10/27/06 — Judge Rusty Duke makes bid for Supreme Court chief

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Judge Rusty Duke makes bid for Supreme Court chief

By Andrew Bell
Published in News on October 27, 2006 1:46 PM

Superior Court Judge Rusty Duke wants voters to know that the judicial candidates they will see on the November ballot are not just names on a piece of paper.

Duke, a Superior Court Judge from Greenville, is running for Chief Justice for the state Supreme Court against incumbent Sarah Parker, a 13-year veteran of the court who was appointed Chief Justice in February upon the retirement of I. Beverly Lake.

In a recent stop in Wayne County, Duke talked about his campaign and why he is seeking the highest judicial post in North Carolina.

Unlike many judicial candidates, Duke openly touts his political affiliation. He is a Republican. Mrs. Parker is a Democrat.

During his 17 years as a superior and district court judge, Duke said he has held court in almost half of North Carolina's counties. That has given him not only experience with legal issues but experience in knowing what North Carolinians expect from their court system, he said.

His experience as a judge has taught Duke the inner workings on what happens in a courthouse and the kinds of people and agencies involved in the courtroom.

"Ninety percent of what happens in court happens at trial court," Duke said. "I know about the victims, the perps, law enforcement agencies -- you name it."

Given the opportunity to lead the state's highest court, Duke said, he would push to have all of the state's judges to expand courtroom time and get rid of the backlog of cases that plague most judicial districts.

"We're in the business of justice. Justice for the community as well as the defendant," Duke said.

He added he believes in the rule of law, with his basic legal philosophy being natural law.

"It's the same principals in the Declaration of Independence. The creator gave us our rights, not the government. The government's only there to protect those rights. Judges should just interpret the law, not make it. When they start to make laws, they go outside of their authority," Duke said.

Duke said he believes part of his job, and the job of every judge, is while considering the laws to also consider the society that is expecting to be protected by those laws. That society rests on the family and the law must work to protect the basic family structure, he said. Duke said that the majority of people he sees in trouble for breaking the law come from a dysfunctional family. The courts cannot ignore that problem and the need to protect the family, he said.

His said his goal is for the entire court system, from district courts to the highest levels, to be run more efficiently and be more responsive to the community's needs.

At every level of the state's judicial system, Duke said, too many judges and court workers are not making the best use of their time. For example, he said, a judge could be assigned civil cases to be held throughout an entire week, but finishes hearing the cases by mid-week. That leaves several days worth of cases the judge could be hearing, but to which he hasn't been assigned.

Duke said he would revamp the system by randomly assigning cases to judges so that each minute of the judge's time is used to benefit the legal system, and thereby the people who are paying for its operation.

Counties also need to improve the technology in their court offices, Duke said. But the state can't reasonably expect each county to buy new equipment, such as better computer systems, he conceded. The state should step in and help pay, he said, adding that he would actively lobby legislators to consider increasing funding for the court system.

Duke encouraged voters to get to know the candidates who will appear on the judicial ballots. Too many people do not do their homework and are ill-prepared to cast votes in many of the judicial races, he said, despite the importance of the positions.

For more information on the judicial candidates, profiles are available on the state and local Board of Elections Web sites at www.sboe.state.nc.us and www.waynegov.com/boe.