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Aminah Thompson 2014 PA-PAC Questionnaire

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Aminah Thompson, candidate for NC District Court District 14 Justice, 2014 People's Alliance PAC Questionnaire

Aminah Thompson, candidate for NC District Court District 14 Justice, 2014 People's Alliance PAC Questionnaire

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  • 1. Aminah Thompson People’s Alliance PAC 2014 Questionnaire for North Carolina Trial Division Judicial Candidates Candidate’s name Aminah Thompson_______________________________________________ Residence address PO Box 13724___________________________________________________ Cell-phone Number ___(919)590-5977 _ e-mail ____thompson4justice@gmail.com____________________________ See attached resume About you: 1) Where were you born and where have you lived? When did you make Durham your home? I was born in Greenville, SC. I lived in Amherst, MA for 8 years (where both of my parent's earned their Ed.D.) and Lawrence, KS for 8 years. I came to Durham to go to school in 1999, but never intended to stay, as all of my family and close friends live out of state. While working as a criminal Magistrate, I spent every other week traveling to visit family. I only started considering Durham home within the past year. 2) Are you conservative or liberal? Please choose one and then explain your answer. I tend to have a more liberal point of view—the government does have a duty to protect civil liberties and human rights. I hesitate to explain further, because liberal and conservative views differ on many controversial topics such as the death penalty, abortion, gun control and welfare, among others. As a judicial official, further explanation may imply my position on these disputed legal issues in violation of my cannon of ethics. 3) Please describe how your religious and philosophical beliefs may affect your conduct and decision making if you are elected. My religious and philosophical beliefs will not affect my decision making or conduct. I am a Christian, but my role as a judge will be to listen to the facts and apply the law without injecting my personal beliefs. 4) Please list the organizations (educational, social, charitable, cultural, political, religious, etc.) you have joined or supported. If you have held an office in any of these organizations, please describe.
  • 2. Duke University Alumni Association, Guilford County Black Lawyers Association, Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc., International Association of Women Judges, Duke University Campus Club, NC Magistrates Association, Attend Union Baptist Church. 5) If you have had an occupation other than law, please describe the occupation and the work you performed. Who were your employers? I conducted research on HIV at Duke Medical Center for the Department of Surgery. By using live virus, I attempted to find a broadly cross-reactive antibody that would significantly neutralize the virus. 6) Have you ever been convicted of a criminal offense other than a minor traffic offense (such as speeding)? If the answer is yes, please describe the circumstances and the outcome. NO 7) Have you personally ever been the plaintiff or defendant in a lawsuit? If the answer is yes, please explain the circumstances and the outcome of the case. NO About your practice of law: 8) Please describe your practice as a lawyer. Be specific. Describe the areas of your practice and your specialties. If, over time, these have changed, describe the changes. Describe your client base as a part of your answer. Prior to becoming a Magistrate, I practiced plaintiff's personal injury law. I was independently charged with handling all stages of these cases and saw 300+ cases to completion. This included countless mediations, arbitrations, trial preparation and jury trials. 9) If you are a judge in the trial division, please describe two trials over which you have presided which best illustrate your abilities and temperament as a trial judge. Explain why you selected the cases you describe. One case that stands out is a small claims case between two sisters. There were several family members in the courtroom on both sides of the dispute and ALL felt they had something to contribute to the hearing, mostly at inappropriate times. I don't have a clerk, a bailiff and, as usual, the parties were not represented. As such, there were no attorneys to assist in pulling out the relevant information and, controlling the courtroom while still allowing the parties to be heard and feel respected rested solely on my shoulders.
  • 3. I selected this case, not only because it exhibits my judicial temperament and my ability to control a courtroom by myself, but because several months later, I saw one of the sisters out in the community. She approached me and thanked me for listening to her case, even though she did not prevail. She said that I had been very fair, she could tell that I listened, and that in explaining my ruling, I helped her to understand what she could have or should have done differently. Also, something I said resonated with her, and she was able to repair a relationship with her family that had been damaged for years. The second noteworthy case presented several challenges. I often find in small claims court that litigants and attorneys do not give the same level of respect that they would to a higher court judge. In this case, I had two zealous advocates, who wanted to control my courtroom—I remained in control without alienating or offending anyone. The case also presented some complex legal issues. In controlling the courtroom, I resisted the temptation to act like I knew all of the answers and took a brief moment to review the law. In that, I exhibited thoughtfulness and an ability to conduct the appropriate legal research, without any administrative staff, in order to render a timely and fair ruling. 10) If you are not a trial judge, please describe two of your cases that best illustrate the abilities and temperament you would display as the holder of the office you seek. N/A 11) If you are a sitting judge seeking reelection, are you satisfied with your North Carolina Bar Association Judicial Performance Evaluation scores? Do you think the evaluation process is valid and the results a fair indication of your performance? Using the survey categories in the evaluation, please indicate what steps, if any, you plan to take to improve your scores. If you are not a sitting judge, please evaluate yourself as the judge you think you will be if you are elected. Please use the five survey categories and in your answer take into account how you think other attorneys would evaluate you. N/A 12) Have you ever been publicly or privately disciplined by the North Carolina State Bar or any other professional or occupational licensing authority in North Carolina or any other state? “Disciplined” should be read to include reprimands, censures, and warnings in addition to license suspension, surrender, revocation, and disbarment. Is the State Bar or any governmental authority considering a complaint against you at the present time? Have you ever been found in contempt of court? For each “yes” answer, please provide us with a full description of the action taken, when it was taken, the authority in question, and a statement of the facts and events giving rise to the action or complaint against you. I received a Show Cause order for untimely payment of a CLE fee.
  • 4. 13) Please describe the nature and extent of any pro bono work you have done. Is there a pro bono matter to which you have contributed that best illustrates your values? Under the 3rd year practice rule, I represented and defended juveniles in delinquency and emancipation hearings. The most rewarding of these was an emancipation hearing of a 16 year old who had a son, and whose mother was using the infant’s social security number to fraudulently obtain credit and other government benefits for herself. In addition to helping the teen to become emancipated, over the course of my representation and beyond, I was also able to instill in her the value of education in breaking the cycle of poverty. Most of my legal career has been as a Magistrate. As such, I have not had the opportunity to do more pro bono work because I am prohibited from practicing law. Concerning law and policy: 14) What are your views on the death penalty and the way death penalty cases are handled in North Carolina? As a matter of the administration of justice, what should the courts and legislature do about the death penalty? Although capitol cases are not heard in District Court, my cannon of ethics prevents me from any pronouncement of my views on such disputed legal or political issues. 15) Do you perceive any racial discrimination in the criminal justice system? If your answer is yes, what should be done to combat it? Yes. This discrimination starts with law enforcement, where minorities are disproportionately targeted as criminal suspects, and continues through each stage of the process from arraignment to plea bargaining, sentencing, jail and prison custody, parole and re-entry. Combating this discrimination requires a combined effort of practitioners, educators and policymakers. Discrimination in the court system is a reflection of much larger, more complex social and economic challenges such as disparate access to education, housing and jobs. 16) What are your views on the rights (including whether any such rights exist) of homosexual persons to marry? Did you vote for or against Amendment One? Again, I can’t comment as to my opinion on disputed legal or political issues, as it may imply how I would decide a case that appears before me. As
  • 5. a matter of fact, I voted against Amendment 1. 17) Do we incarcerate too many people in North Carolina? Do we incarcerate the right people? Please explain your answer. What sentencing policy changes would you support in your role as a trial court judge? Would you advocate for these policy changes publicly and to the North Carolina Sentencing and Policy Advisory Commission and in the North Carolina judges conferences? The evidence that large-scale incarceration is not the most effective way to ensure public safety and prison overcrowding tend to show that we incarcerate too many people nationwide. Further, I question several things about the incarceration rate, namely the utility (or lack thereof) of lengthy sentences for minor and non-violent crimes and the great racial disparity in North Carolina. As such, I would support a review of minimum mandatory sentencing guidelines for nonviolent crimes. These guidelines often limit judicial discretion and don’t fully allow a trial judge to consider mitigating factors. Nonetheless, I would remain committed to applying the law as written and abiding by any such guidelines. When I am elected, I will embrace the opportunity to not only render judgments but also to have a voice in advocating for policy changes. 18) If elected, will you support the following programs: the Drug Treatment Court, the Criminal Justice Resource Center, STAR, the Mental Health Treatment Court, the Veterans’ Court, the misdemeanor diversion program for 16- and 17- year-olds, and the newly established pretrial services program? If you have reservations about any of these programs please explain them. YES. I will support programs that facilitate treatment for mental health and substance abuse, provide education and rehabilitation and/or allow juveniles to avoid criminal records that would ultimately impede their ability to become productive, employable citizens. I do think that medical and psychiatric evaluations are necessary in order to assure that those availing themselves of such resources are qualified for such treatment and not simply trying to avoid more stringent sentencing. Your politics: 19) How are you registered to vote? Have you ever changed your registration? If you have changed your voter registration, please explain why. Democrat. I have not ever changed my registration. 20) Who did you vote for in the 2008 and 2012 presidential and gubernatorial elections? 2008- Barack Obama, Beverly Purdue 2012- Barack Obama, Walter Dalton
  • 6. 21) Have you ever been active in the campaign of a candidate for elective office (by active we mean acted as campaign manager, treasurer, or paid staff, or contributed more than $2,000)? If the answer is yes, please list the candidates and the offices they sought. NO 22) If you are elected, do you envision any community involvement beyond the specific duties of the office? If yes, please describe that involvement. I do look forward to becoming more involved in the community. Until recently, I wasn’t very familiar with the People’s Alliance, but as a newly joined member I hope to become active in efforts to reduce the poverty rate in Durham, which is amongst the worst in the state. I also hope to discover a way to advocate for a better public transportation system. While this may inconsequential to many, the lack thereof greatly and adversely affects citizens’ ability to maintain consistent employment and provide for their families. I also place a high value on education and preparation. I have done a great deal of tutoring over the past several years, but realize that I have been too focused on simply getting my students through whatever classes they find challenging. My plan going forward is to make a greater effort to expose more youth to the tools that will prepare them for higher education and beyond.  
  • 7. AMINAH M. THOMPSON aminah.thompson@alumni.duke.edu (919) 590-5977 BAR ADMISSION Licensed to practice in North Carolina, 2007 EDUCATION UNIVERSITY OF NORTH CAROLINA SCHOOL OF LAW, Chapel Hill, NC Juris Doctorate, May 2007 Activities/Honors: Broun (TYLA/AAJ) Trial Team, Competitor/Coach Thurgood Marshall (BLSA) Mock Trial Team, Competitor/Coach Journal of Law and Technology, Staff Writer Gressman-Pollitt Oral Advocacy Award Winner 2006-2007 William H. Holderness Scholarship Recipient 2005-2006 Student Advisory Council to Dean Gail Agrawal UNIVERSITY OF SYDNEY FACULTY OF LAW, Sydney, Australia Study Abroad, Summer 2006 Coursework: International Civil Litigation and Dispute Resolution, Human Rights and Global Economy, International Environmental Law DUKE UNIVERSITY, Durham, NC A.B. Sociology, May 2003 Activities/Honors: International Sociology Honor Society, Alpha Kappa Delta Spring 2002 Initiate, Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc. UNIVERSITY OF GHANA, Accra, Ghana, West Africa Study Abroad, Summer 2002 Coursework: Law, Politics, Arts & Culture EXPERIENCE JUDICIAL BRANCH-STATE OF NORTH CAROLINA, Durham, NC Magistrate Judge, January 2009-Present Preside over Small Claims Court and evictions, issue search and arrest warrants, set bond, issue Involuntary Commitment orders, Ex Parte Domestic Violence Protective Orders, and perform marriages. WOMBLE CARLYLE SANDRIDGE AND RICE, Durham, NC Contract Attorney, September 2008-January 2009 Reviewed and quality controlled documents for production in complex litigation for relevance, privilege and confidentiality. R. STEVE BOWDEN & ASSOCIATES, Greensboro, NC Associate Attorney, October 2007-October 2008 Personal injury and malpractice litigation. Managed staff of seven paralegals. Independently conducted client intake, negotiations, legal research, discovery, mediations, arbitrations and jury trial. JUDGE MATHIS, AND SYNDICATED PRODUCTIONS, INC., North Carolina Court Researcher, July 2006-October 2007 Researched and recommended small claims cases in Durham, Orange and Wake counties for hearing on court TV show.
  • 8. A. THOMPSON ▪ Page 2 EXPERIENCE UNIVERSITY OF NORTH CAROLINA SCHOOL OF LAW, Chapel Hill, NC CONT. Research Assistant, July 2006-June, 2007 Researched professional responsibility and constitutional issues. Assisted in restructuring Sydney Study Abroad Program. DUKE UNIVERSITY ATHLETIC DEPT., Durham, NC Academic Tutor, January 2003-May 2006 Tutored college students in Spanish, English, sociology and chemistry. UNC SCHOOL OF LAW CRIMINAL CLINIC, Chapel Hill, NC Juvenile Public Defender, January 2007-May 2007 Represented juveniles during emancipation, delinquency and criminal hearings. LEGAL AID OF NORTH CAROLINA, Durham, NC Legal Intern, August 2006-December 2006 Interviewed clients, researched and prepared memoranda on consumer law and other civil issues including contract law, tax, bankruptcy, real estate and domestic disputes. UNIVERSITY OF NORTH CAROLINA SCHOOL OF LAW, Chapel Hill, NC Research Assistant, June 2005-August 2005 Selected by Ruth McKinney, Dean for Legal Writing and Academic Success, to proofread and update the first-year Research, Reasoning, Writing and Advocacy curriculum and course materials. LAND LOSS PREVENTION PROJECT, Durham, NC Legal Intern, May 2005-August 2005 Researched and prepared memoranda on real estate disputes and provision of legal services to underrepresented landowners. UNIVERSITY OF NORTH CAROLINA ATHLETIC DEPT., Chapel Hill, NC Academic Tutor, July 2004-August 2005 Tutored college students in Business Law, Media Law, Sociology, Chemistry and Writing skills. DUKE UNIVERSITY DEPARTMENT OF SURGERY, Durham, NC Research Technician II, June 2003-July 2004 Performed assays with live virus to identify immunogens that generate broadly cross-reactive neutralizing antibodies against HIV DUKE UNIVERSITY DEPARTMENT OF CHEMISTRY, Durham, NC Laboratory/Recitation Instructor, July 2001-May 2002 Developed lesson plans and instructed advanced general chemistry laboratory of 20 students. Assisted instructor with administration and grading of quizzes and tests. PROFESSIONAL International Association of Women Judges ASSOCIATIONS North Carolina Magistrates Association Duke University Alumni Association Duke University Campus Club INTERESTS International Travel, Photography, Tennis, Writing