District Court Judge 10 (Gray Seat) — Erin Mulligan Graber
Beyond enforcing laws and being fair, what do you think are important qualities to bring to the bench?
Let me tell you a little about myself and what I think are very important qualities to bring to the bench. Before I was a lawyer I worked at social services. I worked at Interact here in Wake County, if you’re familiar with that program. We work with domestic violence victims and survivors of sexual assault. Being in social services I was in this day in and day out, learning the resources in the community, in Wake County. I was actually out in the field and after that I got to see the criminal domestic violence courtroom and so I have that hands-on experience.
And then I went to law school and continued my work in the field of domestic violence. And I worked at legal aid in New Orleans, and I worked in the public defender’s office down there as a third-year law student. I came back here, I clerked for a year with Judge Webb in the Eastern District of North Carolina—well, not quite a year, but for a period of time—and after that I went back to work in district court.
I think some of the most important qualities I bring to the bench are that I’m very grounded. I’m very familiar with the programs and resources in Wake County and I think that’s exceptionally important in a time when budgets are being cut and we don’t have the programs we had before. And in the work that I did before I became a judge, about 50 percent of my practice was family law, and that’s matters like custody and divorce, child support, matters like that. The other half was criminal defense, and I’ve handled every kind of case from attempted murder to trespassing and everything in between. And I handled juvenile matters as well as adult matters. I’m very familiar, again, with the resources in the community. I think being in touch with that is one of the most important qualities I do bring to the bench.
District Court of course is the court that touches the people. If someone’s going to have contact in some way, shape or form with the court system, they’re most likely to have it in District Court.
Why should your constituents elect you?
Let me just start by saying the lawyers in Wake County who’ve worked with me day in and day out had a bar vote in March of 2012, and I was their top choice for appointment into this position. Additionally the North Carolina State Bar Association did a non-incumbent judicial survey that basically ranked all potential candidates in five different areas, including their intellectual capacity, organizational skills and overall. I ranked the highest of any incumbent for a judicial seat in Wake County at District Court. There were several of us, but I ranked the highest, so I feel like I have the support. And this was a blind survey where people could be brutally honest and it would be confidential and no one would know. If you take a look at that survey, and it’s on ncbar.org website, you can see the results from that. I believe I had a 4.34 out of 5. I was very humbled by that.
I was also named an emerging legal leader in 2011 by North Carolina Lawyers Weekly. They only name 20 of those. It was based in part on my commitment to pro bono work over the years and in particular that I donated over 225 hours to a young man helping him to get his child. My pro bono work was featured on the front page of Lawyers Weekly.
Here’s a little bit about me. I was a small business owner before I became a judge, I’m a wife and I’m a mom. I think those are all qualities I would want my constituents to know about me because I’m just like they are. And I think having a judge that can associate with that, in a family-type arena, family court arena or in a criminal case, those are really important—those are qualities about me I’d want my constituents to know.
What is your area of legal expertise and how will that help you on the bench?
My area of legal expertise as I said—I graduated law school in 2003, I became a lawyer in North Carolina in 2004. Since that time I have exclusively practiced two areas of law. I’ve practiced criminal defense, and I include working with juveniles—I’m very familiar with the juvenile system as well as the adult system. I’ve also worked with family law cases. That’s everything from child support, domestic violence, custody matters, and if you think about what District Court is, it’s really what District Court handles. It handles low-level felonies, it handles domestic violence cases, it handles misdemeanor cases, it handles traffic cases, family law matters. Those are all areas of law that I’ve practiced for years.
I was a trial attorney, and now I’m sitting in a courtroom trying cases every day. I was literally sworn in as a judge at four o’clock one day, took the bench the next morning and it was a very smooth transition, because this is what I’ve been doing.
My area of legal expertise—you understand the North Carolina State Bar does have legal specialization? I am not a specialist in anything, but these are the areas of law I’ve practiced, the areas of District Court. And it has been a seamless transition. I very much enjoy my job, and I’d very much like to keep it, so that’s what I’m working on doing in November. Trying to communicate to as many people as I can about who I am as a person, who I am as their judge serving in Wake County, and why I’d like to continue serving.
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