The Sampson County Bar Association has unanimously given their nod of approval to endorse two local attorneys who are vying for District Court judge seats.
Both William B. Sutton, Jr. and Mario White are running for seats in the Fourth Judicial District that encompasses Sampson, Duplin, Jones and Onslow counties. Sutton and White are not running against each other, but rather vying for one of seven seats in the fourth district.
“Of all the offices that are up for election, I cannot imagine another office that directly impacts the lives of the citizens of Sampson County more than a district court judge,” Frank Bradshaw, treasurer of the Sampson County Bar Association, as well as former president of the Fourth Judicial District, said. “Sure, county commissioners, board of education, governor, and the president of the United States can have large effects on people, but a district court judge literally makes decisions about people’s lives and their families on a daily basis.”
While many people my not understand full duties of a District Court judge, Bradshaw said the job is important. According to information provided by the North Carolina Court System’s website, a District Court judge hears both civil and criminal cases.
The civil district court handles matters dealing with domestic issues such as custody, child support, equitable distribution and divorce actions. For the trial of all civil actions in which the amount in controversy is $25,000 or less district court would be the proper division. Domestic relations cases involving alimony, child support, child custody, divorce, equitable distribution, and juvenile matters are also heard in this court. In criminal cases, District Court has exclusive original jurisdiction over misdemeanor cases and most traffic offenses.
“Some people might think, ‘I don’t get into trouble and therefore a judge doesn’t impact me’,” Bradshaw added. “However, you may be the victim of a crime, you may need child support, you may get a divorce or know someone who needs one. You may get a traffic ticket. All these things are directly impacted by a District Court judge.”
Sutton, who is currently serving as a District Court judge, became a judge in 2015, when he was appointed to fill the vacancy left by the retirement of the Hon. Leonard W. Thagard.
According to Bradshaw, the governor interviewed and vetted numerous candidates after first receiving nominations from the local bar, which includes attorneys from across the entire district.
Sutton is now running for re-election, but isn’t the only person vying for the seat. Anita Powers, an attorney from Duplin County, and Paul Castle, an attorney from Onslow County, have both filed against Sutton.
White is seeking election to a seat currently held by Judge Louis F. Foy, Jr., from Jones County. Foy has announced he will not seek re-election and numerous attorneys, in addition to White, have filed for the seat. White is the only attorney from Sampson County who has filed for this seat. Other attorneys who are seeking election are Kelly Neal, Michael Surles and Nathan Sweet, all from Onslow County.
Representation from Sampson County, Bradshaw said, is very important.
“Sampson County is the second most populated county in our judicial district and it would be a travesty if none of the seven judges are from Sampson County,” the local attorney said. “We need someone from our county to represent us on the bench.”
There will be a primary election held on March 15, and the top two recipients of votes, for both seats, will be selected and will appear on the ballot in November’s regularly held elections.
Reach Kristy D. Carter at 910-592-8137, ext. 2588. Follow us on Twitter at @SampsonInd. Like us on Facebook.