Name as it Appears on the Ballot: Walter B. Rand
Date of Birth: December 3, 1962
Campaign Web Site: walterrandforjudge.com
Occupation & Employer: attorney,Walter B. Rand, Attorney at Law, P.A.
Years worked in Wake County: 13+
1. What do you believe are the most important issues facing your judicial district? What are your top three priorities in addressing these issues?
The most important problem with our court system in Wake County is the unlawful incarceration of poor people. We routinely incarcerate poor people in violation of North Carolina law.
The most glaring example deals with making people pay money to get out of jail while waiting for their day in court. Under North Carolina General Statute § 15A-534(b) a person accused of and arrested for a crime must be released from jail without making that accused person pay money to get out of jail. This is to protect people who don't have money and because we are all supposed to be treated as innocent until proven guilty. The judge may require the accused person to be on house arrest, to check in with someone at the sheriff's office every day, to attend alcoholics anonymous meetings, or to do any number of onerous activities short of making the accused person pay money to get out of jail.
The exception to this rule is when the judge finds evidence indicating that the accused person will do any one of 5 things: 1) not show up in court, 2) hurt someone, 3) destroy evidence, 4) get someone to lie on the stand for him/her, or 5) intimidate potential witnesses. When the judge finds evidence convincing him/her of one of these five things, the judge must tell the person accused of his/her reasons and put in writing his/her reasons for making that finding. However, if the senior resident superior court judge (the boss judge of the courthouse) says the judge making the finding does not have to put his/her reasons in writing, then the judge is relieved of that duty. The judge still must tell the accused person his reason for making that person pay money to get out of jail because it is basic due process of law that someone locked up in jail must be told the reasons he/she is locked up in jail.
In Wake County the boss judge of the courthouse has said that the judges making people pay money to get out of jail do not have to put their reasons in writing. Although bad policy, that is legal. What is not legal is the common practice in Wake County of the judges not telling the persons who are locked up why they must pay money to get out of jail. The accused person who is poor is then left to sit in jail and is frequently told at the trial date that pleading guilty will result in release from jail whereas pleading not guilty will result in months more of incarceration. This practice is not justice. It is not fair. It is not legal. It is the biggest problem with our present court system in Wake County.
Another significant problem is the terrible waste of time, money, and resources in which our courts indulge. The typical path of an innocent person charged with a crime set in District Court (assuming that person can avoid the trap of being stuck in jail awaiting trial) is coming to court 4 or 5 times before receiving either a dismissal of the charges or a trial. At each of these 4 or 5 times coming to court the person must be in the correct courtroom by 9 am or risk being arrested. He/she must sit for up to 4 hours before being told what day to come back, until that last day when he/she must sit for hours before the charges are dismissed or a trial is held. This unnecessary waste of time extends not only to the individual charged, but also to his/her witness, lawyer, and if the lawyer is court-appointed and being paid with public money, to the taxpayers as well.
Because of the problem of judges not following the law with respect to keeping poor people in jail the Wake County jail is overcrowded. The taxpayers are footing the bill to house people who should not be locked up in the first place.
These problems and other problems with our judicial system arise from a lack of respect. The leaders in the system must show respect for the law, respect for the parties before them, respect for those accused of crimes, those who are victims of crimes, and even respect for those who are convicted of crimes. Although he is a fictional character from a book and then a movie, the lawyer Atticus Finch exemplifies that respect to which all members of the judicial system should strive.
As a single District Court judge I will not be able to correct the problem, but I will be able to set an example of respect worthy of Atticus Finch. I will make things better. I will respect the law. I will tell people why they are locked up in jail under an order to pay money or stay in jail. I will respect the taxpayers by letting people leave court earlier rather than making them wait until late in the court session to give them their new court dates. I will give everyone in my courtroom the same respect for which they are expected to give me.
2. What in your record as a public official or other experience demonstrates your ability to be an effective district court judge? This might include career or community service; be specific about it's relevance to this office.
I've been serving the public in Wake County as a criminal defense attorney for over 13 years. Much of my work has been in representing poor people accused of crimes. I have fought to correct the problems arising out of the lack of respect for the law and out of lack of respect for people which arises so often in the courthouse. I have done so at times to my own financial detriment. In one case I was appointed by the Court to represent an 18-year-old girl who was accused of a crime she didn't commit and held in jail unlawfully. This means I was under an order from the Court to represent this girl zealously. Her boyfriend had committed a crime and threatened to kill her if she told on him. She did the right thing and told on him anyway. The prosecution was afraid she might run away rather than testify against her boyfriend. She was ordered to pay $100,000 or stay in jail. I fought to get her out of jail. She was eventually released from jail and the criminal charge dropped, but because I fought "too hard" challenging the legality of her imprisonment, the judge ordered that I not be paid anything for the work I did on that case. The boss judge ordered that I not be assigned any more court-appointed cases for a 6-month period.
On another court-appointed case I represented a homeless man who climbed into an abandoned car to sleep out of the rain. He was charged with felony possession of a stolen vehicle. Under North Carolina General Statute § 15A-606 the State must give him a hearing within 15 working days to determine if there is enough evidence to believe a crime probably occurred and that the person accused is probably the person who committed the crime. Obviously this homeless man was not in possession of that abandoned car; he was just sleeping in it. Furthermore, there was no evidence shown that the car was actually stolen. The State is not allowed to postpone this hearing beyond 15 working days unless they either 1) give the accused person notice in writing, which must include a good reason for postponing the hearing or 2) give an extraordinary reason for continuing the hearing. In this case the hearing was postponed with no reason given, leaving the homeless man unlawfully imprisoned for weeks.
The legal procedure for getting a person out of jail who is unlawfully imprisoned is called a petition (or application) for a writ of habeas corpus. This procedure is used only when someone is unlawfully imprisoned and is meant to be a rare procedure because unlawful imprisonment is supposed to be a rare phenomenon. Unfortunately, unlawful imprisonment is much more common than it is thought to be. Essentially a petition for a writ of habeas corpus is when a person requests that a judge give him a hearing in which the government must justify their reason for holding the person in jail. If the government cannot justify holding the person in jail, the judge must order the person's release from jail. Many judges and prosecutors dislike the habeas corpus procedure because the hearing legally must be held right away, so the hearing disrupts the regular flow of the court while necessarily involving an accusation that the government is engaged in wrongdoing (the unlawful imprisonment).
For this homeless man's case I petitioned for a writ of habeas corpus. The Superior Court judge refused to hold a hearing, showing visible anger that I requested the hearing. I took the petition to the Court of Appeals. They also refused to hold a hearing. I then took the petition to the North Carolina Supreme Court. Wake County's District Attorney told me that I was pursuing a frivolous action, but the Supreme Court ordered that the homeless man be released from jail. Of course, once the man was released from jail the DA dismissed the charges against him. They were trying to get him to plead guilty to something they knew he was not guilty of, using imprisonment and the promise of release if he pleads guilty as their tool.
I angered prosecutors and judges alike with these cases. This is relevant to how I would perform as a judge because it shows that I will respect and follow my legal duty even when following that duty makes powerful people angry.
3. How do you define yourself politically and how does your political philosophy show itself in your past achievements and present campaign platform?
A judge should not be a political animal.
I am not a member of a political party. I have many friends who are Democrats, many who are Republicans, and many who are Libertarians. I chose to run for Wake County District Court judge after several lawyers including Duncan McMillan, Bryan Brice, Ben Brown, and Will Webb persuaded me to do so. Each of those lawyers is a Democrat yet realizes that a judge who performs his job properly will come to the same decisions on the bench whether he or she is a Democrat, a Republican, a Libertarian, or an independent.
I believe that the primary purpose of government is to ensure liberty for the people. Liberty can be roughly defined as the lack of restraint on people by other people. The governments' primary purpose is protect people from that restraint by other people. It's simple in theory but complicated in application.
The judiciary best helps that primary purpose through respecting the law as written, not by trying to twist the law to reach desirable ends. The Court exists as an impartial place for settling disputes under the rules of law. If the law results in unintended harm, it is for the legislature to make the corrections, not for the judiciary. However, at the District Court level these sorts of philosophical questions are not likely to come to play. District Court deals mostly with misdemeanors, monetary disputes of $10,000 or less, divorces, child custody, juvenile delinquency, involuntary commitments, etc. The disputes are most often over the facts of the case rather than over what the law says.
4. 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.
If a person is being held in jail waiting on an ICE detainer and 48 hours pass without ICE delivering their detainer papers, I would free that person. That is what the law requires. Many people are angry over immigrants who are not legally documented (known as "illegal immigrants"). Freeing potential "illegal immigrants" because the federal agents fail to deliver the appropriate paperwork on time would cost me some popularity with those voters. A judge must respect the law.
5. The Independent's mission is to help build a just community in the Triangle. How would your election help further that goal?
I would respect the law and the people in my courtroom, making that courtroom a more just place. One courtroom might seem a small arena for achieving justice, but every increase in justice and fairness anywhere in the community furthers the goal of a just community in the Triangle.
6. How long do you plan to serve if elected, and how long will you be able to serve?
I do not have a set plan. I am 45 years old now, so I expect to be able to serve for more than 20 years.
7. North Carolina prosecutes 16-year-olds as adults. (Thirteen-year-old juveniles who are charged with felonies can also be prosecuted as adults, if transferred from juvenile court.) Do you support the raising of the juvenile jurisdiction to 18? Please explain why or why not.
I do not support the raising of the juvenile age to 18, but I do support a punitive system for those who commit crimes at 16 to 18 years old which is separate from our adult penal system. This intermediate (between juvenile and adult) penal system would focus more on rehabilitation and education than on punishment. It would differ from the juvenile system in that the people involved would have a criminal record and would not be released just because they have reached their 18th birthday. It would differ from the adult system in that the population would not be mixed with adult-system population criminals and the inmates would receive far more rehabilitation and educational services.
I agree that it is unjust for a 16-year-old to be tried as an adult yet not be allowed to vote. It is unjust for an 18-year-old to be allowed to fight in the military yet not be allowed to drink a beer. However, I do not think that raising the age for juvenile delinquency is a solution to this injustice. It is for the legislature to solve this injustice, not the judiciary.
8. Are you in favor of raising suggested bond guidelines for serious felonies? Are you in favor of unsecured bonds for Class 2 and 3 misdemeanors? Please explain.
North Carolina law favors unsecured bonds for all crimes short of capital crimes (NCGS § 15A-533(b) & 15A-534(b)). A person accused of a crime is innocent until proven guilty, not the other way around.
I am not in favor of raising suggested bond guidelines because those guidelines are already very high. For example, a person accused of being a habitual felon by possessing a rock of crack cocaine when he was convicted 3 times previously of possessing crack cocaine faces a suggested secured bond amount of between $50,000 and $200,000. Anyway, the judge is not bound by the suggested bond guideline. The judge is allowed to set the bond as high as he/she thinks is necessary, so long as the bond is not excessive and so long as the judge has a legal basis for imposing a secured bond.
As for class 2 & 3 misdemeanors charges, yes I am in favor of unsecured bonds. Unless the person has 5 previous convictions, the judge could not sentence that person to an active term in jail. Justice would not be served by imprisoning the person for being accused of a crime when the judge can't sentence the person to jail if the person is convicted of the crime.
9. What is your experience in juvenile court? What can be done to prevent delinquency and gang involvement?
For about 5 years I did a significant amount of work in juvenile court. One thing I learned was that when those of us in authority demonstrate a lack of respect for the law and for other people, we will not be able to convince juveniles to respect the law and other people. We have formerly powerful lawmakers sitting in jail today. We have police who lie in order to get information. We have prosecutors who withhold information they are legally bound to turn over. We have lawyers who are rude to their clients. One thing we can do to improve the situation with delinquency and gang involvement is to set a better example. Live in a way that a juvenile can respect. If you show respect for the law and for other people, then maybe juveniles will follow your good example.
If we can improve the odds that children will feel good about themselves, then we improve the odds that they will avoid delinquency. If we show them respect, they are more likely to feel good about themselves.
The people most in authority in a child's life are the child's parents. They are the ones who must show respect for the law and for other people in order to instill that respect in their children. Perhaps next in authority are the child's schoolteachers. By the time a child reaches juvenile court, the respect demonstrated by the District Court Judge is too little, too late to cure the problem. Still, the judge must demonstrate that respect or he/she will make the situation worse.
I'm sorry I do not have a good answer to this problem. Merely locking children up is not a good answer. I am open to suggestions for a reasonable approach to a solution.
10. District court judges do not continue cases past 120 days after the first appearance. Is that too long, or too short? Why?
It isn't true. Wake County District Court judges frequently continue cases beyond 120 days after the first appearance. A strict rule isn't reasonable, but generally 120 days after the first appearance in a District Court case is too long. These cases are misdemeanors which usually have only a few testifying witnesses. Some postponement is necessary, such as to hire a lawyer, or the charging police officer's wife just had a baby, or a defendant needs to pay for $2,000 worth of Virginia speeding tickets in order to clear his driving record to deal with his North Carolina ticket. What frequently happens though is that defense lawyers continue cases in order to get a more favorable judge and prosecutors continue cases because complaining witnesses refuse to come to court. The judge in the courtroom should be stricter about allowing such continuances whether 120 days have passed or not. Give each side one unexplained continuance, then don't allow more continuance unless they have a good reason for it or the courtroom is too crowded to reach the trial, anyway. If the courtroom is too crowded, let as many people go early on as possible instead of waiting until the end of the court session. Postpone the cases to court sessions which are not so crowded that most of the cases cannot be reached.
11. Do you favor or oppose public financing of judicial races? Please explain. What changes would you make to the current system?
I'm in favor of public financing of judicial races. Public financing would help level the playing field. Candidates who do not have a huge amount of money or are not backed by a strong political machine would be better able to get their messages across to the public. The decision on who to vote for would be decided more on merit than under the present system. Candidates could spend more time campaigning on the issues and less time fund-raising. That being said, even with public financing most voters will not know much about District Court judges in Wake County. We have over 540,000 registered voters here. Lawyers in the courthouse know the District Court Judges, but most lawyers in Wake County aren't in the courthouse and even as lawyers they don't know much about the District Court judicial candidates.
The lawyers who talked me into running are all courthouse lawyers. They know the judges. I asked other courthouse lawyers about running for judge and if I ran, who I should run against. Based on their recommendations I chose to run for this seat.
This is my first time running for office, so other than publicly funding the races, I don't yet have any suggestions for improving the process.
12. The state Court of Appeals recently overturned a conviction of a man sentenced to more than 60 years in prison, citing the district attorney's delaying of his trial for nearly five years. If elected, what will be your procedure for ensuring that defendants receive a speedy and fair trial? What is your opinion of upholding the right to a speedy trial, when the consequence of doing so might be that a person guilty of a serious crime goes free?
Sometimes we must either let a guilty man go free as a result of unlawful prosecutorial or police action or we must also prosecute the prosecutor or policeman. This is to protect us from unlawful government action. The situation does not arise unless someone in government breaks the law.
My procedure for ensuring a speedy and fair trial would be (as indicated before) to not allow unnecessary postponements of trials. Give the defendant a speedy trial to eliminate the risk of letting a guilty person go free as a result of not receiving a speedy trial.
13. North Carolina's Habitual Felon Act mandates that repeat felony offenders receive more punitive sentences. Should judges be given more discretion to impose sentences tailored to each individual case? Please explain your answer.
No, I think a limited range of prison time is preferable so that we avoid having two people convicted of the same crime serve dramatically different sentences.
On the other hand, I think victimless felonies, such as possession of a rock of crack cocaine, should be excluded from the habitual felon act. Felonies where a defendant is accused of doing something which hurts himself (usually drugs) should not count as a strike under the habitual felon scheme. Under the present law, these victimless felonies do count as strikes and it is the duty of judges to count them. This is a matter I wish the legislature would address.