Name as it appears on the ballot:  LiBria Stephens

Campaign website:

Years lived in Durham County:  25+ 

1. In 300 words or fewer, please give us—and our readers—your elevator pitch: Why are you running? What do you understand the role of Clerk of Superior Court to encompass? Why should voters entrust you with this position?

I am running for Clerk of Superior Court because I recognize that change is needed to address the needs of the community that Durham is becoming, as well as the need to incorporate technology in the day-to-day operation of the Clerk’s Office.  The Clerk serves as record-keeper, jurist, as well as the manager and distributer of funds collected.  I understand the role of the Clerk based on my experience practicing in Estates, Special Proceedings, Criminal, Juvenile, and Civil courts. I have the skill set necessary to manage personnel, funds, caseloads, and the public based on my 12 years serving Durham in court administration and 15 years practicing as an attorney in Durham. I am a vested member of the Durham community.  I first came to Durham as a student at NC School of Science and Math, left briefly to attend UNC-Chapel Hill, and returned to Durham to marry, raise my family, and attend NC Central University School of Law. Voters can entrust me as Clerk of Superior Court based on my track record, vision for the Clerk’s office transition to the incorporation of more technology, proven work ethic, and commitment to serving the community.

2. In your view, what are the three most pressing issues facing the Clerk of Superior Court? If elected, what will you do to address these issues?

The three most pressing issues facing the Clerk’s Office surround technology, communication and transparency.  Technology, incorporating tools such as e-filing and WebEx hearings, has not been utilized by the current administration.   The Clerk failed to utilize WebEx hearings during the COVID pandemic, contributing to justice delayed. The Courts are moving to a “paperless” system, and a system that links with other agencies for more accuracy and efficiency in court operations.  I utilize electronic filing and a “paperless” system in my daily practice. I, and most practicing attorneys, utilize internet resources such as Lexis Nexis, CaseLaw and WestLaw to research legal issues.  I have incorporated WebEx hearings and Zoom sessions in my daily practice. I can lead the clerk’s office thru the upcoming transition and share effective and efficient ways to incorporate technology in daily operations.

Another pressing issue facing the Clerk’s Office surrounds communicating with the public.  Communication with the public is essential to conducting business and is an area that needs improvement.  The Clerk’s Office has difficulty addressing the needs of our non-English speaking community members, more specifically Spanish-speaking customers.  I would not only hire bilingual clerks when vacancies become available, but also encourage and support current clerks with learning conversational Spanish and reward their efforts.  Another issue with effective communication deals with inputting accurate or updated information in the system for parties.  Accurate information allows the Court to communicate with parties about upcoming court dates. Missed court dates based on inaccurate information can result in Orders for Arrests, and delays in justice.

Finally, transparency in procedures and duties authorized by the Clerk is an issue facing the office.  Transparency is essential to shoring up public confidence in an elected officials’ performance of assigned duties.  In my experience there is a belief among some citizens that the process for designating public administrators, public guardians and commissioners is not a transparent or fair process. I will ensure diversity and objective standards are clear and followed when selecting public administrators, commissioners and public guardians for matters.  I will make it clear what is required to serve as a fiduciary over the assets of another. I will also consider cultural and socio-economic factors when determining who may serve in these roles.

3. What in your record as a public official or other experience demonstrates your ability to be an effective clerk? This might include career or community service; be specific about its relevance to this office.

I am currently a private practice attorney with daily interaction with clerks, the public, judicial officials, law enforcement, and the functions of the clerk’s office. This experience not only allows me to present avenues of improvement in efficiency for the Clerk and staff, but also provide insightful perspectives as a business owner. As an owner, I manage personnel, budgets, and schedules, all skills that are necessary to effectively serve as Clerk of Superior Court. In addition, I have served as Trial Court Coordinator, interned in both the District Attorney’s Office and the Public Defender’s Office, and I have served as a clerk in the past. All of these experiences ensure that I understand how the court system operates and understand how to build coalitions to accomplish goals. Finally, I am committed to Durham and I work well with others. I have served the Durham community in a variety of ways; as a parent volunteer at Hillside High School, Rogers Herr Middle School and Pearsontown Elementary; as a Jury Commissioner; as a member of the Order of the Eastern Stars, Drucilla #19; I previously served as a Human Relations Commissioner; I provide pro bono services to small business owners, tenants, landlords, criminal defendants, and more.

4. If you are challenging an incumbent, in what ways do you believe you could run the clerk’s office more efficiently? If you are an incumbent, what in your record and experience do you believe entitles you to another term?

I think that the Clerk’s Office would run more efficiently if the Clerk was readily available to both the public and the staff.  I believe the Clerk’s Office would run more efficiently if technology was utilized more to complete services and for the Clerk to communicate the functions of the Clerk’s Office. I believe that the Clerk’s Office would run more efficiently if additional checks and balances were put in place to ensure that accurate information for parties was entered into the system to lessen the impact that incorrect information in the system can have on the judicial system.

5. This is something of a low-profile office, and many voters may be unfamiliar with the clerk’s tasks, which include not just record-keeping but also judicial functions such as probate and adoptions. What would you tell voters about your management style? How would you assure them that the office would run efficiently under your direction?

I have developed a managerial style that combines the concepts of coaching, listening and problem solving.   I am also a lead by example type of supervisor. I try to incorporate consistency and the clear communication of expectations to those who work for and with me. I understand that there is not a cookie cutter method to address every situation, because every employee’s needs are different. I focus on accomplishing goals, in an environment where there is consistency in expectations and known consequences for behaviors. My leadership abilities will be an asset to the Clerk’s Office. I have the privilege of knowing most of the current clerks and some of their families. I believe I would work well with them all.  I am confident that the office would run efficiently under my leadership.   I am a known element within the judicial system, with a consistent, even temperament exhibited for over 20 years serving Durham.

6. How will you advocate for additional state funding for the operation of a growing and increasingly burdened court system?

I would first evaluate staff for any updates surrounding trainings attended and/or education accomplishments to assist in advocating for modifications in salaries based on current criteria. I would also reach out to other counties who are experiencing the same shortfalls to coordinate efforts in reaching out to AOC and legislators. I would also contact my Durham representatives to make sure our needs are to the forefront of their agendas when discussing budgetary needs of our citizens.  I would also explore special funding with local government to finance incentives and/or bonuses for employees.

7. What steps would you take to make the clerk’s office more accessible to the public—for instance, for non-English-speakers or those who work during the day?

As mentioned earlier, I would seek qualified, bilingual employees to fill vacancies as they become available. I would also support the efforts of current employees who are interested in adding the skill of another language. Many of the clerks who serve Durham have a wealth of knowledge in the positions that they hold and are not adequately compensated. I would support and seek ways to compensate clerks who take the additional step to incorporate another language in the performance of their duties.

8. Identify and explain one principled stand you would be willing to take if elected that you suspect might cost you some points with voters.

If elected, I would pledge not to purchase any property that becomes available by an action I have presided over. The Clerk presides over foreclosures, partitions, and estates. The proceedings mentioned can result in forced, or judicially ordered sales of property by the Clerk. Although a purchase may be legal, I will take the position of not participating in the purchase of property that I ordered sold. In my humble opinion, purchasing property in this manner appears to hint of self-dealing, and I would not participate.