Full Legal Name: Craig Croom
Name as it Appears on the Ballot: Craig Croom
Seat/ District: Tenth Judicial District/Wake County (Fullwood seat)
Partisan Affiliation: Democrat
Date of Birth: August 16, 1967
Home Address: 5312 Pelican Post Court, Raleigh, NC 27604
Mailing Address (if different from home): P.O. Box 2297 Raleigh, NC 27602
Campaign Web Site: www.croomforjudge.com
Occupation & Employer: Administrative Law Judge, North Carolina Office of Administrative Hearings Bachelor’s Degree Year & Institution: B.S. 1989 University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
JD Year & School: J.D. 1994 North Carolina Central University School of Law
Years lived in North Carolina: 47
1.What do you believe are the most important issues facing the District Court?
Limited resources. Driving While Impaired (DWI) cases are backlogged. DWI enforcement efforts have increased, but the number of judges to hear these cases remains the same. This backlog also affects the traffic cases and misdemeanors set in the same criminal courtrooms. Domestic courtrooms also have heavy caseloads dealing with difficult issues of domestic violence, child custody and support, and complex financial issues involving alimony and equitable distribution. Families stay in crisis longer while they wait for their cases to be heard. Drug Treatment Court is no longer receiving state funding, but it is surviving on a time-limited federal grant. This program prevents future crimes by treating those who commit crimes to support their addiction.
What are your top priorities or issues of concern for the coming term? My top priority is equal justice for all. I want to ensure that everyone receives a fair and impartial trial. I will follow the law. I will make the most efficient use of my time in court. I will use my prior judicial experience to hit the ground running. I know how to efficiently run a courtroom, and at the same time, ensure that everyone receives a fair and impartial hearing. I also want to focus on our youth. I was a certified juvenile court judge for eleven years. I will continue to do all I can from the bench and in the community to save our children.
2.What qualifies you to serve?
My legal and judicial experience. I have served the citizens of Wake County as a Deputy Sheriff and Assistant District Attorney. I took my oath as Wake County District Court Judge on July 30, 1999. I served for over eleven years as a District Court Judge. During my over eleven years, I presided in all of the District Court courtrooms. I was a certified juvenile court judge and presided in delinquency court. In Juvenile Court, I heard all types of cases from trespassing to murder. I have tried all types of criminal cases including misdemeanors, traffic, Driving While Impaired (DWI), and domestic violence cases. I have tried all types of civil and domestic cases. After my third election as a District Court Judge in 2010, Governor Beverly Perdue appointed me to be a Special Superior Court Judge where I held court in forty counties in twenty-two months. As a Special Superior Court Judge, I heard violent felonies and complex civil cases. I presently serve as an Administrative Law Judge. My combination of experiences makes me uniquely qualified to serve as a District Court Judge.
3.How do you define yourself politically and how does your political philosophy show itself in your past achievements and present campaign platform?
My campaign platform is to ensure equal justice for all. I will be a fair and impartial judge who follows the law. Politics will not influence me as a judge when deciding cases.
4. FOR INCUMBENT: What have been your most important decisions in your current capacity? What has been the most challenging decision for you to make and why? FOR CHALLENGERS: What decisions has the incumbent made that you most disagree with? How would your decision have differed?
Judge James Fullwood retired April 30, 2014. My opponent was appointed in July 2014. My decisions will be based on my knowledge of the law pertaining to legal issues in District Court. I will follow the law in making decisions. I have over eleven years experience making those decisions in District Court.
4.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.
I will follow the law. The law may require a judge to suppress evidence in a case or may require a judge to impose a mandatory minimum sentence. Public opinion does not always agree with the law.
5.As a District Judge, how would you develop a trusting relationship with Wake County’s large immigrant community?
I will treat everyone who appears before me fairly and with respect. If there is a language barrier, I will use our court interpreters to make sure there is no misunderstanding. I will make every effort to ensure every person fully understands the proceedings.
6.Do you support the repeal of the Racial Justice Act or believe that it should be reinstated? Explain.
The North Carolina General Assembly has repealed the Racial Justice Act. This repealed law did not address matters heard in District Court. As a District Court Judge, I will take an oath to follow the law. My personal beliefs about the law will not affect my ability to follow the law. Pursuant to Canon 3A(6) of the Code of Judicial Conduct, I am prohibited from making a public comment concerning repeal or reinstatement of the Racial Justice Act. Ultimately, this question is to be decided by the North Carolina General Assembly.
7.Drug cases make up an increasingly large percentage of the caseload in the US. What are the main factors you would consider in hearing a non-violent, low-level drug case?
First, we must define a non-violent, low level drug case. We have cases of possession, possession with the intent to sell and deliver small amounts, and trafficking. I have to first follow the law. We have structured sentencing in North Carolina. The sentencing grid may require an active sentence if a person has a certain number of prior convictions or a certain amount of a drug. The sentencing grid may not require an active sentence, but it may allow for a probationary sentence. I will determine whether a person is a user/addict or a person who is selling drugs purely to make money. I will fashion a judgment which prevents recidivism and protects the public. I served as a Drug Treatment Court Judge for several years as a District Court Judge. Addiction drives a great deal of property crimes and drug possession cases. We must solve the problem of addiction through treatment. Once we solve the problem, the person who is stealing to support the addiction stops stealing. The level of treatment may vary from person to person. Treatment may vary from a few classes to outpatient treatment to inpatient treatment to residential programs. Drug treatment may also be part of an active prison term.
8.What are the main factors you would consider in preliminary hearings for a domestic violence or rape case? Does the burden of proof lie more on the accuser or the accused?
I will follow the law. I will keep an open mind. I will decide the case based on the facts and the relevant law. There is no burden of proof on the accuser or the accused. The State of North Carolina represented by the District Attorney has the burden of proof at each stage of the proceeding.
9. North Carolina prosecutes 16-year-olds as adults. (Thirteen-year-old juveniles who are charged with felonies can also be prosecuted as adults, if transferred from juvenile court.) Do you support raising the juvenile jurisdiction to 18? Please explain why or why not.
We have five types of juveniles in North Carolina. We have abused, neglected, dependent, undisciplined, and delinquent juveniles. All of these classifications treat persons under the age of 18 as juveniles, except for delinquent juveniles. Delinquent juveniles, who are accused of crimes, are persons under the age of 16. I must follow the current law. Raising the juvenile jurisdiction to 18 promotes consistency in the treatment of juveniles. However, this increase in age requires more resources for our juvenile justice system. If not properly funded, we are doing a disservice to our juveniles. Ultimately, this question is to be decided by the North Carolina General Assembly.
10.What do you feel was the U.S. Supreme Court’s most important recent decision? Did you agree with the majority?
The U.S. Supreme Court is our highest court. All of its decisions are important and have a great impact on our country. The U.S. Supreme Court decisions are the law. As a District Court Judge, I will take an oath to follow the law. However, as we enter this election season, I believe Shelby County v. Holder which addressed the Voting Rights Act and McCutcheon v. Federal Election Commission which addressed campaign finance limits are important cases among many decided by the United States Supreme Court. Pursuant to Canon 3A(6) of the Code of Judicial Conduct, I am prohibited from making a public comment concerning whether I agree or disagree with the majority.
9. Have you ever pled guilty or no contest to any criminal charge other than a minor traffic offense? If yes, please explain.
10. What improvements could be made in the Wake County judicial system to expedite the trying of cases and ease caseloads?
We must have a meaningful event at each court setting. Meaningful event means we are doing something to move a case along through our judicial system. We have to avoid situations where we are simply just continuing cases. We need to resolve discovery issues and pretrial motions more efficiently, so we can reach the merits of a case. Sometimes a pretrial motion will resolve a case. Once we have resolved all pretrial matters, we try the case. We must move cases forward toward resolution in an efficient manner while at the same time abiding by constitutional and statutory requirements. Experience is the best teacher. I will use my judicial experience to expedite the trying of cases and ease caseloads.
12. Is there anything else you’d like to add about yourself or the issues that are close to your heart?
I am the experienced candidate running for this District Court seat. I will use my prior judicial experience to hit the ground running. I will devote my time and energy to ensure equal justice for all. I will be efficient in the performance of my duties. I will continue to be active in the community speaking to anyone or any group that will listen in an effort to save our youth from entering our criminal justice system. I will continue to visit schools and take the lessons learned from the courtroom to the classroom in an effort to keep our youth from the courtroom. I will work as part of a great team of District Court Judges to make our Wake County courts a model for others around the state and country to admire and emulate.