District court judge Brad Allen retires

Retirement preempts any potential disciplinary action by state supreme court

Longtime district court judge Bradley (“Brad”) Reid Allen, Sr., 61, has retired.

The retirement follows Allen’s demotion from chief district court judge following a bar association Christmas party at which he allegedly behaved improperly toward one or more women attorneys at the party.

Subsequently, North Carolina chief justice Paul Newby made the decision to remove Allen as the chief district court judge and elevate instead judge Kathryn Whitaker “Katie” Overby as Alamance County’s chief district court judge.  According to several sources, Newby was in Graham the day of that decision (Monday, December 18) to make that announcement.

Allen had acknowledged the change in his status on that day when he emailed an officer with the local bar association, stating that Newby had appointed Overby as Alamance County’s chief district court judge.

According to multiple sources, the state’s Judicial Standards Commission has been conducting an investigation into judge Allen’s conduct at that December 9 Christmas party. The results of such an investigation would ultimately be reported to the North Carolina Supreme Court which would have the responsibility to discipline Allen.

Among the issues considered by the commission in any investigation is whether a judge engaged in “willful misconduct in office, willful and persistent failure to perform the judge’s duties, habitual intemperance, conviction of a crime involving moral turpitude, or conduct prejudicial to the administration of justice that brings the judicial office into disrepute.”

The state supreme court’s disciplinary actions in response to investigations by the Judicial Standards Commission could range from a private letter of caution, to a public reprimand or other public actions, such as a censure, a suspension, or removal from office, which could carry with it disqualification from holding further judicial office, and potentially an elimination of retirement benefits.

The son of the late longtime superior court judge J.B. Allen, Jr., for whom the county’s criminal courts building is named, Brad Allen began his own legal career as an assistant district attorney before he was appointed to a vacancy on the district court bench in 2000. Two years later, Allen won his position outright, marking the start of an unbroken, 20-year streak of electoral success for the Alamance County Democrat.

After more than a decade on the district court bench, Allen was named as the county’s chief district court judge after the elevation of his predecessor, Jim Roberson, to a superior court judgeship in 2014.

In elections beginning in 2002, through 2014, Allen defeated four separate opponents in what were then non-partisan races by margins between 62.97 percent to 71.42 percent.  He was unopposed as a Democrat in 2018 and 2022.

 

 Origins of troubles

Allen is widely reported to have acted inappropriately toward several women at the local bar association Christmas party on December 9, which observers say was captured on video.   However, The Alamqnce News has been unable to confirm any video exists.

However, half a dozen attorneys – all of whom insisted on anonymity –confirmed for The Alamance News in December that Allen’s demotion as chief district court judge was related to his alleged behavior at the bar association’s annual social, which some refer to as the “business meeting” or the “lobster dinner,” which was held at Occasions on December 9.

An estimated 40 to 50 attorneys attended that dinner meeting.

Several eyewitnesses suggested that Allen may have already been inebriated when he arrived at the restaurant, and that his condition was exacerbated by additional alcohol he consumed on the premises.  He is accused of allegedly inappropriately touching several women during the party.

“It was a public groping on the dance floor,” said one of the attorneys who spoke to the newspaper on the condition of anonymity. “Apparently, one of our bar members had taken video of it.  I saw this; [my spouse] saw this.  There were a lot of adults in that room who saw this, some of whom are now claiming they didn’t.”

Allen is said to have told others after the fact that his level of intoxication “was due to some changes in medication he was on,” an attorney said in an interview after the party.

One attorney told the newspaper that “at least two active” complaints were filed against Allen after the Christmas party with the North Carolina Judicial Standards Commission, which is responsible for investigating complaints of misconduct or disability against judges and, if appropriate, making recommendations for public discipline.

Most of the attorneys whom the newspaper interviewed in December said they had personally witnessed the chain of events that unfolded during the bar association’s annual bash and eventually culminated with Allen falling on the dance floor before he was shepherded out of the restaurant.

“He was calling people [obscenities],” one of the attorneys who attended the event recalled. “After the food was served, this happened.  I think about half [of the guests] left after they ate.  Brad wasn’t – until he fell down – the center of attention.  They had to get people to get him up and get him into a car.  His wife was there; she helped get him out of the building.”

The Alamance News has been unable to obtain a copy of Allen’s resignation letter, which was allegedly sent on Wednesday, January 31.

The Communications Office of the North Carolina Judicial Branch, said in response to a Friday afternoon request from the newspaper for a copy of any letter from Allen, “Letters of resignation are not public record.”

Allen was not at his office in the courthouse named for his father on Friday afternoon; various assistants said he was “in the process” of moving out.

 

Only two district court judges remain

Judge Allen’s retirement leaves the Alamance County district court bench with an even more serious shortage of judges.

There are now only two of the four seats occupied – by Overby as the chief district court judge and district court judge Larry Brown. Both will be on the November 2024 ballot and face no opposition.

District court judge Rick Champion vacated his position in December in order to be appointed as the county’s first public defender.

The local bar association met in December to recommend to Governor Roy Cooper three possible replacements for Champion. The group’s members ultimately selected C. Doug Green for the top slot on this roster – followed, in declining order of popularity, by W. Craig Turner and N. Morgan Whitney.

The governor is not limited, however, to the names submitted by the bar association, although he is obligated by statute to “give due consideration” to the names submitted.

Meanwhile, Green, a Democrat and Turner, a Republican, have filed for Champion’s former seat which will be on the November 2024 ballot.

The General Assembly also included in its current fiscal budget passed last fall a fifth district court judgeship for Alamance County; that seat will be filled in the November 2024 election.  Clerk of superior court Meredith Edwards, a Republican, and attorney Natalie Jones, a Democrat, have filed for that seat.


See earlier coverage: Chief justice removes Brad Allen as chief district court judge, names Katie Overby to replace him https://alamancenews.com/chief-justice-removes-brad-allen-from-chief-district-court-judgeship-names-katie-overby-to-replace-him/