Name as it appears on the ballot: Donna Stroud
Party affiliation: Republican
Campaign website: judgestroud.com
Occupation & employer: Chief Judge, NC 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?
Before joining the Court of Appeals, I practiced law for 16 years, trying cases in many counties of North Carolina, and I served as a District Court judge in Wake County. I have served as a judge on the Court of Appeals since I was first elected in 2006; I was re-elected without opposition in 2014, and I was appointed as Chief Judge as of January 2021. I have considered thousands of cases and written nearly 1300 opinions during my time on the court. Based upon my proven track record of fair and impartial work over the past nearly 16 years on the court, I have wide bipartisan support for re-election to the Court in this election. For example, I have been endorsed by many groups including the North Carolina Advocates for Justice; the North Carolina Association of Defense Attorneys, the North Carolina Association of Women Attorneys, the Sierra Club, and the Police Benevolent Association. I have been endorsed by many former Republican and Democrat justices and judges, including my predecessors as Chief Judge of the Court of Appeals, Chief Judge John Martin and Chief Judge Linda McGee. I also serve on several commissions and groups devoted to improving North Carolina’s courts, such as the Courts Commission, the Family Court Advisory Commission, the Chief Justice’s Commission on Professionalism, and as Chair of the Chief Justice’s Rules Advisory Commission. I have an LLM degree from Duke University School of Law in Judicial Studies, and I have been teaching Judicial Process at Campbell University School of Law since 2008.
2) How do you define yourself politically? How does that impact your judicial approach?
I am a Republican, but party affiliation has no role in my work in deciding cases. The Court of Appeals is an error-correcting court; this means that we review cases appealed from the trial courts and administrative agencies to determine if any legal error was made. I follow the law as it has been established by the General Assembly, prior cases from the Court of Appeals, or cases from the North Carolina Supreme Court or United States Supreme Court, depending upon the issues presented.
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?
A judge must be impartial, independent, and devoted to protecting the rule of law. Public trust and confidence in the courts is essential to our society, and in recent years, that public trust has suffered. I am devoted to restoring public trust and confidence through my work on the Court and through the commissions and groups on which I serve, including the Courts Commission, the Family Court Advisory Commission, the Chief Justice’s Commission on Professionalism, and as Chair of the Chief Justice’s Rules Advisory Commission.
I have worked directly with nearly 50 other judges during my time on the Court of Appeals, and I have worked with and appeared before hundreds of others at either the trial court level or appellate level. I admire so many of these judges and I have learned so much from so many of them, it would not be fair for me to identify any particular judge as the “most admired.”
4) In a sentence, how would you define your judicial philosophy?
I consider each case fully, impartially, and fairly, and I rule in accord with the law, exactly as it is written and not as I might personally believe it should be.
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?
Only the General Assembly has the authority to adopt public financing or any other changes to judicial elections in North Carolina and given the possibility of cases before the courts regarding these laws, under the Code of Judicial Conduct, I cannot state whether I support or oppose a particular system. As noted above, my goal is to protect public confidence and trust in the courts. But I can address my own experience and objective information about public financing. When I ran for District Court in 2004, I had to raise money for my election. When I ran for the Court of Appeals in 2006, I participated in public financing, as did nearly all the candidates for statewide appellate races. Public financing did dramatically reduce contributions from attorneys who appear before the courts and from special interest groups. However, the United States Supreme Court held certain crucial provisions of public financing plans to be unconstitutional, leading to the end of North Carolina’s public financing program.
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.
I am a runner and I enjoy half marathon races. I have done yoga for about 15 years. I am trained as a yoga teacher although I have never had time to teach. My husband and two sons are also runners, and we enjoy hiking and camping, especially in the Great Smoky Mountain National Park.
7) What sets you apart from the other candidate in this race?
Experience and a proven track record as an appellate judge. My opponent has no appellate court experience, whether as a law clerk, an attorney practicing before the North Carolina appellate courts, or as a judge. I have spent almost half of my 34 years as an attorney working in the trial court every day, either as a practicing attorney or a judge, and the other half as a judge on the Court of Appeals.
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