Name as it Appears on the Ballot: Cheri Beasley
Date of Birth: 2/14/66
Campaign Web Site: www.judgecheribeasley.com
Occupation & Employer: District Court Judge, Twelfth Judicial District, Cumberland County, State of North Carolina
Years lived in North Carolina: 16
1. What in your record as a judge, lawyer and/or public official, or other relevant positions, demonstrates your ability to be effective on the bench? This might include career or community service; be specific about its relevance to this office. When speaking about your legal experience, please be specific about the nature of positions held, and whether you were hired, appointed or elected.
I have served as a District Court Judge for nearly ten years. I was appointed by Governor Jim Hunt in 1999 and was elected in 2002 and 2006. Everyday, I preside in either criminal or civil courts. I am a family court judge and a certified juvenile courts. My experience presiding in family and juvenile courts would be invaluable to the NC Court of Appeals where that court increasingly must address a child’s best interest and the constitutional status of parental rights. My experience includes work as a defense attorney and a prosecutor. I teach at the National Institute of Trial Advocacy, advanced trial advocacy, the UNC School of Government in: 1) New Judges’ School, 2) Magistrates’ School and 3) Assistant and Deputy Clerk’s Conference, have led several courtroom sessions for BLET students for many years and served as the BLET commencement speaker on several occasions. In 1996, I was appointed by the Fayetteville City Council to the Zoning Commission. I have always been active in our communities, particularly in the areas of women and children, and in the arts.
2. If you have experience as a judge, please cite at least one majority opinion, and one minority opinion, which you feel best demonstrate your understanding, and interpretation, of the law. If you have experience as a lawyer, please cite at least one case that you argued that demonstrates this understanding. (Please be specific; provide docket numbers, andif necessaryinclude documents.) If you have other legal experience, please point to an article, opinion or other piece of writing that best demonstrates the same. Please indicate why you have chosen this particular opinion, case and/or piece of writing.
As a District Court Judge, I issue written orders daily, but none of these orders have been published. My command of the law is solid in all areas, because of the vast subject areas of cases over which I preside. My background as a lawyer is primarily in criminal law.
3. Have you ever recused yourself from a case or, as a lawyer, faced a conflict of interest? Please explain.
There have been some occasions where parties with whom I have had a personal acquaintance or prior knowledge about the legal matter where I have recused myself.
4. In the case of N.C. v. Frank Delano Washington, which came before the N.C. Court of Appeals, all charges against Washington were dropped because, the appellate court determined, Washington’s right to a speedy trial was denied. What is your interpretation of a defendant’s right to a speedy trial, and what are the implications of releasing a convicted felon, in an effort to preserve that right? Please provide your opinion of the case, and the role you see judges playing in preserving constitutional rights, versus preserving public safety.
The right to speedy trial is a fundamental constitutional right. It is paramount that judges understand the facts, follow the law, and apply the law fairly. It is important that in the review of cases where the Court of Appeals addresses the speedy trial issue, the Court must evaluate the time the defendant spent awaiting trial, determine whether either the prosecutor or the defendant created the delay of trial, and if so was the delay excessive and willful. The Court of Appeals in its analysis must consider any other facts and factors which are relevant in making its ruling.
5. This year, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled, in a 5-4 decision, that enemy combatants held in the United States Naval Base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba have a right to file habeas corpus petitions under the federal court system. What is your opinion of Boumediene v. Bush? More generally, what is your opinion of granting constitutional rights to enemy combatants captured in the “War on Terror”?
There continues to be litigation regarding this matter and ancillary matters. As a judge, it would therefore be inappropriate to comment on this matter.
6. One of the most controversial issues in this election year is illegal immigration. Recently, several N.C. countiesincluding Alamance, Johnston and Wakehave employed the 287(g) program, which streamlines local law enforcement and federal immigration enforcement. What is your opinion of these counties’ handling of this program? Critics say that sheriff’s departments in these counties are arresting non-citizens for petty offenses in order to enter them into federal deportation hearings, while local law enforcement agencies insist they are following the rule of law. As someone who, if elected, will interpret the law, what is your legal assessment of these arguments? More generally, can there be discretion in deciding when to apply the rule of law?
The premise behind this law is that many of the illegal persons in our state are committing crimes and using services without paying for them. The problem with the application of the law occurs when illegal immigrants who commit minor offenses such as traffic offenses, are indeed gainfully employed, are making contributions to their adopted communities, and there is a public outcry for the illegal immigrant to remain in the community. The law when enacted, did not consider the illegal immigrant being viewed favorably by his/her community. As it stands, the law is applied across the board, regardless of the gravity, or lack thereof, of the offense. When tasked with the responsibility to review these cases at the NC Court of Appeals, I would assess the facts and apply the law fairly.
7. In Kimbrough v. U.S., the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the mandatory minimum sentencing laws for the possession of crack cocaine were unconstitutional. What is your opinion of this ruling, and on mandatory minimum sentencing laws in general? Should judges have more or less flexibility in the sentencing phase than currently allowed under North Carolina law? Finally, do you feel that state judges can ever apply discretion in interpreting cases differently than federal guidelines mandate? Please provide examples.
It is the legislative branch which makes laws which include sentencing provisions for judges. Any discretion judges possess in sentencing is created by the legislature. It is a judge’s responsibility to follow the law. When the U.S. Supreme Court renders decisions about federal law, those decisions are binding on state court judges. However, appellate court judges are not bound by the federal courts on questions of state law. In some instances, the NC Constitution may provide for a different interpretation than the US Constitution.
8. Does the North Carolina Constitution afford more rights than the federal Constitution, or the same?
The North Carolina Constitution details some provisions more than the United States Constitution, allowing our courts to interpret the North Carolina Constitution in a way geared more toward individuals. We have seen this recent trend in the North Carolina Court of Appeals. When a state constitutional issue is raised, the appellate courts are free to rely soley on the North Carolina Constitution. In Corum v. University of North Carolina,330 N.C. 761 (1992), the Supreme Court of North Carolina interpreted the North Carolina Constitution liberally in favor of public employee rights. This interpretation protects the public standards, but also protects public employees.
9. Do you think that drug courts and mental-health courts have a place in the North Carolina judicial system? What is your opinion on “alternative sentencing” and restorative justice? Have you ever issued judgments, or advocated for judgments, that emphasize a mutual resolution between victims and defendants, and/or judgments that emphasize treatment over punishment? Please be specific.
Often defendants are committing crimes to support substance abuse. It is quite common that persons are not receiving the mental health treatment that they need, if fact they may be “self-medicating”. I have indeed entered judgments, which among other conditions included, inpatient substance abuse treatment. Many of those cases culminated successfully. Dispute resolution between parties serves two purposes: 1) Parties often feel empowered when they are involved in the decision making process of dispute resolution. When parties have ownership, they are more likely to work toward a successful resolution. 2) With so many cases in the judicial system, for some cases, dispute resolution can help alleviate heavy court dockets.
10. What is your interpretation of the purpose of bail?
Every person charged with a non-capital offense is entitled to a reasonable bond set in his/her cases. In capital cases, the judge has discretion about whether to set bond. The purpose of bond is to secure the defendant’s appearance in court, and depending on the nature of the offense and other factors, to protect the alleged victim and the public. N.C.G.S. 15A-354(c) sets forth factors to be considered in setting bond. Those factors include the nature of the offense, weight of evidence against the defendant, defendant’s ties to the community, employment status, prior criminal record, whether the defendant is a flight risk, and other factors.
11. Do you favor or oppose applying a plain error review to all alleged errors in capital cases? Do you favor or oppose mandating appellate review in post-conviction capital cases to help avoid arbitrariness in review of post-conviction capital cases by superior court judges? Please explain.
It is the Supreme Court of NC that reviews capital cases and it conducts a plain error review in post conviction capital cases where there were issues not preserved at the trial court level. The NC Court of Appeals does not conduct appellate review for capital cases. The legislature sets forth the structure for appellate review of capital cases.
12. Do you favor or oppose public financing of judicial races? In particular, how do you view Canon 7 of the N.C. Judicial Code of Conduct regarding the personal solicitation of campaign contributions, taking positions on issues and endorsing candidates for other offices? What changes would you make to the current system? Please explain.
In an elective system, public financing provides candidates with the same opportunity to reach voters about their candidacy. Public financing dissuades candidates from receiving contributions from interest groups, removing the focus from fundraising. Appointing a finance committee is the better method of fundraising. Judges and candidates should not comment on issues likely to be litigated or “hot topic issues” where the judge renders his/her personal views. It is a judge’s responsibility to interpret the law, and publicly expressed personal opinions undermine a judge’s professional and ethical responsibility of fairness and impartiality. Judges should not endorse candidates for other offices. A judge or judicial candidate should not act in any manner to create the appearance of impropriety.
13. The Independent’s mission is to help build a just community in the Triangle. How would your election to office help further that goal?
My entire career as a judge has been spent making fair and impartial decisions in the lives of families and others in our communities. It is imperative that we elect judges who are proficient in family and juvenile law and whose family and civic involvement is consistent with the responsibilities of the office. Fairness and integrity are the essence of high standards in court, in my family, and in my community involvement. Making sure that justice is truly accessible to all people is my commitment.