11/05/04 — Magistrate appointment OK'd

View Archive

Magistrate appointment OK'd

By Jack Stephens
Published in News on November 5, 2004 2:01 PM

The hiring of Patricia D. Williams as a Wayne County magistrate has been upheld by the state Attorney General's Office.

Ms. Williams was sworn in Sept. 7 by Jerry Braswell, the senior resident Superior Court judge for Wayne County. But Clerk of Court Marshall Minchew said he did not submit her name as one of those nominated.

Braswell then asked the Attorney General's Office to settle the matter.

After investigating, a chief deputy attorney general, Grayson G. Kelley, wrote that he saw "no impediment to Ms. Williams serving as a magistrate for the remainder of the term."

Kelley wrote his opinion in a letter to Thomas J. Andrews, the general counsel for the state Administrative Office of the Courts. The AOC administers the state court system.

Ms. Williams will serve until Dec. 31, filling the unexpired portion of Gilbert Owens' two-year term. Owens resigned June 30.

When Owens resigned, Braswell had asked Minchew to provide 10 nominees for the vacancy. On July 27, the clerk said he had advertised the position for two weeks but had received only nine candidates who were listed. Ms. Williams' name was not on the list.

Braswell then wrote to Minchew on Aug. 23 that while the clerk's letter had only nine names, he had, in fact, submitted 10 applications, including Ms. Williams' name.

Braswell said he considered all 10 applications and appointed Ms. Williams.

After the judge announced Ms. Williams' appointment, Minchew contended that Braswell did not follow the law in the process although the clerk admitted that she was qualified.

Braswell had expressed surprise when Minchew said the submission of Ms. Williams' application was a mistake. The judge then told the News-Argus that "there was no question in my mind about her qualifications."

Ms. Williams, who lives in Pikeville, had worked for the state Department of Correction in Raleigh and the Federal Bureau of Prisons at Fort Dix, N.J. She also has served as an assistant tennis coach at Shaw University in Raleigh.

The terms of all magistrates will expire Dec. 31.

New magistrates are appointed for two-year terms, but an amendment passed on Election Day would make magistrate terms go four years.

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.