Name as it appears on the ballot: Chris Brook
Party affiliation: Democrat
Campaign website: www.keepjudgechrisbrook.com
Occupation & employer: Judge, North Carolina Court of Appeals
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 Court of Appeals judge?
First and foremost, I would point to my year and a half of service on the North Carolina Court of Appeals and the 88 opinions I have written in that time. These opinions underline that I consistently produce accessible, well-reasoned legal analysis at a Court with a hefty workload touching upon nearly every imaginable area of the law. They also underline that I am an independent jurist who follows the facts and the law to the conclusion to which they lead. My time in private practice working across our state and federal court system, including successfully leading litigation before the Supreme Court of the United States, and as an adjunct law professor prepared me well for my service on the North Carolina Court of Appeals.
2. How do you define yourself politically? How does that impact your judicial approach?
Personally, I am politically progressive. This does not dictate the result in any case I hear, however. My North Star is a deep and abiding respect for our judicial system and each North Carolinian who appears before me. In practice, this means ruling without fear or favor based on the governing law.
3. 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?
First, any judge, and especially a judge at a court with a workload like the North Carolina Court of Appeals, must have a strong work ethic. I pride myself on bringing my lunch pail day in, day out and never cutting corners as a judge on the Court of Appeals. Second, a judge must have a firm commitment to independence. I am not a rubber stamp for any group or interest. And I look toward arriving at the sound, just result as opposed to the politically expedient outcome. Finally, I think a judge must have a deep and abiding respect for our judicial system and each North Carolinian appearing before him or her. I show that respect by giving each case I hear the deep, undivided attention it deserves and by writing opinions that are easy for our trial courts, litigants, and all North Carolinians to follow. People should appreciate our courts as places where justice is done.
I am a big admirer of Justice Elena Kagan. She is, of course, brilliant. Justice Kagan is also a wonderful, accessible writer. As I mentioned above, it is important to me that the public can engage with and understand my opinions. And Justice Kagan is practical minded, clearly thinking deeply about how her decisions will operate in the real world and deciding cases on the facts as opposed to acting to effectuate a partisan agenda.
4. In a sentence, how would you define your judicial philosophy?
Master the facts, master the law, write clearly, humbly, and, where possible, narrowly, and rule without fear or favor based on the governing law.
5. Do you favor or oppose public financing of judicial elections? What changes to North Carolina’s system of judicial elections do you believe are necessary, if any?
Judges, of course, are not policy makers so ultimately whether we have public financing is for our legislative and executive branches to decide. That being said, yes, I personally favor public financing of judicial elections. I want the public to have confidence in our judicial branch of government; I do not want North Carolinians to think judges are simply politicians in robes. Making judges raise funds, in my opinion, risks making us look too similar to members of the legislative and executive branches, when, in fact, our roles are very different. Finally, public financing of judicial elections was popular: to my knowledge, every judge eligible to participate in the system did so when it was in existence. I think that is a testament to the fact that we had a good system that served candidates and the public well.
6. 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.
One of my Mom’s favorite stories about me is that I taught myself to read by sprawling out on the living room floor day after day with the newspaper sports page. I distinctly remember spending much of my childhood covered in newsprint. Some things never change: reading, both at and away from the Court of Appeals, remains my favorite pastime.
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