Name as it appears on the ballot: Alyson A. Grine
Party affiliation: Democrat
Campaign website: JudgeAlysonGrine.com
Occupation & employer: Superior Court Judge, Judicial District 15B (Orange and Chatham Counties), employed by the state of North Carolina
1) 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? Please be specific. What do you believe qualifies you to serve as a superior court judge?
I was honored that Governor Cooper appointed me to serve as a Superior Court Judge in January of 2021. Since then, I have presided over criminal and civil trials and hearings in over twenty counties across the state. I have been an attorney engaged in public service in North Carolina for twenty-three years and have worked at every level of the North Carolina court system, including having served as a law clerk for Henry Frye, Chief Justice of the North Carolina Supreme Court. As a practicing attorney, I served as both an Assistant Public Defender and an Assistant District attorney, protecting the rights of crime victims as well as the accused. Finally, I spent ten years educating attorneys and other court actors about developments and best practices in the law as a faculty member at the UNC School of Government and the NCCU School of Law.
2) How do you define yourself politically? How does that impact your judicial approach?
I agree with retired United States Justice Sandra Day O’Connor’s statement: “the legitimacy of the judicial branch rests entirely on its promise to be fair and impartial.” I strive to increase public confidence in the courts by hearing all interested parties, demonstrating respect for everyone in the courtroom, and applying the law correctly. I am mindful of the person who comes into court with little hope of getting justice. As officers of the court, we must work to earn this person’s trust, even while we can never guarantee a particular outcome. By ensuring that proceedings are fair and uniform, we shape the citizens’ perceptions of the legitimacy of the courts, and their willingness to comply with laws and submit themselves to the jurisdiction of the courts to resolve disputes peacefully. United States Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor summed this up as follows:
It’s our unique charge to avoid distrust and alienation and instead work to forge a desirable relationship between people, law, and government. The goal of the law is to express our shared ideals as a society, and through doing that, to enable everyone to identify with law and with our democracy.
3) What do you believe are the three most important qualities a judge must have to be an effective jurist?
It is important for a judge to be compassionate, fair-minded, and inquisitive.
4) In a sentence, how would you define your judicial philosophy?
I strive to increase public confidence in the courts by hearing all interested parties, demonstrating respect for everyone in the courtroom, and applying the law correctly.
5) Black North Carolinians are incarcerated at six times the rate of whites. How do you see your responsibility as a judge in addressing racial inequity in the justice system?
Judges are sworn to uphold the United States and North Carolina Constitutions, both of which prohibit unequal treatment based on a person’s race. Racial disparities may not only affect case outcomes but also may undermine confidence in the justice system and cause profound harm to individuals and communities. Attorneys and judges have a duty to ensure that court proceedings are not influenced by improper considerations such as race or ethnicity. We must know the relevant legal protections, conduct robust hearings, consider all relevant evidence, and make fair rulings. Judges also must guard against bias in their discretionary decision-making and ensure that similarly situated individuals are not receiving disparate outcomes. This requires ongoing self-examination.
6) Do you believe the cash bail system is in need of reform? What changes do you believe are necessary to ensure those accused of crimes are not incarcerated due to their inability to afford bond? What factors do you consider when determining the bond amount?
Efforts are underway to reform bail policies in our district. For example, leaders in our courts released a new bail policy in Orange County in January of 2022 and are hard at work to revise the policy in Chatham County as well. By North Carolina statute, there is a preference in favor of pretrial release on conditions other than a secured or money bond. A judge must consider whether there is evidence of some risk that outweighs this presumption in favor of release. The types of risk that we consider include that the defendant may flee, commit another crime, or interfere with the criminal proceeding. As a constitutional matter, a judge should consider the financial situation of the accused and should not set bail in an amount higher than what is reasonably calculated to address the pretrial risks.
7) Do you support restorative justice practices prior to sentencing? If so, how would you seek to implement those practices in your capacity as a judge? Which types of cases do you think should be eligible?
I am open to learning more about restorative justice and its focus on rehabilitation and reconciliation. I believe it is useful for offenders to understand the harmful consequences of their actions and I have heard examples of RJ being effective in that regard. In my experience, the decision whether to engage in such practices (and if so, in what type of cases) belongs largely to the Office of the District Attorney. Also, participation by victims of crimes must be completely voluntary.
8) Do you support mandatory minimum sentences for certain crimes, such as low-level drug offenses? Why or why not?
Respectfully, it would be improper for me to express an opinion on policies enacted by the legislature. Judges are sworn to uphold the law as written and not as they might like it to be.
9) Some district courts are implementing misdemeanor diversion programs for young and/or first-time offenders. Do you believe programs like these are effective?
This question appears to be geared toward district court judge candidates.
10) In many cases, voters know very little about the judges they are electing. Tell us something about yourself that our readers may be surprised to learn.
Growing up in Wilson, I heard Spanish being spoken by immigrants who had come there to work in various industries. I was intrigued by the beautiful language and later studied abroad in Spanish speaking countries and even became a Spanish teacher. This is a skill that has proved useful in the courts.
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