Full Legal Name: James H. Hughes
Name as it Appears on the Ballot: James Hughes
Seat Sought: Superior Court Judge
Partisan Affiliation: Nonpartisan
Date of Birth: September 16, 1950
Home Address: 603 Slateworth Dr., Durham, NC 27703
Mailing Address (if different from home):
Campaign Web Site: www.jameshughesforjudge.com
Occupation & Employer: Attorney, Hoof Hughes Law, PLLC
Bachelor’s Degree Year & Institution: BA, 1972, East Carolina University
JD Year & School: JD, Magna Cum Laude, 1978, North Carolina Central University School of Law
Years lived in North Carolina: 45 years
Home Phone: (919) 641-1618
Work Phone: (919) 489-9100
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?
Our Superior Court Judges are assigned to both Criminal and Civil sessions of court. While many people focus only on the criminal side of the equation, most voters are more likely to be impacted by Civil Superior Court rather than Criminal. However, most lawyers selected to be judges come from the Criminal side of the judicial system. I was encouraged to run for this position by a number of lawyers who had concerns about the number of Superior Court Judges with significant civil trial experience as lawyers. My priority would be to lend my 32 years of experience to the bench to insure that every person who comes before me would receive a fair and open hearing of their concerns.
2. What qualifies you to serve?
I believe that both my life experience and my 32 years as a practicing trial attorney have qualified me to serve as a Superior Court Judge. I possess the experience, temperament and ability to be a good judge. In the summer between my second and third years of law school, I clerked for the then District Attorney, Anthony M. Brannon. During that summer I prosecuted many casers under North Carolina’s Third Year Practice Rule.
I graduated from North Carolina Central University School of Law as the Number one graduate of my class. After law school I went to work for the firm that later came to be known as Hutson Hughes & Powell, P.A. As an associate in the firm I had a general practice including general civil, domestic and criminal law. I tried civil and criminal cases in both District and Superior Courts. When I became a partner in the firm my practice began to specialize in commercial litigation. I have tried numerous jury trials in Superior Court over the years. I am also a certified mediator and act as an arbitrator in District Court Arbitrations.
Just as important is the fact that I would have compassion for all those who would appear in my court room. In 1972, after college, I became a volunteer with Volunteers In Service to America (VISTA), assigned to Auburn, Alabama. During my time in VISTA I had numerous jobs. I worked as a paralegal to the legal aid attorney attached to the agency we were under. I organized public housing tenants into a public housing tenant’s rights organization. In addition, I worked on constructing houses in a program that is modeled much like Habitat for Humanity is today. My year and a half in VISTA was a tremendous learning experience that afforded me a great deal of personal growth. It also provided me with a unique and empathetic view towards those who are less fortunate which is still with me today.
3. How do you define yourself politically? How does that impact your judicial approach?
I would define myself as a liberal, however I do not believe that would impact my judicial approach in any way. I believe in the system of law that exists at the heart of our judicial system. It is a system of law and facts. A Superior Court Judge must apply the law to the facts that are before him. A judge should not apply the law as he or she would wish it to be. I do not think that you can ask anything more from a Superior Court Judge. You should demand no less however.
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?
I do not believe that it would be appropriate for a judicial candidate to comment on the decisions made by a sitting Superior Court Judge.
5. What do you feel was the U.S. Supreme Court’s most important recent decision? Did you agree with the majority?
One of the more important recent decisions of the Supreme Court is the case of Kelo v. City of New London, Connecticut, in which the Supreme Court ruled that the Fifth Amendment does not prohibit states from taking property from private citizens for the purpose of economic development. I agreed with the Majority that found that the “public use” requirement of the Fifth Amendment does not prohibit such a taking as long as there is a valid public purpose for the taking.
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 not believe that the current system of judicial elections is the best way for North Carolina to select its Superior Court Judges. In my view a system which allows for merit selection of qualified candidates would function better.
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 do not think it appropriate for a judicial candidate to state beforehand how he or she would rule on any particular matter. However, if elected I would rule on cases based on the facts and the law irrespective of whether that ruling was popular or not. Popularity of the decision is not one of the factors a judge should take into account when ruling on serious matters.
9. What specifically about your qualifications do you think will enable you to improve the administration of justice in Criminal Superior Court?
My experience has predominantly been in the area of civil litigation, where I have represented both plaintiffs and defendants. While this may, at first glance, seem a weakness when it comes to improving the administration of Justice in the Criminal Courts, I view it as a strength. I would come to this task with thirty-two years of experience in our court system, but with no previous misconceptions or prejudices about the functioning of the present Criminal Courts. This fresh look in my view is what would best enable me to improve the administration of justice in Criminal Superior Court.