Raleigh Criminal Law Firm Comments on Recent Attempt by Legislation to Amend Constitution for District Court Judge Positions

Share Article

Matheson Law Office, a Wake County Criminal Defense and DUI Defense Firm comments on a recent story regarding Republican Legislators attempting to allow Non-Lawyers to serve as District Court Judges

If you have ever had the joyful experience of sitting in North Carolina District Court, whether it was for a traffic ticket, civil matter, divorce/custody, etc. you have witnessed a great deal of pomp and circumstance by the lawyers, judges and court staff. As a Raleigh DUI Defense Attorney, M. Moseley Matheson is in District court daily and is accustomed to the policies and procedures that take place for each and every case. Based on this experience, Attorney Matheson was concerned when he read an article by the News and Observer regarding an attempt to add an Amendment to the North Carolina Constitution.

The Legislation in question, House Bill 397, would allow Court Clerks, Sheriffs or Magistrates with at least 10 years of experience and any law enforcement officers with at least 25 years experience to serve as a District Court Judge. Though the individuals this bill would have serve as a District Court Judge will have extensive experience in and around District Court, they are lacking in the formal education one receives from Law School and the qualification which comes from passing the North Carolina State Bar. Whether it is to serve over a Wake County DWI Charge, Charlotte Family Matter or any other case in District Court, the potential for a disastrous misstep by these potential Judges is substantial.

The sponsors of this bill include Justin Burr, Jeff Collins, Mike Stone and Mike Hager; none of which are licensed attorneys. Certainly there are good intentions on the part of these sponsors to give those civil servants who have committed a great deal of time to their careers to move on to a higher position within the Judicial realm. However, legal professions are a specialty field requiring a certain amount of formal education which is certified by the North Carolina State Bar. In addition to verifying the formal education and passage of the North Carolina Bar Exam, the State Bar also does an extensive background check of each potential North Carolina Lawyer to ascertain both their professional and character soundness. This process is necessary for those who want to practice law in North Carolina.

Presently, non-lawyers can serve as Magistrates in North Carolina courts where they will set bonds, accept guilty pleas to minor misdemeanors and minor traffic matters and they can also rule over small claim cases. This differs substantially from the practice of presiding over District Court where more serious criminal matters, family matters and civil cases take place. Though small claim cases are similar to trials in District Court, the differences are actually quite substantial. First, the rules of evidence are more closely adhered to in District Court then in Small Claims Court. Additionally, District Court judgments can include jail time, probation, custody plans, divorce decrees, etc. Whether a District Court Judge is hearing the merits of a Constitutional Challenge to a Raleigh DUI Check Point or a Custody Battle involving both parents and their attorneys as well as the children's Guardian Ad Litem, the complexity cannot be overstated.

"I could not imagine, regardless of the number of years serving as a Law Enforcement Officer or Court Staff Personnel like a Magistrate or Clerk, these individuals having a complete comprehension of evidence law or trial practice. That's not to say I am in any way discounting their experience or understanding of law, but the practice of law, especially that of a Judge, carries with it serious responsibilities and ramifications that only someone certified by the State Bar should hold," Raleigh Criminal Attorney M. Moseley Matheson stated.

"In my time practicing as a Wake County Criminal Defense Lawyer I have made challenges to Constitutional issues, trial procedure issues, evidential issues and have successfully argued for the suppression of evidence and confessions on some of these grounds. The basis for these arguments are not just in Constitutional and/or Legislative language, but also in Case Law; all of which a Judge must consider," Wake County Criminal Defense Lawyer M. Moseley explains. "My understanding of these arguments was developed, not just in my legal education alone, but also in the training I received in legal research and interpretation. I just do not believe someone without a formal legal education would sufficiently understand the full spectrum of these ideas and arguments. The best example I could think of is if someone who is an office manager for a medical practice for 10 years be allowed practice medicine as a doctor."

The Matheson Law Office, Pllc is a Wake County Criminal Defense Law Firm where Attorney Matheson serves as one of the Raleigh Criminal Lawyers and Raleigh DWI Lawyers in this area. His experience has included time with the Harnett County District Attorneys Office, the Durham County Public Defenders Office and the American Civil Liberties Union (A.C.L.U.).

Share article on social media or email:

View article via:

Pdf Print

Contact Author

Moseley Matheson
Follow us on
Visit website