Name as it appears on the ballot:  Tricia Shields

Age:  60

Party affiliation:  Democrat

Campaign website:

Occupation & employer:  Attorney with Hedrick Gardner Kincheloe & Garofalo, LLP; member of adjunct faculty of Campbell School of Law

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?

I have earned a reputation for professionalism, integrity and excellence in my 35 years as a trial and appellate lawyer. Throughout my career, I have worked hard for my clients, while treating opposing parties and lawyers with dignity and respect.  I have been voted among the top 50 women attorneys in North Carolina by my peers and have the highest available rating for legal ability and ethical standards in the Martindale-Hubbell peer-review listings. I received a Woman of Justice Award in 2012, as well as a Diversity and Inclusion Award in 2019, from NC Lawyers Weekly.  I recently received the J. Robert Elster Award for Professional Excellence from the North Carolina Association for Defense Attorneys, which recognizes a lawyer who exemplifies the highest standards of professionalism, integrity, and ethics, and conducts herself, or himself, in a civil, courteous manner with all persons.

I began my career in 1985, as a judicial law clerk to Chief Judge Hedrick of the North Carolina Court of Appeals, where I learned the breadth of the issues that come before the Court, and the vital importance of judicial independence.  In my many years of practice since then, I have had a busy trial and appellate practice, representing North Carolinians at all levels of our court system in a wide variety of cases.  I am often retained by other attorneys to assist them on their appeals, because of my appellate skills and experience.

In my appellate practice, I have represented both plaintiffs and defendants.  I have often advocated for the consistency in the application of laws and rules of all parties.  One example of this was the case of Vaughan v. Mashburn, 371 N.C. 428, 817 S.E.2d 370 (2018), where I convinced our Supreme Court that our Rules of Civil Procedure, fairly applied, allows medical malpractice cases to be heard on the merits, rather mandating dismissal simply because of a technical error by an attorney.  

Our Court of Appeals is a court of general jurisdiction, which means that it decides a wide variety of legal issues.  My deep experience with these issues and my appreciation of the importance of the work of the Court uniquely qualifies me to serve North Carolina as a judge on the Court of Appeals.    

My experience, the quality of my work, and my reputation in the legal community have earned me the endorsements of many organizations, including the North Carolina Association of Educators, the Sierra Club, Equality NC, the Raleigh-Wake Citizens Association, and many others.  I am particularly honored to have endorsement of both the North Carolina Advocates for Justice, whose members represent plaintiffs, and the North Carolina Association of Defense Attorneys, whose members represent defendants.  The members of these two groups disagree on issues in court every day, but they agree that I am the best choice for Seat 4 on the NC Court of Appeals.  

2) How do you define yourself politically? How does that impact your judicial approach?

I am a Democrat.  I am not running for a policy-making position, and my personal political opinions on policy matters will not impact my judicial approach.  I believe strongly that judges must be independent of party politics, and that it is incumbent on all judges to apply and interpret the law fairly and equally to all parties, regardless of their race, gender, wealth, political party or leanings, or other similar characteristics.  The judiciary must be independent of the executive and legislative branches of our government, so that it can perform the vital function of determining whether the actions of those branches are consistent with the Constitution.  

I do not believe a judicial candidate should campaign as a “conservative” or “progressive” judge, because judges should not bring their personal political orientation into the courtroom.  These labels may suggest to a voter how a candidate would rule in a case that comes before them as a judge, which is inappropriate and serves to undermine confidence in our judicial system.  I am running to be a fair, impartial judge. 

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?

I believe that judges must be independent, studious, and open-minded.

There are many judges that I admire greatly, but I will focus my response on just four here in North Carolina.  The first is my dear friend and mentor, Judge Linda Stephens.  Judge Stephens opened doors for many women in the legal profession, including me.  She was the first female law clerk to Chief Judge Hedrick, and paved the way for the women that followed her in that role.  When I entered private practice after my clerkship in 1987, she was one of the few women in my legal community with a successful practice in my area of the law.  She befriended me, mentored me, and guided me through many challenges, both professional and personal.  As a Court of Appeals judge, she carefully studied each case, made sound and well-reasoned decisions, and followed the law and binding precedent.  While she ruled against my position in some cases, I always understood and respected her reasoning.  

I also admire Chief Judge Linda McGee, the current Chief Judge on the North Carolina Court of Appeals.  Judge McGee was appointed to the Court of Appeals by Governor Hunt in 1995, and to the role of Chief Judge by Chief Justice Sarah Parker in 2014.  I am honored to run for her seat, which is open because of her upcoming retirement.  I appeared before Judge McGee shortly after her appointment, and saw from her questions that she had a keen understanding of nuanced areas of the law.  As I have spoken with lawyers during this campaign, many have talked to me about her insight, wisdom and courage in the decisions that she has made.  Chief Judge McGee has also been a vocal advocate and ambassador for our Courts.  She spent countless hours running the Celebrate the Courts committee, which organized events to celebrate important anniversaries of all levels of our court system, and created many educational opportunities for the public.  

I also have great respect for our current Chief Justice, Cheri Beasley. Chief Justice Beasley is a scholarly and fair jurist.  As the leader of our judicial branch, she a clear vision of what our justice system in North Carolina can and should be. Before the pandemic, she had begun work to modernize our courts and improve technology.  She has guided our courts through this difficult time, in a way that allows our courts to continue to perform their core functions safely and with flexibility.  Justice Beasley was the first Chief Justice in the country to speak out about the racial inequities in our justice system after George Floyd was killed.  We are all so fortunate to have her at the helm of our court system at this critical moment.     

Finally, of course, I have the deep admiration for Chief Judge Hedrick.  I served as Judge Hedrick’s law clear from 1985 through 1987.  My two years in working in his chambers was akin to receiving a graduate degree in the law.  Judge Hedrick was brilliant and fiercely independent.  He was also blind, having lost his sight at the age of thirteen.  As his law clerk, I sat in his office every day, reading the records and briefs, and helping him to research and to draft his opinions.  Judge Hedrick respected precedent and upheld the Constitution.  He believed in writing clear and prompt opinions, so that the parties had resolution of their disputes as soon as possible.  I never saw him show favoritism to, or look with disfavor on, any party because of their politics.  

4) In a sentence, how would you define your judicial philosophy?  

My judicial philosophy is that judges should apply the law fairly and equally to all parties, follow binding precedent, and uphold the Constitution.  

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?

I favor public financing.  Because our appellate judges are elected and run in statewide races, substantial funds are necessary to enable judicial candidates to educate the voters about their background, experience, and qualifications for the bench.  We do not currently have public financing, which requires candidates to fundraise.  Lawyers are the most consistent contributors to judicial campaigns.  In my experience, lawyers do not expect favoritism from judges and make contributions because they know the importance of having qualified judges.  However, voters outside of the legal profession may assume that judges will favor their campaign donors.  This perception does not bolster confidence in our judicial system.

I strongly believe that our judicial races should be nonpartisan. As a Bar leader, I have spoken out against partisan races at the General Assembly. Designating a judge on the ballot as a Democrat or a Republican gives some voters the impression that that person will decide certain issues in a manner consistent with the policy positions of their parties.  Judges should be nonpartisan in carrying out their duties, and should decide every case based only on the law and the facts of that individual case. 

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 love elephants. I have always been fascinated by these huge, beautiful creatures, who are so similar to humans in their family and social relationships. Two years ago, my husband and I served as volunteers to care for elephants at the Elephant Nature Park, in Chiang Mai province, in northern Thailand.  The ENP is a sanctuary and rescue center for abused elephants, who have spent their lives serving humans in farming, construction and the entertainment industry.  The elephants at the park are able to spend their remaining days in a natural environment, simply being elephants.  As volunteers, we unloaded trucks, prepared their food, and harvested banana leaves with machetes.  We also cleaned the park, which included shoveling an enormous amount of elephant waste. We were able to walk among the elephants and feed them bananas, which they love.  We fell asleep listening to the sounds of the elephants calling to each other. We have since served as sponsors of Kabu, a beautiful elephant who had been injured in the logging industry and was rescued in 2015.  You can find out more about the mission of the Elephant Nature Park at

Comment on this questionnaire at

Support independent local journalism. Join the INDY Press Club to help us keep fearless watchdog reporting and essential arts and culture coverage viable in the Triangle.