Friday, June 14, 2024

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Graham, NC 27253
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Attorney/county commissioner Craig Turner announces district court judge candidacy

Local attorney and county commissioner Craig Turner is announcing his plans to seek an appointment to a vacant district court judgeship – and ultimately to run for one of the seats on the district bench that will appear on the ballot in next year’s election.

A 50-year-old Burlington native who currently practices law at the Vernon Law Firm, Turner intends to begin his pursuit of the gavel by pursuing a gubernatorial nod to succeed outgoing district court judge Rick Champion, who was recently tapped to serve as Alamance County’s first public defender.

As a prelude to courting the governor, Turner must first clinch the support of his fellow attorneys in Alamance County’s bar association. The association’s members are currently scheduled to meet on December 1 to select a slate of five nominees to pass along to Governor Roy Cooper, who is expected, but not legally obligated, to select one of the five to take over for Champion until the outgoing judge’s term expires at the end of 2024.

Turner, who also presently serves on the county’s board of commissioners, insists that he’s an ideal choice to succeed Champion due his commitment to the legal profession. Turner was elected last year; in the event of his selection or election as a judge, the local Republican Party would be responsible for naming a successor to serve out this term.  If selected by the governor, a partial term may be on the ballot in 2024; if elected in 2024, the partial term would extend through 2026.

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“First and foremost, I’m an attorney,” contends the aspiring district court judge. “The practice of law is critically important to me, and it’s important that we have judges in Alamance County who know the law and who treat attorneys, defendants, and litigants with diligence, respect, and civility. We also need judges who are used to hard work and are willing to roll up their sleeves.”

A graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy, Turner originally turned his hand to the practice of law after he obtained his juris doctorate from Elon’s Law School in 2010. His experience in the legal profession began with a clerkship in North Carolina’s business court, where he cut his teeth on the intricate civil cases that would later become his bailiwick.

During the course of his 13-year legal career, Turner has handled complex civil litigation for both corporate clients and government entities. He also spent a year and a half as a prosecutor under Alamance County’s district attorney – a role that he believes has prepared him particularly well for a district court judgeship.

“I’ve been in the trenches, moving the district court docket, with my fellow assistant district attorneys and with defense attorneys,” he adds. “I think I would bring a strong work ethic to district court and common sense in application of the law. I also think I have the temperament to be in charge of the courtroom and also the humility to let others do their jobs adequately.”

A registered Republican, Turner insists that he’ll run for a district court judgeship regardless of whether he wins favor with North Carolina’s Democratic governor. To this end, he plans to file for one of the four seats on the district court bench that will appear on the ballot next year.

In addition to the seat which Champion is slated to vacate, next year’s election will also feature the district court judgeships that currently occupied by incumbent judges Larry Brown and Katie Overby. Also on the ballot will be a brand new position that the General Assembly created earlier this fall when it agreed to grant Alamance County its fifth seat on the district court bench.

This rich selection of seats will pose quite a conundrum for Turner and other aspiring judges who will have a relatively brief window to decide which seat to pursue when the state launches the 12-day candidate filing period for next year’s election on December 4. To complicate matters, there’s no guarantee that the governor will appoint Champion’s successor before the filing period ends on December 15. Even so, the local bar association is hoping to expedite things by meeting on December 1 to select its five nominees – the same day that Champion is set to begin his new role as Alamance County’s public defender.

The timing of these developments also comes at a critical moment for Turner, who recently announced his engagement to Dr. Julie Hancock, the principal at Turrentine Middle School.

But as convoluted as the situation may get, Turner has tried to approach it with an attitude of equanimity and forethought that he believes would serve him well if he’s called on to serve as a district court judge.

“I spent some time in the Navy and learned both how important it is to prepare and to make decisions efficiently,” he says. “I also learned the importance of treating everybody with respect.”

“In our society, we have lost our sense of civility,” he continues. “Everybody involved in the judicial process needs to abide by a fundamental level of civility, and I would insist upon that civility in the courtroom.”

A registered Republican, Turner insists that he’ll run for a district court judgeship regardless of whether he wins favor with North Carolina’s Democratic governor. To this end, he plans to file for one of the four seats on the district court bench that will appear on the ballot next year.

 

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