Local judges score high marks

Published 9:06 am Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Two local judges are doing their jobs well.

That was the determination of a study conducted recently by the North Carolina Bar Association. Locally, Senior Resident Superior Court Judge Cy Grant and Chief District Court Judge Thomas R.J. Newbern were evaluated as part of the study.

The 2012 Judicial Performance Evaluation was conducted by the association to provide information about judges who are eligible for election in 2012.

The survey, which was conducted last year and asked attorneys with an activeNorth Carolinalaw license, allowed respondents to rate each judge with who they had sufficient professional contact to be able to evaluate the judge’s performance.

Six categories were used in the survey including integrity and impartiality, legal ability, professionalism, communication, administrative skills and overall performance. The system gave a 5.0 rating for excellent, 4.0 was good, 3.0 was average, 2.0 below average and 1.0 was poor.

Grant received the third-highest mark of more than a dozen superior court judges rated by the survey. One of the two who received a slightly higher mark – Judge Joseph E. Turner (Judicial District 18E) – was evaluated as both a district court judge and superior court judge because of previous service.

Overall, Grant had a 4.41 rating out of a possible 5.0. He was tied with Judge Robert T. Sumner (Judicial District 27A) with that mark. The two were only slightly behind Turner (4.50) and Judge Donald W. Stephens (Judicial District 10D), who had a 4.51 rating.

Grant’s marks were consistently high throughout the survey. He received over 4.0 on every standard by which he was judged. He received a 4.46 in Integrity and Impartiality, a 4.43 in Legal Ability, a 4.47 in Professionalism, a 4.4 in Communication and a 4.4 in Administrative Skills.

Grant tallied nearly 300 responses in most areas of the survey.

“Obviously, I’m gratified by the responses,” Grant said. “I’ve been doing this for 24 years and I try to do three things. They are: be professional, respectful and fair. I think that had something to do with the opinions.”

Grant said he worked in 39 or 40 counties in his career and had dealt with quite a few lawyers. He said he was always cognizant of the fact he was representing the Judicial District 6B.

“I always try to conduct myself in a way that I feel the people of Bertie, Hertford andNorthamptoncounties would be proud of me,” he said. “I know I represent them.”

The marks for Newbern were equally solid. He was ranked in the upper 15 percent of more than 140 district court judges.

He scored an overall mark of 4.51 during the survey and was over 4.5 in each of the categories. He received a 4.62 in Integrity and Impartiality, a 4.51 in Legal Ability, a 4.6 in both Professionalism and Communication and a 4.55 in Administrative Skills.

“It is incredibly gratifying to have the response to what I’ve tried to do and what Judge Grant has tried to do all these years,” Newbern said. “Basically, its follow the Golden Rule: treat people the way you want to be treated.

“I’ve always tried to show people respect, give them ample time to present their case and then make a difficult decision,” he continued. “When you do that, people are generally receptive.”

He said the people of the Roanoke-Chowan region were part of the reason he felt the scores were so positive.

“We are blessed with nice people in our area,” he said. “There are a lot of judges in other areas that didn’t receive the kind of support we have received.”

The judge said the nature of his job and what happened in court rooms made the report even more satisfying.

“Every moment you’re in court, you are dealing with conflict and emotional issues,” Newbern said. “That’s why I take great pride in those scores, because we’re trying to treat people fairly and make difficult decisions.”

The survey is planned for each election year to allow voters to get a feel for how the members of the N.C. Bar feel judges are doing in their work.