Name as it appears on the ballot: Keith A. Bishop
Date of Birth: March 25th 1963
Candidate web site: www.keithbishoplaw.com/vote
Occupation & Employer: KEITH A. BISHOP, PLLC
Years lived in Durham: 20
1. What do you believe are the most important issues facing the District Attorneys Office? What are your top three priorities in addressing these issues?
- The three most important issues facing the District Attorneys Office are:
- A high incidence of repeat violent offenders
- The proliferation of violent youth gangs
- An Administration that appears unfair and impotent
- My three top priorities in addressing these issues are:
- Hiring experienced litigators to work alongside inexperienced assistant district attorneys.
- Establishing a diversion program for non-violent youth offenders, which includes:
- Residential Remedial Education
- Residential Vocational Rehabilitation
- Residential Disciplinary Training
- Establish Transparency and Accountability in the following ways:
- Require all Offenders seeking plea bargains to admit on the record (at the offenders expense) the nature of their crime.
- Offer one opportunity for non-violent offenders to redeem themselves in a diversionary program.
- Make at least quarterly reports to the City Council and County Commissioners on the problems, strategies and accomplishments of the office.
- Communicate with civic and business institutions about the strategies and accomplishments of the Office and enroll their support.
2. What in your record as a public official or other experience demonstrates your ability to be an effective district attorney? This might include career or community service; be specific about its relevance to this office.
My experience as detailed below, demonstrates my ability to be an effective district attorney:
I am a licensed attorney in good standing with the State bar of North Carolina.
I am licensed to practice in both State and Federal Courts in North Carolina.
I have practiced law for more than 15 years and have been a member of the Durham County Bar for more than 15 years.
I have prosecuted child support cases for at least 5 years in Durham, which is one of the responsibilities of the District Attorney.
I have defended Juvenile offenders in Wake and Durham Counties and I am familiar with Juvenile Law practice.
I have successfully practiced criminal law and represented clients charged with murder [State v. Abdur Rahim Muhammed – 2007], Strong Arm Robbery [State v. Jonathan Herrera 2007], and many other offenses.
I have experience litigating difficult cases drowning death, medical negligence, corporate fraud, sexual harassment, retaliatory discrimination, municipal law, corporate and contract law, and several other practice areas.
I participate in various community service activities each year.
- I serve as the Executive Director of the ANCA Educational Foundation, Inc. – Present
- Chaplain, Durham alumni chapter of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc. – Present
- Truancy Court Judge, Neal Middle School – Present
- After School Volunteer Counselor Chewning Middle School 2006
3. How do you define yourself politically and how does your political philosophy show itself in your past achievements and present campaign platform?
I define myself politically as a Democrat.
I believe that every human activity is undertaken in the pursuit of self preservation and of pleasure. These pursuits invariable result in individual conflict, which, if not carefully managed, destroys life and restrains the pursuit of pleasure. The preservation of liberty and order, consequently, is my passion as it promotes happiness and preserves life.
My role is to preserve the right to pursue self preservation and pleasure.
I believe that vindicating societys right to maintain order is consistent with my democratic view that human individuals should be free to pursue pleasure without infringing on the right of other human individuals to live free and happy.
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.
All of my positions would be principled. I would signal to all offenders, however, that crime will be costly in Durham under my administration.
5. The Independents mission is to help build a just community in the Triangle. How would your election to office help further that goal?
My election to office will help further the goal of building a just community in the Triangle because:
I will ensure that justice in Durham County is administered fairly and firmly.
I will ensure that Durham is safe for families.
I will work to ensure that Durham Residents feel safe to pursue social and economic prosperity.
I will administer my office with an exemplary commitment to treating all persons, defendants and victims, with dignity.
I believe that residents should all appreciate the service of law enforcement and I will give leadership that effectively restores confidence in law enforcement and respect for the office of the Chief Prosecutor.
My goal is to ensure that Durham is a place where all residence would be proud to raise their families and boast that they are from Durham, North Carolina.
6. 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 the raising of the juvenile jurisdiction to 18? Explain.
I support the raising of the juvenile jurisdiction to 18 years because of several reasons:
I intend to demonstrate the civility of our community by discouraging the prosecution of youthful offenders as adults.
I intend to demonstrate compassion to victims by including as punishment remedial training that will more likely test the capacity of the juvenile to change.
I would support measures that include enhances punishments for juveniles who demonstrate an unwilling attitude toward rehabilitation.
I will demonstrate that there must be both a firm and fair approach to force a retreat of violent youthful offenders.
7. What is your position on seeking the death penalty? Why?
My position is that the death penalty is should be abolished because:
I do not believe that the death penalty serves the purpose of deterrence as some argue.
I believe that the death penalty is a relic of the past and should be abolished as such.
8. Are you in favor of raising suggested bond guidelines for serious felonies? Are you in favor of unsecured bonds for Class 2 and 3 misdemeanors? Explain.
I have no absolute position on this issue.
If, in my estimation, a bond is insufficient to secure the attendance of a Defendant at his trial, then I would insist that the bond be set high enough to secure the attendance of the Defendant.
If not, then I do not see the need to use the bond mechanism as a means to pre-punish a Defendant. I do not favor overly restrictive policies that offend the prosecutors ability to deal with each case in a fair manner that vindicates the right of Durham Residents.
Similarly, I do favor unsecured bonds for all non-violent misdemeanors.
9. When is it inappropriate to plea bargain cases?
It is appropriate to plea bargain cases with doing so is approved by the victims.
10. How do you plan to better manage the movement of cases through the system? What can you do to process the huge backlog of cases?
As District Attorney, I plan to better manage the movement of cases through the system as follows:
I will honor the Speedy Trial rights of all courts defendants.
I will assign as many attorneys to each court-room as is necessary to efficiently manage the docket in an effective, dignified and compassionate manner.
I will implement a morning and afternoon non-trial disposition docket.
All cases not resolved on the non-trial disposition docket will be transferred to a trial disposition docket. This process will afford predictability to witnesses and victims and also it will afford defendants in appropriate cases the opportunity to appreciate both the carrot and stick before disposition of each case.
I plan on making performance reports to the citizens of Durham by means of Quarterly Reports to the City and County Government officials.
I will require that every case coming from a Magistrate come to District Court be accompanied by subpoenas for witnesses, disposition dates and First Appearance Dates. I will ensure my office is organized and sufficiently staffed to assist in managing this process.
All persons having business with my office will also have an opportunity to resolve their cases by Plea negotiated in advance of their Court Dates.
My Office will implement information technology in a comprehensive way to afford lawyers and court personnel ready access to court records in the Court Room.
11. Why are there so few jury criminal court trials in Superior Court? Is it your position that you wont seek a jury trial unless you are certain you can be successful?
There are few jury criminal court trials in Superior Court for many reasons:
Many of the felony cases are held back in District Court because of unpreparedness.
Many of the felony cases are held back in District Court because of an arcane policy of granting no Probable Cause Hearings in District Court.
Many of the felony cases involve Defendants that are held in trial for many months awaiting trial until they give up hope for a fair trial and they plead guilty to lesser offenses.
Many defendants know if the sit and remain quiet long enough, they will later get a plea to a lesser offense because evidence get lost or stale, witnesses relocate and prosecutors change.
There are many other reasons for the low number of jury trials but most involve practices, which create backlogs that slow down the entire administration of justice down to a snail pace.
If elected, my official policy will be to pursue a jury trial when a plea offer is rejected and the evidence supporting the charge is credible and substantial.
12. What is your experience in juvenile court? What can be done to prevent delinquency and gang involvement?
My experience in juvenile court included:
Representing juveniles and parents in Juvenile court.
Making juvenile court referrals in the case of undisciplined and neglected minors.
- To prevent delinquency and gang involvement, I would consider the following:
Increase the involving of the Department of Social Services in dysfunctional families.
Identify areas of gang involvement and require greater law enforcement presence.
Institute a program of residential reformatory education for undisciplined juveniles.
Institute a program of residential vocational training for older youth gang members.
Ensure that Durham is safe for economic prosperity to filter into all neighborhoods as a means of combating poverty and related delinquent or deviant behaviors.