Name as it Appears on the Ballot: Orlando F. Hudson, Jr.
Full Legal Name: Orlando Frank Hudson, Jr.
Date of Birth: March 21, 1953
Campaign Web Site: www.judgeorlandohudson.com
Occupation & Employer: Senior Resident Superior Court Judge, State of North Carolina
Years lived in Durham County: 29 years
1. What do you believe are the most important issues facing Superior Court District 14A? What are your top three priorities in addressing these issues?
Durham is in need of a new judicial facility. My first priority is making the transition from the old facility to the new facility. I have successfully worked with the Durham County Commissioners and county manager and architects to properly address that need. Our new courthouse will open in the spring of 2013. I would like to open that facility and oversee its best use. We have been in the old facility since 1978 and it is obviously outdated and cannot best serve the needs of the citizens of Durham County. Our new courthouse will be an eleven story, 318,000 square foot structure and this $119 million project will house virtually all of the court agencies necessary to efficiently run our criminal and civil justice systems. We are now preparing to move people, equipment and records into the new facility. My role as Senior Resident Judge is critical to planning and managing the project.
My second priority associated with the new courthouse is the safety of the public including judicial officials and staff. Many people are unaware of this, but in the old courthouse, it was possible for the judge, the defendant, the victim and jurors to meet in the elevator – creating the potential for a very serious disaster. The new facility will have state of the art security to separate and protect the public, isolate defendants and restrict access to court officials.
My third priority is the restoration of respect and integrity in the court system in Durham County. I have served as Senior Resident Judge since 1995. In that time, I have worked closely with five District Attorneys: Hardin, Nifong, Saacks, Cline, and now Stanback. Unfortunately, DA Nifong and DA Cline were both removed from office – this is unprecedented in that no other county in our state has ever had two district attorneys removed from office. This has had a disastrous effect on our ability to process criminal cases through our courts.
We restored our Judicial Management Team consisting of the Senior Resident Judge, Chief District Court Judge, Trial Court Administrator, Clerk of Court, Public Defender, and District Attorney. As a committee, we meet regularly to identify and resolve issues that could adversely impact the efficient administration of justice. I have worked closely with Judge Stanback as a judicial colleague for twenty years and I am pleased to work with him again as our District Attorney.
2. What in your record as a public official or other experience demonstrates your ability to be an effective superior court judge? This might include career or community service; be specific about its relevance to this office.
The nature of superior court requires one to have a wide range of knowledge of the law, criminal and civil procedures. Judges must have the intellect to not only understand the law, but also be able to comprehensively apply the law to a specific set of facts. I am the incumbent Senior Resident Superior Court Judge for District 14A and I am honored to have held this seat for twenty-three years. As Senior Resident, I have both judicial and administrative responsibilities. I have been licensed to practice since 1978 and as a testament to my wide range of experience, I have been in private practice, an assistant public defender, an assistant district attorney and a district court judge. I have developed the temperament required to effectively handle the decision-making process required of judicial officials in an equitable manner. I enjoy the challenges of superior court and know that I can continue to effectively serve if given the opportunity.
Through my experiences, I have developed the qualities that have led both other judicial officials and lawyers to hold me in high regard. North Carolina superior court judges elected me president of the Conference of Superior Court Judges. In the North Carolina Bar Association survey of lawyers who practiced before me, I have been consistently rated among the most effective superior court judges in the state. As a civil and criminal administrator, I have been very effective; in 1995, then District Attorney James Hardin and I created a criminal case management system that has been codified by statute by the state. The Administrative Office of the Courts recognizes Durham’s civil court program as one of the best civil management programs in this state.
As a superior court judge, you are the ultimate decision-maker in the courtroom at the trial level. I consider it imperative that I adapt my leadership style to be compatible with the situation at hand. This is a skill which is not only intuitive, but is the result of years of practice and professional refinement. I have been the Senior Judge in Durham since 1995. I have a great deal of legal and administrative experience and responsibility. I have demonstrated the importance of flexibility, adaptability and patience and have earned the respect of my peers and the public for my consistent judicial persona.
3. How do you define yourself politically and how does your political philosophy show itself in your past achievements and present campaign platform?
I am a moderate – conservative on financial matters and liberal on some social matters. District 14A was created in support of minority representation in the judiciary. With the support of the Durham Committee on the Affairs of Black People, Rep. H. M. Michaux was successful in helping the legislature understand the importance of minority representation in this and 12 other minority seats in the state. I am an African American proven to be effective and respectful of this position and I consciously bring that perspective to the bench. Prior to the passage of legislation creating District 14A, there was not one elected African American Superior Court Judge in North Carolina.
In 1983, I came to Durham as an Assistant District Attorney having been hired by then District Attorney Ronald Stephens. In 1984, Governor Hunt appointed me a District Court Judge. I was elected a Superior Court Judge in 1989. I believe maintaining racial, ethnic and gender diversity to be an important part of the administration of justice. I have administrative responsibility for the appointment of magistrates half of whom are women and minorities. I also appoint the public defender and have appointed two, both African American males. My Trial Court Administrator and Trial Court Coordinator are both women. As an African American male, I know the importance of exceeding the qualifications of this position and bringing the African American perspective to this role and to my peers who elected me to a leadership role.
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.
My view on capital punishment is that North Carolina has allowed for the imposition of the death penalty. My oath as a judge obligates me to carry it out in an appropriate case. My actions show I fulfilled my responsibilities appropriately. I have tried death penalty cases in the following counties: Scotland, Robeson, Alamance, Harnett, Wake, and Durham. In my opinion, North Carolina should eliminate the death penalty and impose life without the possibility of parole as the ultimate penalty. This is in part due to the fact that death penalty cases are irreversible and extremely costly.
The Racial Justice Act is the present law in the state of North Carolina again. My oath as a judge requires me to consider it in an appropriate case. Because North Carolina is a former Confederate State, the Racial Justice Act, even as modified, is very necessary legislation in order to maintain our standards of fairness within all stages of the judicial process.
5. The Independent’s mission is to help build a just community in the Triangle. How would your election to office help further that goal?
The poor, the uneducated and minorities are most frequently involved in our legal system. It is my sworn responsibility to ensure that everyone receives the protections guaranteed under the constitution (of the United States and North Carolina). I am obligated to act on this responsibility through my decisions. As Senior Resident Superior Court Judge, it is my responsibility to review and decide motions for appropriate relief and writs of habeas corpus. These are requests for legal hearings, that if granted, could result in a convicted defendant getting another review of the fairness of a previous trial. In these instances, factors other than the weight of the evidence could have resulted in a wrongful conviction. For example, in 2002, in a case entitled State of North Carolina v. Juan Villede, I dismissed a DWI charge against a Hispanic male because of racial profiling by a trooper with the North Carolina Highway Patrol. The dismissal was upheld by The North Carolina Court of Appeals.
In 2007, in a case entitled State of North Carolina v. Floyd Lee Brown, I dismissed a murder charge that had been pending against a mentally incompetent African American male. The state would neither try him nor release him preferring to keep him in prison for fourteen years without letting him have his day in court. Once again, the state did not appeal my decision to dismiss the charges.
The case of the State of North Carolina v. Erick Daniels was extensively covered by the Independent Weekly (September 24, 2008). Daniels was a 14 year old who was tried as an adult for two counts of armed robbery. At the time, there was some eyewitness testimony against him, but no physical evidence. Carlos Mahoney, his attorney, filed with me as judge, a motion for appropriate relief, in which he contended Mr. Daniels did not receive a fair trial. He presented evidence that convinced the court that the eyewitness identification was unbelievable and that the state possessed knowledge that another person actually committed the crime. I was convinced Mr. Daniels did not receive a fair trial. Even though he had served seven years in prison I ordered his immediate release. Mr. Daniels was released from prison and the state did not appeal the court’s decision.
The case of the State of North Carolina v. Michael Peterson was another case I tried and reviewed. This was an internationally covered trial that produced TV series, books and films. In 2003, Mr. Peterson was convicted of the murder of his wife. His conviction resulted in a life sentence that was upheld by the Supreme Court of North Carolina. In 2011, his attorney brought on for hearing a motion for appropriate relief that alleged that the key state’s witness against him had given “materially misleading and deliberately false” testimony about his education and experience. I agreed with the defense attorney and granted Mr. Peterson a new trial. This decision has been appealed. However, in our democracy, justice for all individuals must be achieved and supported, regardless of the public popularity of the decision.
6. What is your experience with juvenile felony offenders? What can be done to prevent delinquency and gang involvement?
I passed the bar exam in 1978 and soon after, the majority of cases I handled were juvenile cases. For 34 years I have either defended juveniles, or prosecuted them, or judged them as a District Court Judge, or handled their cases as pleas, or trials in Superior Court.
North Carolina is one of only two states that consider a youth to be an adult at age 16. All other states set the juvenile age at age 18 or higher. I would support the age of 18 as the entry age into the juvenile system which would decriminalize many juvenile cases.
The social, cultural and environmental causes of delinquency and gang involvement are complex and not easy to solve solely through the judicial system.
Durham has been fortunate to have the resources to fund programs that have proven to be successful such as the City of Durham Gang Unit, The Project Safe Neighborhoods, The Gang Resistance Education and Training Summer Youth Camp, The Sheriff’s Office Juvenile Assistance Program and the East Durham Childrens Initiative. These programs have helped reduced the number of young men and women who unfortunately enter the judicial system.
7. What improvements could be made in the Durham County judicial system to expedite the trying of cases and ease caseloads?
I was appointed Senior Resident Judge of The 14th Judicial District by the Chief Justice of the North Carolina Supreme Court in 1995. I was aware that the criminal law statutes regulating the progression of a case through the courts was unduly reliant upon the prosecution. The prosecutor had almost complete discretion to control when a case would be calendared and tried. When to comply with the rules of discovery was not clearly set out.
Simeon v. Hardin, 339 N.C. 358 (1994), was a case that originated in Durham and bore the name of then District Attorney James Hardin because he was in office when it was decided by the North Carolina Supreme Court. The plaintiffs argued that the statues giving prosecutors full authority to calendar cases was unconstitutional. The court decided that prosecutors never had full authority to calendar cases because the court always had inherent authority to control the disposition of cases. District Attorney Hardin and I agreed with this decision and it sparked an ongoing dialogue which lead to the creation of a new system for handling criminal cases. We learned that Cumberland County Senior Resident Judge Coy Brewer and his District Attorney Ed Grinnis had devised a system. Hardin and I traveled to Fayetteville to study their Case Management System. (CMS) We changed a few things, tweaked others, and created the Durham County CMS in 1995.
The Durham County CMS is a model system copied throughout North Carolina for its fairness and efficiency. It gives the state and the defendant 12 weeks after indictment to prepare to dispose of a case by plea bargain or trial. Most cases should be disposed of in twenty-four months. Even so this system can be improved with increased funding from the state by cutting down on the time required to process laboratory work. Moreover, The Office of the District Attorney, and the Public Defender are in need of extra assistants. The Office of the Clerk of Court of Durham County is operating short of the number of clerks he should have to operate efficiently. Finally, Durham has been assigned by the state four court reporters to be responsible for recording all of its civil and criminal trials. Our experience tells us this number is not enough for a major city the size of Durham.
8. How has the absence of a crime lab in Durham County affected the administration of justice in superior court?
A U.S. Supreme Court decision requires drug analysts to testify in court rather than just submitting written reports. Joseph R. John, Sr., Director, State Crime Laboratory of North Carolina, said the state does not have adequate analysts to cover all of its criminal cases – creating “a perfect storm”. District Attorney Leon Stanback said that this has resulted in delays in trials especially driving while impaired cases ( DWI ) cases, noting that it can now take nearly a year to get back the results of blood tests needed to prosecute such cases.
The absence of a crime lab in Durham has led to delayed criminal trials for defendants and delayed justice for victims. There are two reasons to consider establishing a lab in Durham. First, the legislature has not provided sufficient resources to the courts and law enforcement so local resources have filled this part of the gap. Second, currently, the state crime lab operates as an arm of law enforcement rather than an independent, objective investigative organization. Several of the larger counties in the state fund their own Bureaus of Identification. Although these local labs do weapons and tool mark analyses, the bulk of the state’s DNA and drug analyses are still done by the State Bureau of Investigation. Durham County Commissioner Ellen Reckhow asked me to be part of a committee to study the feasibility of establishing a crime lab in Durham County. The creation of a Durham crime lab should be encouraged if it can be adequately funded by the city and the county, and if it is independent from law enforcement. I look forward to working with the committee to identify and study the many issues and efficiencies that can be gained by the justice system through this work.