10/22/08 — Rogerson, Gaylor set sights on judge seat

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Rogerson, Gaylor set sights on judge seat

By Matthew Whittle
Published in News on October 22, 2008 1:46 PM



The candidates for the open District 8 District Court judge seat are attempting to draw contrasts between each other beyond the fact that one is from Wayne County and the other is from Lenoir, but both are running on their experience.

The difference is one has 30 years of private practice under his belt, while the other has 11.

However, said Chris Rogerson, 37, those 11 years in Kinston have been packed full of trial work that make him a natural fit for a seat on the bench.

"This is something I've always wanted to do. This is what I want to make my career. The main reason I think I'm the most qualified is I've spent my entire legal career in the courtroom doing what a district court judge does," he said. "And my opponent doesn't have a courtroom type practice anymore."

Over his decade in law, he said he has handled cases in district criminal and civil courts, as well as domestic and juvenile courts.

"My opponent does not operate that kind of general law office," Rogerson said.

But, replied Charlie Gaylor, he has.

Acknowledging that for the last decade he has focused more on civil cases that have kept him out of the courtroom, he emphasized that over his 30-year career, he, too, has spent time in every level of district court.

"When I first started practicing I did more trial work than I have the last 10 to 15 years, but does that mean I'm not capable of doing it? Of course not," Gaylor, 58, said. "As a district court judge, what you have to do is listen to people and apply the law."

And for that, he feels he has a good background.

"During my 30 years in private practice, and my time doing community service, I have worked with all kinds of people, and I feel like I know the people of the 8th judicial district very well and the standards they expect. When people go up there, they should walk away feeling like they had their day in court and that they were treated fairly and with respect," he said. "Yes, you have got to apply the law, but you also have to have good judgment, and I think age and experience and maturity matter. You've got to know the law, but you also have to know the people and the issues they're dealing with.

"I also, as a small businessman, understand the value of people's time, and I'll do my best to respect their time."

But Rogerson noted that he, too, runs his own practice and has been involved in the community.

More importantly, however, he said he has a good handle on what needs to be done to help the courtroom run more efficiently because of the time he's spent there in recent years.

"That experience is important because you can see the things needed to make the courtroom run more efficiently and productively," he said. "The district court judge is an advocate for all three counties to make sure their justice systems are fair and efficient."

One such idea, he said, is the use of closed-circuit television for first appearances -- something that he believes will be safer and save time and money.

Another is the use of district court to hear Class H and I felonies, the two lowest grades.

"Most people don't know you can do H and I cases in district court. For people that are sitting in jail, you can save taxpayers money by going ahead and hearing those cases at the district court level," Rogerson said, especially if they have small or no criminal backgrounds.

The third direct benefit from having spent time recently in district court, he explained, is knowing which resources are available in which counties, and how to expand those across Greene, Lenoir and Wayne so that everybody is treated fairly.

And while Gaylor didn't offer any similar suggestions, he did say he was looking forward to working with other court officials and the county commissioners to find ways to alleviate problems such as jail overcrowding.

"The judge will have a lot to do with setting the tone of the courtroom and moving the caseload along, and while I don't have all the answers to that yet, it's something I want to work on," he said. "I think anyone who's going into that position will need a little start-up time. Nobody needs to go into it thinking they know it all because they don't."