Next week, a veteran magistrate judge will file a notice of candidacy in her bid to become Durham County’s next Clerk of Superior Court.
Aminah Thompson, in a press release Monday afternoon, pointed to her 13 years of leadership experience and judicial service as a county magistrate where has spent most of her legal career on the bench presiding over both civil and criminal cases.
She will file on Tuesday at the county board of elections, according to the release.
Thompson’s political experience includes serving in leadership capacities with two of the county’s most influential political advocacy organizations. She is vice-chair of legal redress with the Durham Committee on the Affairs of Black People and co-led the Racial Equity Action Team with the Durham People’s Alliance.
Thompson in the statement said that she’s “committed to being deliberate, compassionate, respectful, and fair.
The current Clerk of Superior Court, Archie Smith, told the INDY on Wednesday that he intends to seek re-election. Smith was first elected in 2002. His website notes that his work includes administering the filing of court papers, overseeing the flow of funds to and through the Durham court system, and managing a staff of 72. Before being elected clerk, he practiced law in Durham County for 26 years. He is a past president of the N.C. Conference of Clerks of Superior Court.
“I intend to continue the tradition of kind, courteous and respectful public service to all who seek the assistance of the clerk’s office,” Smith said.
The incumbent said that since being elected, his office has deposited over $311 million received by the court system.
“People forgive you for a lot of things,” Smith said, “but they don’t forgive you for messing with the money.”
Smith says that his overarching mission has been to create a diverse workplace with qualified people who are responsive to the needs of people on the other side of the counter.
“It’s about the people,” Smith said. “I don’t leave my office unless I have returned every single phone call I’ve got, and every email is returned.”
On her website, thompson4justice.com, Thompson explains that the county’s clerk of superior court performs as judge, administrator, record keeper, and comptroller while presiding over myriad legal issues including adoptions and foreclosures, public filings, and courtroom staffing, along with accounting for millions of dollars each year on behalf of the state.
“I am running for Clerk of Court because I want to bridge this accessibility gap,” Thompson said in the release Monday. “Simply put, I want to improve people’s ability to navigate a complicated system. I want to bring awareness to the position of Clerk—citizens need to know who their next Clerk is and what I am doing to serve them. We need more accountability throughout the judiciary.”
Thompson on Wednesday told the INDY that she wants to establish “an impartial and confidential system for citizens and staff to report harmful incidents without fear of retaliation, and demand accountability for violators.”
She explained that there are metrics already being used in other jurisdictions that measure trial court performance based on access to fairness, time to disposition, trial date certainty and integrity of case files.
“These metrics can and should be implemented in Durham County,” Thompson added.
Thompson also said that it is “imperative” the courts hire more bilingual staff.
She also wants to create a community-based law library and resource center, and partner with Durham County Sheriff Clarence Birkhead, along with superior and district court judges to create more remote court hearings and night court to “alleviate some of the barriers to access that comes with job, school and childcare constraints.”
Thompson was born in Greenville, South Carolina. She says her parents are educators who are civil rights and social justice activists.
The clerk of court candidate spent her childhood in Amherst, Massachusetts, and Lawrence, Kansas, before moving to Durham in 1999 to attend college.
She earned an undergraduate degree from Duke University and a juris doctorate from the University of North Carolina School of Law in Chapel Hill.
Thompson has a two-year-old son, Josiah who, she says, along with Durham residents, fuels her motivation to effect change.
“Most importantly, I want to encourage diversity of thought, and vow to listen and respond to the needs of Durham’s citizens,” she said on Wednesday.
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Follow Durham Staff Writer Thomasi McDonald on Twitter or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.