Buncombe Hill County Circuit Court Chief Justice, the county’s second Black judge, will not run in 2024
ASHEVILLE – After Chief District Judge J. Following his announcement on November 2 that he would not seek re-election, the Citizen-Times sat down with the chief judge of the Buncombe County Circuit Court to discuss the decision and his time on the bench.
Hill said he made the decision “probably more than a year ago” to step down at the end of his term in December 2024, based on a feeling that some people describe as conscience, and others describe as instinct or intuition, that he had “dedicated enough time to work.” this.”
“I basically announced it because I knew there were going to be a lot of people who wanted to run for this seat, so I wanted to give them time to get their campaign together,” Hill told the Citizen-Times on November 7. It’s clear with my colleagues and other lawyers that I’m retiring as a judge, but I’ll probably still be involved in the law in some way.
In a letter addressed to “the citizens of Buncombe County, my friends and colleagues,” Hill expressed gratitude for the support he has received over the past several years, saying, “Being Chief District Judge has been one of the highlights of my career as an attorney.” “.
Hill has served as chief district court since he was appointed in 2010 by former N.C. Supreme Court Chief Justice Sarah Parker, and was reappointed by three subsequent chief justices of the N.C. Supreme Court. In all the years he spent in this seat, no one contested against him. This became a source of pride for Hill, who said: “For me, it meant they had some confidence in what I was doing.”
Before he joined the office in 1995, Buncombe County had not had a black public defender in more than 20 years since former Judge Robert Harrold, who was the county’s first black public defender, according to Hill.
Asheville attorney Gene Ellison contacted one of Hill’s law professors, Thomas Ringer, at North Carolina Central University, and asked if anyone would be available for the job, he said.
“(Ellison) said, ‘Look, we need a black public defender.’” “We have all these Black people who come here in the criminal justice system and there are no Black lawyers,” Hill said.
Hill, who grew up in Cross Hill, South Carolina, took the job to be closer to his daughter and learn how to litigate murder cases. “Being a judge was not on my radar,” he said. When he was appointed judge by Governor Mike Easley in 2007, Hill became the second Black judge in Buncombe County after Harold, and later became the first Black judge to serve as presiding judge in Buncombe County.
During his long tenure as chief county judge, Hill said he saw his fair share of respect but also criticism, including in 2019 when he called out domestic violence. Hill criticized the change in domestic violence court procedures, which they said makes it more difficult for victims; When Attorney General Todd Williams disagreed with his 2021 decision Charge of assault on an officer with the Asheville Police Department dropped; Earlier this year when First Amendment rights and press advocates He protested his condemnation of two Asheville Blade reporters Charged with trespassing on another’s property.
The Citizen-Times sat down with Hill at the Buncombe County Courthouse to discuss what he has learned in this role, what he sees as the challenges facing Buncombe County and what’s next for him.
Q&A with Chief District Judge Hale
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
Citizen times: What do you see as the biggest challenge facing district court judges in Buncombe County?
Calvin Hill: Probably the same thing as in most North Carolina counties, which is size. We deal with much larger cases than the High Courts because we can deal with cases more quickly. Our cases, the vast majority of them we deal with in one day.
ACTION: Will North Carolina’s new House Bill 813 – which Requires judges to set bonds for people released before trial – Does it affect judges and the workload they face?
CH: It adds to the number of people we have to deal with every day and gives us more things to do when these people first show up because in addition to finding out if they want an attorney, we also have to set bond. I’ll be honest with you; I do not know why the legislator decided to do this. The judges did a good job. But the legislature, through laws, statutes and regulations, tells us what to do.
Action: As a judge, how do you maintain your impartiality and regulate your own opinions?
CH: I worked as a defense attorney for 12 years, so I saw criminal defendants receive treatment that I thought was unfair. Because the group of people I represented were indigent, I felt they were treated differently than people who could afford their own lawyers. …I’ve always felt that no matter a person’s socioeconomic status, they deserve a basic level of respect. This is something I took with me to the bench from the beginning.
ACT: Are there any cases that you look back on that are pivotal and that you were a part of?
CH: As a defense attorney, I’ve handled some very large cases and probably one of the largest murder cases to ever occur in Buncombe County, which was Richard Allen Jackson. (Jackson was convicted in 1995 of the rape and murder of 22-year-old Candler woman Karen Stiles in the Pisgah National Forest, but the conviction was overturned when the N.C. Supreme Court ruled that jurors His confession should not be heard Because he invoked his right to seek the assistance of a lawyer. Jackson later pleaded guilty to second-degree murder). It ended up going to the US Supreme Court. That case resulted in a very important law, which basically says that if a defendant mentions an attorney during questioning, you have to stop and give them an attorney.
ACT: Do you have any ideas for what’s next?
CH: I still have a year to go, and I have every confidence that between now and December 2024, whatever I’m supposed to do, will come and that’s what I’ll do.
Riley Ober is the public safety reporter for the Asheville Citizen-Times, part of the USA Today Network. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow her on Twitter @ryleyober
This article originally appeared in the Asheville Citizen-Times: Buncombe County District Judge Calvin Hill is not seeking re-election