Full Legal Name: Christopher Burell Shella
Name as it Appears on the Ballot: Chris Shella
Seat Sought: Superior Court Judge, District 14-B
Partisan Affiliation: Democrat
Date of Birth: 03-31-1971
Campaign Web Site: www.chrisshella.com, chris shella for superior court (facebook)
Occupation & Employer: attorney, self-employed
Bachelor’s Degree Year & Institution: BA International Studies (concentration Economics) Morehouse College 1993
JD Year & School: JD University of Texas at Austin School of Law 1996
Other Degrees: LL.M. Coursework University College London
Years lived in North Carolina: 1971-1989, 2006- to present
Work Phone: 919 699 5800
1. What do you believe are the most important issues facing the Superior Court? What are your top priorities or issues of concern for the coming term?
Speedy trial issues are huge for the Superior Court. I have had clients sit in jail for almost 4 years while awaiting their day in court. Something has to be done so that both defendants and plaintiffs get speedier justice. I know everyone wants people to be punished for crime but we don’t want people sitting in jail for years for a determination of that to occur.
Making cases move faster through the system is my top priority.
I would also like to explore sentencing alternatives for low level felonies such as house arrest and electronic G.P.S. monitoring. This would allow for more room at the jail for those who would truly endanger our community with violence.
2. What qualifies you to serve?
I have been both a prosecutor and defense attorney. I have seen justice from both sides. I have tried 100 + jury trials and handled over 50 murder cases in North Carolina , New York, Maryland, and the District Of Columbia in both state and federal court. I have clerked on the highest criminal court in the state of Texas reviewing death penalty appeals and writs of habeas corpus.
My wide and various court experience coupled with the common sense my parents instilled in me growing up in Hillsborough and Durham give me not only the ability but the compassion to serve as a good judge.
3. How do you define yourself politically? How does that impact your judicial approach?
I’m a Democrat. I’m not dogmatic on the issues and I’m willing to listen to people of all political stripes as long as the discussion is grounded in respect. My approach would be to listen to both sides , research the law, and render a decision on how the law applies to what is before me. I don’t believe in prejudging any issue
4. FOR INCUMBENTS: What have been your most important decisions in your current capacity? FOR CHALLENGERS: What decisions has the incumbent made that you most disagree with?
This question does not apply . There are no incumbents in this race. There are three seats available. Judge Hardin was appoint to a seat and is running for election to any one of the three seats.
An incumbent is someone who has been elected to a position and seeks reelection. That does not apply in this race.
5. What do you feel was the U.S. Supreme Court’s most important recent decision? Did you agree with the majority?
Recent is relative but Bush v. Gore, 531 US 98 (2000). The key issue is that while there was a violation of the equal protection clause, that there could not be established a fair way to do that under the time limit set by the State of Florida for a recount. I disagree with the court. The pertinent issue is that the Supreme court hangs it hat on a n artificial time limit of Dec 12 for the decision to be made. That was not the law. Florida law only contemplated a ” reasonable time” for a decision to be made which was based on the importance of an election . What would not be reasonable for a mayoral election can be reasonable in a presidential election. I believe that there is always time to protect the rights of all voters. I don’t think it’s a reasonable decision to say time is up so we have to end the election before the rights of American voters are protected.
6. Do you feel that North Carolina’s current system of judicial elections serves the state well? Are there other forms of selecting judges you feel would function better or worse than the current one?
I do. I have worked in jurisdictions that elect like North Carolina and appoint like DC. I can tell you there is no difference in the quality of judges. I personally like the election process because it brings the judges closer to the electorate. Its easy for a defendant to feel like he is in a “star chamber” when the person who is making decisions in his case is totally removed from th general public. The reality is that taking elections out of judicial seats won’t take the politics out of it. I have faith in the American voter and believe they are well equipped to decide on judges.
7. Have you ever pled guilty or no contest to any criminal charge other than a minor traffic offense? Please explain.
8. Identify and explain one principled stand you would be willing to take if elected that you suspect might cost you some popularity points with voters.
While I believe that bail is appropriate to ensure a defendant’s return to court and the safety of the community, I don’t believe that it should be used in a manner to punish defendants. I, on the other hand, have serious concerns about defendants charged with murder being released on low bonds.
9. What specifically about your qualifications do you think will enable you to improve the administration of justice in Criminal Superior Court?
I have seen both sides of the criminal system. I know what are real delays and what are excuses. Both prosecutors and defense attorney’s know I understand the system and have worked in that system. Thar in itself, engenders respect and will allow me to operate the court efficiently. Most importantly, having handled major felony trials, I have a litigator’s ear. A litigator’s ear is the ability to hear cases, hear evidence and see the weakness and strengths in a case. I can identify error during a trial because I have heard it before trying cases, so I can protect both the rights of the defendants and the state.