

I have recused myself in several cases during my six years as a District Court Judge and would do so again if my fairness or impartiality could reasonably be questioned.

10. Sometimes state laws conflict with personal beliefs. Please list the two laws with which you are most uncomfortable personally. How do you deal with those conflicts?

Each judge and justice takes an oath to support the Constitution of the United States and the Constitution of North Carolina. In our society, individuals who disagree with laws that are otherwise constitutional are free to advocate for changes to, or repeal of, those laws through the legislative process. If unsuccessful they can seek to replace legislators through the electoral process.

11. The passage of mandatory minimum sentencing laws has removed some of the discretion judges, juries and prosecutors used to exercise in the sentencing phase of criminal trials. Should judges have more or less flexibility in the sentencing phase than currently allowed under North Carolina law? Please explain.

As a matter of policy, I believe trial judges should have significant flexibility in making sentencing decisions. One of the additional benefits of electing appellate court judges who have previously served as a District or Superior Court judge, as I have, is that a voter can consider his or her service and determine whether the judge has exercised their discretion in a fair and impartial manner.

12. In this new technological world, do you perceive a conflict between government surveillance and the need to protect an individual’s privacy?

Clearly there is an increasing conflict between government surveillance and the need to protect an individual’s privacy. The majority of us use technology more extensively than ever before in both our public and private lives, and at the same time, technology provides the government with new and expanding ways to conduct surveillance.

13. What are your thoughts about criminal culpability for young people? Is the North Carolina criminal justice system treating them appropriately?

This question relates to policy issues that are reasonably likely to be litigated in our courts, therefore I am not free comment on this issue. I believe it important to note, however, that I have been a certified juvenile judge since 2010 and I am the only candidate in this race who has ever presided over a juvenile delinquency case.

14. Does the death penalty place an undue financial burden on the courts?

This question relates to policy issues that are reasonably likely to be litigated in our courts, therefore I am not free comment on this issue.

15. Justice Department Officials had instructed federal prosecutors across the country not to focus federal resources on individuals who were complying with state laws regarding the use of medical marijuana. As a judge, do you find this philosophy confusing?

This question relates to policy issues that are reasonably likely to be litigated in our courts, therefore I am not free comment on this issue.

16. The law offers special protections to racial and ethnic minorities. Are members of the LGBT community sufficiently protected?

This question relates to policy issues that are reasonably likely to be litigated in our courts, therefore I am not free comment on this issue.

17. Has the current processing for redistricting served the State well?

This question relates to policy issues that are reasonably likely to be litigated in our courts, therefore I am not free comment on this issue.

18. Have the legislative branch unduly depleted the power of the judicial branch in terms of civil procedure?

This question relates to policy issues that are reasonably likely to be litigated in our courts, therefore I am not free comment on this issue.

19. There is not complete judicial uniformity across the state; some jurisdictions, for example, have family and drug courts while others do not. Are we meeting the needs of the entire state?

No. Any time there exists disparity in programs and available resources inequities arise. As indicated in question 1, above, one of my top three priorities will be to work to improve the administration of justice across the state of North Carolina.

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