Governor given names of nominees to assume District Court judgeship

Published 8:00 pm Friday, March 16, 2018

Gov. Roy Cooper has received a list of four nominees, one of which could assume the District Court seat now vacant as a result of Judge Michael A. Paul’s retirement last month.

Under state law, Cooper has the authority to appointment someone to the seat held by Paul. The person the governor appoints would complete Paul’s unexpired four-year term, which ends in 2020. That person would have to file as a judicial candidate in 2020 to retain the seat for another four-year term.

Paul was the chief district court judge in the 2nd Judicial District, which includes Beaufort, Martin, Washington, Hyde and Tyrrell counties. Regina Parker, a long-serving District Court judge, replaced Paul as the 2nd Judicial District’s chief district court judge March 1. She has seniority over Chris McLendon and Darrell B. Cayton Jr., the district’s other District Court judges. North Carolina Supreme Court Chief Justice Mark Martin announced her appointment Feb. 1.

The 2nd Judicial District Bar met about two weeks ago and voted on four nominees (state law allows for five nominees) for submission to the governor. Those nominees include Washington attorneys M. Jason Williams, Keith Mason and Watsi Sutton and Raye Cameron, an assistant district attorney in the 2nd Judicial District, according to Herman Gaskins Jr., a Washington attorney.

“Generally, the governor is advised of what the vote is, who the leading vote-getters are and what the specific voting tallies are,” Gaskins said. “The governor then will make the appointment of who the new judge will be. The governor is not bound by list that the bar sends him. This is a change from the old law where the governor was bound to appoint from the list, but the Republicans changed the law several years ago. Gov. Cooper, to this date, has always appointed from the list, but he’s not required by law to do it.”

Gaskins said the bar voted on the four people who nominated themselves. The vote totals were Williams, 33 votes; Mason, 27 votes; Cameron, 22 votes and Sutton, 13 votes. “That information was transmitted to the governor approximately two weeks ago,” Gaskins said. “The governor has no time table for his appointment.”

In the 2nd Judicial District, two judges were initially appointed: Chief Judge Hallet Ward and Judge Charles Manning. In 50 years, only six more District Court judges — Samuel Grimes, James Hardison, Darrell Cayton, Chris McLendon, Paul and Parker — have served in the district.

About Mike Voss

Mike Voss is the contributing editor at the Washington Daily News. He has a daughter and four grandchildren. Except for nearly six years he worked at the Free Lance-Star in Fredericksburg, Va., in the early to mid-1990s, he has been at the Daily News since April 1986.
Journalism awards:
• Pulitzer Prize for Meritorious Public Service, 1990.
• Society of Professional Journalists: Sigma Delta Chi Award, Bronze Medallion.
• Associated Press Managing Editors’ Public Service Award.
• Investigative Reporters & Editors’ Award.
• North Carolina Press Association, First Place, Public Service Award, 1989.
• North Carolina Press Association, Second Place, Investigative Reporting, 1990.
All those were for the articles he and Betty Gray wrote about the city’s contaminated water system in 1989-1990.
• North Carolina Press Association, First Place, Investigative Reporting, 1991.
• North Carolina Press Association, Third Place, General News Reporting, 2005.
• North Carolina Press Association, Second Place, Lighter Columns, 2006.
Recently learned he will receive another award.
• North Carolina Press Association, First Place, Lighter Columns, 2010.
4. Lectured at or served on seminar panels at journalism schools at UNC-Chapel Hill, University of Maryland, Columbia University, Mary Washington University and Francis Marion University.

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