06/11/04 — Magistrate resigns

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Magistrate resigns

By Jack Stephens
Published in News on June 11, 2004 2:03 PM

A first-term Wayne County magistrate will resign at the end of June, six months before his term expires.

Gilbert Owens, 49, submitted his resignation to Clerk of Court Marshall Minchew, who nominates the magistrates. Owens said he wanted to work full time in the ministry.

Minchew said he was advertising the vacancy and hoped to have a replacement soon.

Owens' appointment in December 2002 was one of several controversial new hirings for the job. He had been convicted of several misdemeanor offenses, including four worthless checks, two speeding violations, four seat-belt violations and no operator's license. The latter charge was reduced from driving while his license was revoked. He also was convicted in Sampson County District Court of possession of drug paraphernalia, but the charge was dismissed in Superior Court.

At the time, Superior Court Judge Jerry Braswell, who appoints the magistrates, said he was not concerned by the misdemeanor convictions.

Owens is the second magistrate to leave before his term ends Dec. 31. J. Nelson Kornegay retired Dec. 31, 2003, and was replaced by Bonnie Hill, a former deputy court clerk.

Magistrates are appointed for two-year terms. Minchew receives the applications and nominates them, Chief District Court Judge Joseph Setzer supervises them and Braswell approves the hires.

Magistrates are the lowest-ranking officials in the judicial system. They establish the terms of release for newly arrested defendants -- usually secured or unsecured bonds or written promises -- hold Small Claims Court and conduct weddings.