09/15/04 — Clerk says judge didn't follow law in magistrate hire

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Clerk says judge didn't follow law in magistrate hire

By Jack Stephens
Published in News on September 15, 2004 2:01 PM

Wayne County Clerk of Court Marshall Minchew says Superior Court Judge Jerry Braswell did not follow state law in appointing the latest magistrate.

Minchew said Tuesday that he nominated nine people for the job, but the newest magistrate, Patricia D. Williams, was not among them.

"It's not a question of whether Patricia D. Williams is qualified," Minchew said. "It's a question of whether Judge Braswell followed proper procedure and selected from my list of nominees."

Minchew admitted that Ms. Williams, who applied for the job June 24, was qualified to serve. But the clerk noted that Braswell had represented her in a court case.

The vacancy in the magistrates' office occurred when Gilbert Owens announced that he would resign June 30, six months before the end of his first two-year term. In his resignation letter to Braswell, Owens said he wanted to devote more time to the ministry. After he resigned, Owens was arrested by Mount Olive police and charged with cocaine possession.

Minchew advertised for the magistrate's job and sent the nine nominees to Braswell on July 27. The clerk said the judge had 15 days, by law, to appoint a replacement. Braswell responded in a letter dated Aug. 23 that he had considered all 10 applicants.

Minchew said he wrote back to Braswell on Aug. 31 that Ms. Williams was not on the list.

But Ms. Williams was sworn in by Braswell on Sept. 7.

Minchew says he did not know how Braswell got Ms. Williams' application. The clerk's secretary, Karrie Riggs Minchew, who is now married to clerk Minchew's son, says she did not include the application in the stack of nominees.

If there was a question about the application, Minchew said, Braswell should have called him about it.

Under state law, the clerk of court nominates candidates to be magistrates, the chief District Court judge supervises them and the senior resident Superior Court judge appoints them.

The state Administrative Office of the Courts is reviewing the appointment. Dick Ellis, a spokesman for the office, has said a decision should be made within a few weeks to determine if the appointment will stand.

Braswell is in court in Wilmington this week and was not available for comment before press time.