12/14/06 — Goldsboro attorneys on list for open district judge seat

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Goldsboro attorneys on list for open district judge seat

By Andrew Bell
Published in News on December 14, 2006 1:45 PM

Five area lawyers have announced their candidacy to fill the district court vacancy that will be created when Judge Rose Williams leaves office at the end of the year.

Judge Williams, who is halfway through a four-year term, has accepted a job with the state Insurance Commissioner's Office. She is one of six district court judges who serve the 8th Judicial District that includes Wayne, Greene and Lenoir counties. The other five judges are David Brantley, Lonnie Carraway, Beth Heath, Les Turner and Chief District Court Judge Joe Setzer.

The final decision on who will get the seat rests with Gov. Mike Easley. State law requires a judge to hold a law degree, and it also provides for the appointment process, which starts with nominations by the local bar association.

Aside from her duties as a district judge, Mrs. Williams also worked with the Wayne Family Treatment Court created to get parents off of drugs and alcohol and to reunite them with their children.

"We all think she is a great judge, and I hate to see her go," 8th District Bar Association President Mark Herring said.

The 8th Judicial District Bar Association has already started the process to replace Mrs. Williams for the remaining two years of her term. All lawyers in the district were sent a notice of the open seat. All who were interested sent their information back to Herring in Kinston.

The only candidate from Lenoir to throw his hat into the ring is attorney Chris Rogerson. The other candidates, all from Goldsboro, are Will Bland, Tim Finan, Lou Jordan and Tom Brown, Herring said.

Each member of the 8th District Bar Association was sent a ballot recently with all five candidates' names. According to state law, each member of the bar association can choose up to three candidates.

Those selections must be returned to Herring by Dec. 29.

At that time, he said, the ballots will be opened and counted. The top three vote recipients will be considered the final candidates for the position and their names will be sent to Easley's office for his consideration.

By law, the governor has 60 days in which to make an appointment. He is not bound to the wishes of the bar association, however.

"He can either appoint the person with the highest number of votes or he can appoint whoever he wants whether they're on the list or not," Herring said.

Should the governor fail to make the appointment within the 60-day period, state law provides for the district bar nominee who received the highest number of votes from the district bar to take the seat.

Heath was the only one of the six district court judges to be on the ballot in November. All of the other five seats will be up for re-election in 2008.

Judge Williams was first appointed to the bench by Easley in 2001 to fill another vacancy. She was re-elected without opposition in 2004.