Full Legal Name: Daniel F. Read
Name as it Appears on the Ballot: Dan Read
Seat Sought: Superior Court 14-B (one of three)
Partisan Affiliation: Non-partisan election (I am a Democrat.)
Date of Birth: April 23, 1953
Home Address: 1424 Acadia St., Durham NC 27701
Mailing Address (if different from home): Office: Law Office of Daniel F. Read, 115 East Main Street, Durham NC 27701
Campaign Web Site: www.danreadforsuperiorcourtjudge.com
Occupation & Employer: Self-employed attorney
Bachelor’s Degree Year & Institution: Bachelor of Arts, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, 1978
JD Year & School: 1983 University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Other Degrees: Master of Arts in German, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, 1981
Years lived in North Carolina: 45
Home Phone: 919-688-0535
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?
The most important issues are on the criminal side, especially the continuing congestion and delays in getting criminal cases to trial and ensuring fairness in discovery. As to the first issue, in a time of scarce resources the courts should not be idle, yet that often happens when scheduled trials get continued and the calendar breaks down. I would like to work with district attorneys and defense counsel to stay busy trying cases. One way to do this would be to have month long or two week calendars of minor cases so that they could be called for trial when major cases don’t wind up being tried.
Simply being available before court and on Fridays would also be important to keeping things moving, and I am willing to come in as early as necessary so that court can get off to a prompt start. This is not an empty promise, as I am often in my office as early as 7 AM.
The second issue is ensuring fairness in discovery. As the Gell and Duke lacrosse cases show, keeping discovery open is extremely important. As a long-time defense attorney I understand the obstacles to a fair exchange of information. Defendants should not have to make decisions about pleas when there is significant unknown information that could have affected their decision, especially when the judge lets that information in at trial.
2. What qualifies you to serve?
Having been engaged in active trial practice in Durham since 1986, I am the only candidate (except perhaps for Judge Hardin) who has both extensive and continuous experience in both civil and criminal Superior Court for almost 25 years. I have personally tried approximately 100 cases, both criminal and civil, before juries, plus many hundreds of non-jury matters. I’ve appeared in courts all over the state, from Bertie County down east to Henderson County beyond Asheville.
Talking to sitting judges has made it clear to me that in addition to presiding over trials, a Superior Court Judge has a significant academic function in researching and interpreting law. I also have extensive experience in this area, starting as a staff attorney for the North Carolina Court of Appeals where researching and writing North Carolina law was all I did for three years. In my current practice I have researched and written approximately 75 appellate briefs, both civil and criminal, as well as many other memoranda and documents that required legal research.
Judges typically cannot create their own case load; rather, they must rule on the cases that come to them and must therefore be prepared to handle a wide variety of cases. My experience has prepared me well to handle such variety. For nearly 25 years I have had a general practice and handled all sorts of civil and criminal matters, including traffic tickets, family law cases (including child support and custody), wills, workers compensation, personal injury and Social Security cases, and real estate closings. I believe that this wide range of experience gives me a solid grasp of the many areas a judge has to deal with, the ability to respond efficiently to new matters, and a good understanding of what the practical effects of my judging will be on the lawyers and clients who will appear before me.
In addition to my legal experience, I have already been serving the Durham community as president of the Duke Park Neighborhood Association for the past four years, Sunday School teacher for over ten years, and ministry leader at Durham Quaker meeting. My wife and I have been counseling engaged couples for Duke Catholic Student Center and Immaculate Conception Church for almost two decades. I am a 15 gallon blood donor and served my country in the United States Army from 1974 to 1976. I have been a devoted husband to my wife of almost 25 years and a devoted father to our two children. It would be an honor to continue to serve my community as judge.
3. How do you define yourself politically? How does that impact your judicial approach?
I am a progressive Democrat. I believethat we can and should build a fairer and more just society through community effort. I have been working for the party for years, and am now a precinct chair. I campaigned for Obama; during the campaign I often brought voter registration forms to court and registered new voters at the courthouse, as well as canvassing in Durham neighborhoods.
But a judge is not a legislator or a politician. As a judge I would apply the law fairly and impartially to all who come before me.
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?
The only incumbent is Jim Hardin. I have found him to be a smart and fair judge and have not been able to identify a decision I have been personally involved in that I felt was improper. I did not like his decision in State Employees Association of North Carolina, Inc. v. North Carolina Department of State Treasurer, (see COA08-1326, Court of Appeals of North Carolina, November 3, 2009). In that case, the SEANC sought public disclosure of information about what they claimed was risky investment of State pension funds. The State had not produced reports and emails requested by the SEANC and Judge Hardin declined to allow them to look at the documents in chambers and threw the case out. It was, however, a close call and the Court of Appeals affirmed the dismissal.
4. What do you feel was the U.S. Supreme Court’s most important recent decision? Did you agree with the majority?
Clearly this is the Citizens United v. FEC case which effectively removed limits on corporate political spending and will undoubtedly have an enormous impact on public life in the United States. I disagree with the majority, which based its decision on the premise that corporations are “persons” with First Amendment rights. Corporations are persons in fiction only, existing by virtue of law, and are subject to comprehensive regulations. I think it is not unjust to also regulate their speech, especially where it is likely to drown out the free speech rights of individuals, which are what the First Amendment was designed to protect.
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?
The current system came into being in the early 1900s as a reform of a corrupt system. Although electing Superior Court judges out of their home districts as opposed to statewide was a huge improvement in voter awareness, it is true that the system has its imperfections. But when the governor has unrestricted appointment power he or she sometimes chooses political cronies, so straight appointment has its imperfections as well. I would favor a hybrid system, where candidates would have to be screened by the State Bar or some other professional group before they could run, with perhaps some additional qualifications to those currently required by statute — just being a lawyer in good standing — such as years of service or number of trials.
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. I am concerned about long mandatory prison terms for repeat offenders, especially drug addicts. A client of mine had a crumb of cocaine in his pocket (automatically a felony) and because of prior drug convictions he wound up getting eight years in prison for being an habitual felon. I would be willing to consider setting such a sentence aside as cruel and unusual and substituting a regular felony sentence.
9. What specifically about your qualifications do you think will enable you to improve the administration of justice in Criminal Superior Court?
As I said in my answers above, first and foremost among my qualifications is my continuous and extensive experience in Durham’s criminal courts for almost 25 years. My intimate knowledge of the court system, active involvement in the community, and willingness to work hard mean I will hit the ground running and running hard. My religious faith and practice will keep me grounded and aware that justice and mercy must go together. Quakerism is about listening carefully and respecting the divine in all people; that is what a judge is supposed to do. And the Quaker business model is a “good product at a fair price” and I intend to deliver that and more to the citizens of Durham if they elect me.