Name as it appears on the ballot: William A. (Drew) Marsh III
Campaign website: www.Drewmarsh.or
Phone number (919)536-8813
Years lived in the state: 51
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.
I have been a judge since February 2007. The work I do every day involves hands-on contact with families across the spectrum of community life from child welfare courts(abuse, neglect and dependency), juvenile delinquency, divorce, child custody, domestic violence, traffic offences, civil jury trials and misdemeanor crimes. Every possible opportunity for our citizens to become involved with the court system has an impact on some division of District Court. I have been effective in that I handle hundreds of cases, day after day, year after year. This is where a Durham citizen that may become disengaged from the mainstream will likely come into contact with the courts.
The cases where parties who are not represented by a lawyer (pro se cases) require patience and direction without delving into advocacy. My 25 years of experience before coming on the bench prepared me for the intricacies of civil litigation and the balance of individual rights that I encounter every day. Societal structural issues of poverty, joblessness and the unavailability of access to services and supports increasingly crop up in District Court. My experience on the bench provides me with the perspective and ability to see all of our courts as inter-related.
My experience in our domestic violence court has enabled me to address issues that empower women and strengthen families in difficult circumstances. As a husband and father of three, I am well aware of family dynamics and apply this life experience as well as legal experience to the bench. Child development, mental health and their sense of security are all at stake in many of these cases. I sit on the local committee with representatives of the Durham Police Department, Sheriff’s department, legal aid and the crisis response center to discuss how we may improve service delivery in our courts to women who are victims of domestic violence.
In Durham, we were one of the first three judicial districts to establish ourselves as a Family Court jurisdiction. One judge is assigned to one family. That family may have issues in domestic violence court, child support, abuse, neglect and dependency and divorce. I have served with distinction in family court and have always sought to treat families (no matter their composition) with equality and fairness. My experience as the child of a civil rights lawyer has imbued me with a sensitivity to poverty and discrimination issues that I bring to my judicial philosophy. I was the first African-American to integrate my elementary school at five years of age and the only one for an entire year. The experience shaped my ability for tolerance and developed a sensitivity for the disadvantaged and powerless. With this experience, I have ruled in favor of non-adoptive same-sex parents on child custody and visitation issues without hesitation.
Additionally, I am proud of the opinion in the NC Court of Appeals decided July 20, 2010, In Re: the Adoption of K.A.R., a minor child. This is an opinion which upheld my decision that the consent of the father of a minor child was required before the unwed mother was allowed to put the child up for adoption, the case involved a father who was not married to the mother and had his relationship cut off by the mother before the birth of the child. He was of limited means yet was represented by a member of your organization at the trial and appellate levels.
Over the last nine years, my judicial decisions have overwhelmingly been upheld by higher courts.
My effectiveness is demonstrated by the validation of the decisions by the appellate courts.
What do you believe qualifies you to serve as a district court judge?
I have served in this capacity for the past nine (9) years. In addition to being trained at the National Judicial College, an institution that trains Federal and State judges from all over the United States and several foreign countries, I have extensive experience and additional training of over 200 hours of instruction at the NC Judicial College in the NC School of Government in Chapel Hill, NC.
Even before I began my judicial career however, my legal career started as a summer intern in the legal department of NC Mutual Life Insurance Company where I had close contact with the General Counsel as well as the President and CEO as well as other senior executives which exposing me to corporate governance and finance. After law school, I joined the legal staff of Governor Jim Hunt as Assistant Legal Counsel. There I conducted the Governor’s Administrative Rules Review for all NC Administrative agencies and assisted with requests for clemency, extradition requests and general constituent assistance. I next became a partner in the firm of Marsh & Marsh, Attorneys in the civil areas of banking, trusts and estates, real estate, civil litigation, personal injury and municipal finance as bond counsel. I entered a brief period of general practice in Washington, DC including family law. Afterward, I joined the Criminal Division of the District of Columbia Government Office of Corporation Counsel where I prosecuted juvenile cases for all manner of criminal cases including several for first degree murder. Upon return to North Carolina, I re-entered private practice at Marsh & Marsh to all civil matters mentioned above. In all, my 25 years of criminal and civil practice thoroughly prepared me for appointment to service on the bench by Governor Michael Easley.
How do you define yourself politically? How does that impact your judicial approach?
It is important to note that this is a non-partisan position. I do believe that a judge should be attuned to the pertinent issues in our community, yet politics has no place in applying the law to the facts. That said, I know many will be interested in knowing that I have been a registered Democrat all of my adult life .Because I believe that caring about the welfare of others and providing an equal opportunity for advancement in our society, I chose this party that best represents my values.
At the District Court level, in fashioning the most appropriate remedy or sentence, I believe that constructing a sentence which will seek to improve a person’s circumstances if they are willing, balances the public interest in seeing that the rule of law is upheld while attempting to do more than merely punish individuals. If I can strike an appropriate balance between the two, that is my goal. I do not think that there is a Democratic, Republican or Libertarian reading of the law. Lawyers are taught that the law is to be read literally so long as it is unambiguous in its plain meaning.
What do you believe are the three most important qualities a judge must have to be an effective jurist?
I believe life experience which hopefully provides common sense, knowledge of the law,patience and respect for the journey another has taken (compassion).
Which judges, past or present, do you most admire? Why?
First, Oliver Wendell Holmes. Justice of the United States Supreme Court. In Justice Holmes’ seminal work, The Common Law as well as The Path of the Law, Justice Holmes outlined the theory of modern jurisprudence through his time in the 19th century, explaining its development from feudal England to American society. He argued that the body of law is simply a collection of the wisdom of experience of societies with a view that the study of law facilitates society by affording a measure of predictability of consequences of a course of action. Additionally, he points out that although the law speaks in terms people associate with morality, it is mistake to impute morality in the law. Malice in a legal sense is separate and apart from an ill intent of consequences but rather a deliberate action.
Secondly, Thurgood Marshall, Supreme Court Justice appointed by President Lyndon Johnson. Justice Marshall was the quintessential civil rights lawyer who used the law for social change, his highest achievement culminating in the Brown vs. Board of Education ruling of the Warren Court. Once on the Supreme Court, his opinions reflect time and again his practical knowledge of man’s motives and action and how a view of the law would shape American justice and the country’s view of the law.
Finally, Eric Holder, former Attorney General of the United States. Long before becoming US Attorney for the District of Columbia and eventually US Attorney General, I had the privilege of trying hundreds of cases before Judge Holder as Superior Court Judge in the District of Columbia. His quiet, gentle manner but biting yet insightful intellect was and continues to be a template for administration of justice.
The INDY’s mission is to help build a more just community in the Triangle. How would your election help further that goal?
Effectiveness in government requires that the governed feel that their voices are heard and taken seriously. As an African American male, it is crucial that the disproportionate number of those in the system like myself believe that they have a chance in the justice system. I have always sought to treat people equally no matter their orientation, background, religion of place of birth. My election allows Durham to have a balanced judiciary with the experience, training and knowledge to insure that Durham remains a district where justice is carried out fairly.
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?
First is inadequate funding from the state. The courts, the judicial branch is constitutionally a co-equal branch of government with the legislative and executive branch. Since it is currently funded at the rate of less than 3% of all government spending at the state level, the real question is whether the citizens of this state are getting real access to justice.
Similarly, so many issues crop up within the court system as a result of citizens experiencing crisis of inadequate mental health services and substance abuse counseling and services.
Finally, disproportionality in the most disadvantaged (poor) populations being subjected to petty drug and quality of life violations rendering it all but impossible to extricate oneself into the mainstream of American life. I have served on several committees such as the Juvenile Crime Prevention Council which seeks to partner with programs to educate and assist disadvantaged children who might otherwise not have support systems to keep them developmentally on track. I have served on the committee which sought to mitigate disproportionate contact of minority youth from suspension from school and contact with the court system in fashioning a more equitable disciplinary system in the schools such that minorities are not so heavily represented in these sectors. I currently serve on the Domestic Violence subcommittee which is preparing to launch a Family Justice Center to coalesce counseling and protective services in one space at the Durham County Court House for victims of domestic violence. Finally, I also serve on a joint committee of County Commissioners, the Criminal Justice Resource Center, our local mental health providers, law enforcement and the public defender’s office call the Stepping Up Initiative, a nationwide program to divert those experiencing mental health or substance abuse crises away from jails which is an inappropriate setting to one where the type of help they really need is available. This not only is safer for the jail population and patient, it saves the taxpayers money by utilizing the proper resources where needed.
What do you think is the biggest issue facing the district you’re running in?
The biggest issue is inadequate resources from the state for therapeutic programs, and lack of an additional judge to assist with an increasing domestic violence caseload and overburdening our local government with the required resources that should be funded at the state level.
Do you think the judicial system is becoming too politicized? Explain.
I believe that because judicial positions are elected positions in North Carolina, the public may not be aware that these are not policy-making positions like other political offices. Politicians do the public no favors when they point out that this Supreme Court Justice of other judicial official was appointed by a particular party’s head of government. It distorts what the courts are or should be about, that is who has the experience to find the facts in an impartial manner and the legal skills to apply the law to the facts in not only criminal matters but since most of district court is actually civil, our civil courts as well. This is extremely damaging in that it blurs the lines between the three branches of government and harms the concept of separation of powers.
Some district courts are beginning to implement misdemeanor diversion program for young and/or first-time offenders. What are your thoughts on such programs?
These programs are educational and beneficial because it appears that civic affairs are not a mandatory course of instruction in our schools. They are useful as young people who make mistakes should not be hampered for the rest of their lives simply because they live in North Carolina as opposed to any other state in the United States where misdemeanors are not a part of their permanent record. Since young people don’t fully develop their judgment skills until age 25, anything that can instruct them on consequences of poor judgment is helpful. I fully support these diversion programs.
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?
In our judicial district (the 14th which is all of Durham County), the Senior Resident Superior Court Judge, the Chief District Court Judge, District Attorney, Public Defender and law enforcement have all worked very hard to come up with a schedule of presumptive bond amounts depending on the offense and prior record level of the accused. Not only is bond to be used to insure the accused’s presence at trial, some consideration is also given for the safety of the public. They should not be used to detain those whom we fear, yet repeatedly picking up charges while awaiting trial may alter the presumptive calculus for a judge or magistrate in setting bond.
In Durham, I have found the Criminal Justice Resource Center’s Pre-trial release program very effective in supplying monitoring for those accused without them being held in the jail. If the appropriate safeguards of secure housing and family supports are in place, this is a wonderful alternative to holding someone in jail for the health and safety of the individuals and jail staff.
What are your thoughts on implementing mental-health treatment courts across the state?
As I stated in my prior answer, I serve on the Stepping Up Initiative Committee and with the support of our county Commissioners, I believe a mental health court will come into existence here in Durham in the near future. These courts provide the support and access to mental health treatment that so many that contact our judicial system need to prevent recidivism. Anything that will help our citizens stay of jail which is inappropriate for mental health patients is a positive for Durham,
In Durham, a lot of community activism has been focused on the the Durham Police Department’s enforcement of low-level offenses such as minor traffic stops and misdemeanor marijuana possessions. What are your thoughts on such enforcement? Do they do more to hurt than to help?
As a judge, I do not take a position on policy issues but I will say it appears that disproportionality in enforcement is a problem. Statistics show that the majority population uses marijuana at a higher rate that people of color yet the overwhelming majority of those charged with such offenses are black and Hispanic. This gives a distorted picture of our community and only conveys the message that our judicial system is not the neutral system is portends to be.