Name as it appears on the ballot: Samantha Cabe
Campaign website: www.samanthacabe.com
Phone number: 919—928-5701
Years lived in the state: 41
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.
My professional experience, community involvement, and personal life have provided me with the knowledge, skills, and values to be an effective, fair, and impartial District Court Judge.
A fair and effective District Court Judge must have broad knowledge and experience in the relevant legal and social issues presented daily in district court. A judge must also have knowledge of the diverse people and community she serves. Being a fair and effective District Court Judge requires listening with empathy while never failing to uphold our U.S. and state constitutions; and it requires the ability to apply the law consistently and fairly with patience and firm kindness.
Everyday, District Court Judges make decisions that have profound effects on the lives of ordinary people. They decide whether a parent has neglected a child; whether a teenager charged with a crime should be confined; whether a child of divorce should move thousands of miles away from one of his parents; whether a person has been abused in his or her home; whether a loved one living with mental illness should remain in confined treatment; and whether a person charged with a crime is guilty or innocent. These decisions are life-changing events for every person affected by them, and often, even a fair and consistent application of the law has a devastating impact on one or both parties and their families.
For the last 14 years, I have been a lawyer in this community helping people in every area of district court. I have extensive trial and appellate experience in child welfare law—protecting abused and neglected children—as well as in all areas of family law such as child custody, child support, and the division of property between spouses. I have also represented clients in criminal and traffic cases, domestic violence matters, juvenile delinquency court, evictions, contract disputes, involuntary commitment proceedings, Adult Protective Services, and in our Family Drug Treatment Court. During my 14 years as a lawyer, I have stood at the sides of men, women, and children from every walk of life as they have faced life-changing decisions from District Court Judges about their families, their safety, their livelihoods, and their freedoms. I have seen the emotional, physical, and financial impacts that the decisions and processes of district court have on peoples’ lives, so I know how important it is to each person appearing in court that a judge listen to the parties, give each issue careful and thoughtful review, and apply the law consistently and fairly in every case.
During my career, I have gained the respect and confidence of my peers who elected me to serve as both treasurer and president of the 15B District Bar, and I have been appointed by both Superior and District Court Judges to serve on committees to draft/revise our local court rules. I have earned the support of many lawyers, former judges, and community leaders who believe I have the legal knowledge, experience, integrity, temperament, and demeanor to be a fair and effective District Court Judge. (See my list of supporters at www.samanthacabe.com/endorsements)
I have been an active volunteer in my community since moving to Orange County in 1999. I have served by cooking and serving food at the homeless shelter while in law school, installing insulation in a Habitat house, volunteering in my children’s schools and in our churches, serving on the boards of various non-profit organizations, teaching long-term care planning for families of children with severe and persistent mental illness, and serving Orange County as a member of the Planning Board and current chair of the Board of Adjustment.
I am also an active learner about the needs and concerns of our communities. Working in District Court, I have learned than many people who repeatedly appear in our criminal, child welfare, and domestic violence courts are often living with untreated mental illness or addiction, and that the court process is ineffective at deterring or changing the behaviors that result in court involvement. In 2011, I began working with Josh’s Hope, Inc. to help parents of young adults with severe and persistent mental illness explore the process for guardianship and alternatives to guardianship in order to assure the continuity of care for those children upon turning 18. I now serve on the Board of Directors for Josh’s Hope, Inc., and on the Board at Caramore Community, Inc., both of which are community resources that provide supports such as housing, job training, and care coordination to living with mental illness and with the goal of enabling them to live independently. Additionally, in 2014 I attended my first Racial Equity Institute training, and I made a personal commitment to continue learning about the experiences of people who are different than myself and to analyzing and changing my own personal biases and the implicit biases that are ingrained in many aspects of our society. I am committed to assuring our courts are fair and impartial for all people.
Personal Life Experiences
Finally, my personal experiences have created my values and woven me into the person I am today. I grew up on the Cherokee Reservation in Swain County, which was then the poorest county in our state. I grew up with two families, as my parents divorced when I was 5. I am the wife of a police officer, the mother of two boys, and a private business owner. Being mother has taught me that listening with empathy is far more important than speaking when it comes to settling disputes. Whether the dispute is between my two young boys or between two litigants in a court battle, a fair resolution requires listening to both sides. Also, growing up amid both Cherokee and Appalachian cultures, I learned the value diversity and that ALL people are deserving of kind and respectful treatment simply because we are all human beings. The way I treat a person will never vary based upon wealth, pedigree, religion, political beliefs, clothes, skin color, sex, gender, or sexual orientation. We are all human with human problems, human pain, and human joy. A court should be a place where all people are given fair and equal attention and concern.
What do you believe qualifies you to serve as a district court judge?
My professional experience, community involvement, and personal values will make me a judge who is knowledgeable, fair, impartial, consistent, and hard-working. My broad and extensive experience in all areas of law heard in district court, my even temperament, and my respect and appreciation for people and the law make me the best candidate for District Court Judge.
How do you define yourself politically? How does that impact your judicial approach?
Partisan politics do not impact my judicial approach. As a judge, my oath will be to support and defend the Constitution of the United States, the Constitution of North Carolina, and the laws of this state that are not inconsistent with our constitutions. The integrity of our judicial system depends on judges adhering to this oath and valuing due process, equal protection, and all constitutional protections over and above any political agenda. I pledge to uphold the oath of my office, and to consistently and fairly apply the laws of this state to the facts before me in each case regardless of whether or not I personally or politically like the outcome.
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 believe the three most important qualities a judge must have to be an effective jurist are (1) an unwavering commitment to the administration of justice regardless of personal or political consequences; (2) an even temperament and calm and confident demeanor; and (3) the ability to listen with empathy while consistently applying the law to each case.
The judge I most admire is former District Court Judge Page Vernon. Judge Vernon had an unparalleled and unwavering commitment to children and youth; she treated everyone with dignity and respect; and she had a deep respect for the rule of law. Judge Vernon knew that being fair often meant that no one was happy with her decision, but she also knew that following the law was more important than being liked. Judge Vernon lived her life in service of others both on and off the bench, and she used what she learned from her community service and involvement to help people who appeared before her in court. Judge Vernon treated every person in the courtroom with dignity, and she conducted her courtroom with humility; she had a fierce commitment to justice and to following the law, even when she didn’t like the outcome. Judge Vernon was soft-spoken, but had sharp elbows. When she walked into the courtroom, her calm and confident demeanor seemed to silently quell any unrest.
The INDY’s mission is to help build a more just community in the Triangle. How would your election help further that goal?
My election would help further the INDY’s mission to build a more just community because I have a vested interest in that same goal. I am involved in my community, and my husband and I are raising our children here. I have spent my entire legal career working in this community protecting children, helping families, and standing beside people experiencing some of the worst moments of their lives. I want the community in which my children grow up to be a community that values ALL people. If I am elected to serve as District Court Judge, I will continue to serve our community and work to improve our courts by working within the community and our judicial system to improve outcomes for our children and youth, helping to improve access to our courts, and seeking to make this a more just community for all of us.
What do you think are the three most crucial issues facing the state’s judicial system at the moment? Explain how, if elected, you’d help remedy those issues. And how do you think district courts can play a role?
The three most crucial issues facing the state’s judicial system, specifically at the District Court level, are (1) the lack of affordable mental health care and substance abuse treatment; (2) the prevalence and severity of family violence and habitual alcohol-related traffic offenses; and (3) the entry of our youth into the revolving door of our criminal justice and child welfare court systems. These issues are intimately related and are not just the three most crucial issues facing our judicial system, but they are important issues facing our society as a whole.
Untreated mental illness and substance abuse are very often factors in criminal court involvement and in court proceedings involving family violence, traffic fatalities, and child abuse and neglect. In turn, the NC Division of Juvenile Justice has identified parental incarceration, parental violence, substance abuse in the home, and physical/sexual abuse and neglect as among the top factors leading to a child’s involvement with our juvenile justice system. (www.ncdjjdp.org/community_programs/gsm/risk_factors.html).
We simply cannot address the issues of the school to prison pipeline, family violence, child abuse, or alcohol-related traffic offenses without simultaneously addressing our mental health and substance abuse crises.
While the courts alone cannot solve the mental health crisis, it is imperative that those of us serving in our judicial system work with legislators and community organizations to address this critical issue. If I am elected District Court Judge, I will bring with me 14 years of experience working in all areas of district court and helping families identify and access mental health, substance abuse, and family support resources in our communities. I will also bring the knowledge I have gained from my service on the boards of Caramore Community, Inc. and Josh’s Hope, Inc., which are two of our local non-profits dedicated to providing community support and employment training for individuals living with severe and persistent mental illness.
If elected, I see my role in addressing each issue as two-fold: 1) As a sitting judge in the courtroom, my obligation is always to uphold our U.S. and state constitutions, and to fairly and consistently apply the law to each case before me—even if I do not like the result. 2) As a judge outside the courtroom, I would work within the community in the ways described below to help address the underlying causes of these issues as follows:
Lack of mental health care and substance abuse treatment—As a judge, I would continue to be involved in my community and to educate myself on the ever-changing community resources available. I would then use my knowledge and community relationships to connect individuals in need with available services. This role is not necessarily part of any formal “sentence” or “judgment” that may be entered in resolving the legal issue before the court; rather it would be a personal connection/service that I would engage in as a member of this community in a unique position to see the needs of many people. If elected, I would also work to expand our drug and mental health treatment courts to serve more people and to form relationships with more community organizations in order to increase treatment and service options. If given the opportunity, I would work with legislators and public health officials to identify and implement comprehensive, evidence-based solutions.
The prevalence and serious impacts of family violence and habitual alcohol-related traffic offenses—It is imperative that our district court system prioritizes the adjudication of cases involving family violence and habitual alcohol-related traffic offenses because of the potentially lethal results in both types of cases. As a District Court Judge, I would strive to address these cases expeditiously and consistently. I would also make it a priority to solicit input from the crisis counselors, law enforcement officers, first responders, and attorneys who work directly on the front lines about how the courts can better manage family violence and habitual alcohol-related traffic offenses in order to reduce injuries, fatalities, and trauma that can result in these cases.
The entry of our youth into our criminal justice and child welfare court systems—If elected to serve as a District Court Judge, when hearing matters involving juvenile delinquency, I will adjudicate each case on its merits and in accordance with the law, and I will assure the constitutional rights of our youth are protected. Outside the courtroom, I will work with parents, community organizations, churches, law enforcement, court counselors, and lawyers to identify and implement evidence-based solutions designed to keep our children out of court. Such strategies might include improving communications between law enforcement and school officials to ensure our school resource officers have clear criteria as to when their involvement is necessary; creating and maintaining positive programs, activities, and opportunities for youth to stay involved in our communities; and assuring that our families and schools have the community supports they need to address the multitude of risk factors for youth including unmet physical or mental health needs, family violence, substance abuse, food insecurity, negative school experiences, and negative peer group influences.
What do you think is the biggest issue facing the district you’re running in?
The mental health crisis. In addition to the impacts on our courts, children, and families I’ve discussed above, the lack of affordable mental health services also strains the resources available to our hospitals, our law enforcement agencies, and our schools.
Do you think the judicial system is becoming too politicized? Explain.
I believe that outside influences often attempt to politicize our judicial system or to politicize conflicts that our judiciary is faced with resolving. As a judicial candidate, and hopefully as a judge, my response to this phenomenon is to pledge my allegiance to the polar star of our judicial system—the U.S. Constitution and our state constitution and statutes that are not inconsistent with the U.S. Constitution. Any other allegiance by our courts would lead to the demise of our judicial system and the rule of law.
Some district courts are beginning to implement misdemeanor diversion program for young and/or first-time offenders. What are your thoughts on such programs?
I support having a misdemeanor diversion program for youth and first-time offenders. North Carolina is one of only two states that treat our 16 and 17-year-old children as adults in the criminal justice system. As a result, many young people begin their adult lives with a criminal record due to an immature mistake they may have made in high school. In our district, the district attorney’s office has been deferring non-violent criminal charges for our young adults and first-time offenders for decades without a formal diversion program. In that process, a defendant’s charges would be dismissed upon the completion of various relevant community service and/or educational requirements. Unfortunately, this informal process still results in the criminal charge being reflected on the defendant’s record. Recently, Orange County began a true diversion program for 16 and 17-year-olds charged with non-violent offenses. This program allows law enforcement officers to refer 16 or 17 year-old defendants to the diversion program in lieu of filing a formal criminal charge. The court can then address the behaviors while also preventing the entry of a young person into our criminal justice system.
Bails are often issued to ensure that someone suspected of a crime shows up to court. But in some cases the bail amount is so high that the accused—especially those with lower incomes—cannot afford it and thus will remain behind bars without being convicted. How can district courts work to ensure a fair bail system for everyone?
District courts can ensure a fair bail system by holding timely bond review hearings, by carefully considering the unique factors in each case that indicate a defendant’s likelihood to appear for court, and by weighing the rights of the defendant to be presumed innocent until proven guilty with the consequences of the defendant’s non-appearance at trial.
What are your thoughts on implementing mental-health treatment courts across the state?
Because many individuals with untreated mental illness end up in district court, it is a logical and efficient conduit that allows people to receive the services they desperately need. Our district has a mental health court that helps defer individuals with severe and persistent mental illness out of our criminal courts in both Orange and Chatham Counties: Community Resource Court (“CRC”). Between 2000 and 2011, 1091 people across Orange and Chatham counties have been referred to CRC and only 250 of those people have re-entered the program on a subsequent offense. Mental health treatment courts cannot solve our mental health crisis, and they cannot end the over-incarceration of people living with mental illness. They can, however, connect many individuals with the mental health services they need in order to prevent them from entering the revolving door of our criminal courts.