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Q: Address: A: 832 E. Fourth St., Suite 9600 Charlotte, NC 28204
Q: How long have you lived in district 26? A: My entire life except for 3 years in Law School and I still considered Charlotte home and spent summers here interning for the Public Defender's Office.
Q: Family A: Jacquelyn A. Smith (Jackie), wife 16 ½ years; McKenna Smith (14), daughter; Timothy M. Smith, Jr. (TJ), (12), son.
Q: Education: A: West Charlotte Sr. High '81, UNCC History '85, Business, '88, NCCU Law JD ‘91
Q: Previous political experience: A: District Court Judge January 1, 2007-present. In the past 3 1/2 years Judge Smith has justly earned a reputation as a FAIR, COMPASSIONATE, KNOWLEGEABLE, HARD-WORKING and CAPABLE JUDGE. He knows and follows the law and treats all parties fairly, regardless of his personal feelings about the litigants or their attorneys. He has proven time and again that he will do the RIGHT thing, even if it is not the most popular or politically correct decision. Judge Smith is an asset to the Citizens of Mecklenburg County. He often works through lunch and well after 5:00 pm to make sure the people have a fair opportunity to have their voices heard. Judge Smith has been endorsed by nearly 1000 citizens, including nearly 300 attorneys who have appeared before him over the past 3 1/2 years and at least 5 retired Judges. These people realize that Judge Smith is the best choice to represent the people as a District Court Judge in Mecklenburg County. Judge Smith practiced law in Mecklenburg County for 16 years before becoming a District Court Judge. He represented those accused of crimes, persons injured by the negligence and willful acts of others, persons facing involuntary commitment for mental health and substance abuse, and he served as an arbiter for 8 years with one of the highest case resolutions in the County. Over 90% of Judge Smith's 16 years of legal experience was in Mecklenburg County's District Courts! He is familiar with and routinely uses all the programs that help young people avoid convictions, assist the mentally ill, assist those with addictions, programs to aid victims of domestic violence, programs to educate and modify the behavior of batterers and abusive partners and numerous other community resources to help those who are out of work or are in need of additional community resources. Judge Smith is one of the leading Judges in referring people to treatment courts, the use of electronic monitoring to save taxpayer money and alleviate jail over-crowding and referrals to our dispute resolution program which resolves nearly 90% of cases without the need of taking up valuable court time. Judge Smith has truly been innovative in reforming and improving the court system. One of his best known innovations is in Child Support Court where he implemented a "pay or stay" plan which gives delinquent parents the option of paying a portion of ongoing and arrearage child support on a weekly basis or face the weekend in jail. Early tracking indicates that over 80% of delinquent parents pay child support while on this program, these are parents who have a long history of non-payment. All of our District Court Judges have adopted some form of this innovative approach and it is nicknamed the "Judge Smith Plan" by court personnel and his fellow judges. This program has dramatically increased child support payments while decreasing the number of jail stays at a cost savings of $114.00 per day, per person to incarcerate delinquent parents! Most new Judges undergo a 2-4 week observation and training program before actually holding court. Judge Smith came to the Bench with sufficient experience that on his 3rd day as a Judge he began holding court in Criminal District Court! Judge Smith has also been a frequent speaker at attorney education seminars and taught at New Judge's School in 2008.
Q: Your campaign website address: A: www.reelectjudgetimsmith.com
Q: Why are you running for district judge? A: I decided that I wanted to become a Judge in my first two years of practice.
I was first elected in 2006. Becoming a Judge was one of my life's greatest ambitions. I was inspired by the late William Scarborough and the late Brent McKnight. I have learned much from the judges I have appeared before, particularly Richard Boner, Jerry Leonard, Phil Howerton, Becky Tinn, Lisa Bell, Regan Miller, Bill Constangy, Hugh Lewis, Robert Johnston, Tom Moore, Yvonne Evans, Marcus Johnson, Jane Harper, Rickey McCoy-Mitchell, Gentry Caudill, Robert Bell, Al Diaz, Shirley Fulton, Jesse Caudel and many others. I appreciate the patience and wisdom all the judges I practiced before and I try daily to live up to their lofty ideals. I realized that becoming a Judge required a great deal of experience and that it was a true calling for public service. I had the discernment that I needed to get experience in most areas of District Court in order to effectively serve the people of Mecklenburg County. I spent the next 14 years getting as much experience in District Court I could by practicing in various courts, including 8 years in private practice with my wife.
I was deeply honored when voters of Mecklenburg County elected me to the 26th Judicial District Court in 2006. Since taking the oath of office I have presided in Criminal Trial Court, Civil Court, Criminal and Civil Domestic Violence Court, Child Support Enforcement Court, Treatment Court, Criminal and Traffic Administrative Court, Mental Health and Substance Abuse Courts, Involuntary Commitment Court, and First Appearance and Bond Hearing Court. In each of these venues I have presided with dignity and compassion for the people who appear before me. In almost 100% of the cases I hear, my decision is final so I try my upmost to make sure that each party and attorney realize they have had my complete attention and a full opportunity to be heard. I also take the time to explain the legal basis for my decision to the non-prevailing party when appropriate.
My passion is to see that justice is always done and that the laws of the land are followed. Every day I realize that the decisions I make will have profound effects on the lives of ordinary people and often within our community as a whole. It is an awesome responsibility that I have been given and I will continue to treat each decision I make with great deference to everyone involved. It is my sincere desire to continue to serve the people of North Carolina with strength, fairness, innovation and without favoritism.
Q: What are the greatest challenges facing people who live in district 26 and what would you do to address those challenges that would make voters choose you? A: I do not believe I could completely answer this question in 50,000 words! The number one issue is crime, safety and recidivism. I have made wise choices in protecting our citizens with regards to setting bonds and sentencing. Approximately 80% of criminal defendants have mental health issues and/or substance abuse problems. I make every effort to stay abreast of treatment options and try to place offenders in appropriate programs to help them deal with the underlying issues which cause them to commit crimes. As a District Court Judge, I deal with defendants who have committed misdemeanors and I am therefore limited in the amount of jail time I can impose. In all cases except DWI, I can only impose a maximum sentence of 150 days and only for the most serious crimes for defendants with 5 or more prior convictions.
I continually lobby for more resources to help treat those with mental health issues and substance abuse issues. I believe that the legislature should continue to fund our treatment courts which are a model for other jurisdictions nationwide.
We also face a shortage of resources for child support court, juvenile court and family court. I will remain ever diligent to try to secure these resources and do as much as possible with our shrinking pool of resources.
Q: What are the first changes you would work to implement if you are elected? A: I would continue the good work I have done as a Judge and continue to look for ways to make the courts more efficient and effective.
Q: What prior experience do you have that best prepares you for this office? A: Judge Smith practiced law in Mecklenburg County for 16 years before becoming a District Court Judge. He represented those accused of crimes, persons injured by the negligence and willful acts of others, persons facing involuntary commitment for mental health and substance abuse, and he served as an arbiter for 8 years with one of the highest case resolutions in the County. Over 90% of Judge Smith's 16 years of legal experience was in Mecklenburg County's District Courts! He is familiar with and routinely uses all the programs that help young people avoid convictions, assist the mentally ill, assist those with addictions, programs to aid victims of domestic violence, programs to educate and modify the behavior of batterers and abusive partners and numerous other community resources to help those who are out of work or are in need of additional community resources. I also believe that my experience as a parent and my background make me uniquely qualified to hold the office as District Court Judge. I was raised in a fairly poor family. I never realized that my family was poor because all our needs were always met. However, there were long periods when my father was unemployed as a truck driver and during part of my youth I received free lunch at school and my family received food stamps. There were many times our power and phone was disconnected due to non-payment which allows me to have empathy to those who appear before me. I have been working since I was 14 and have held a variety of jobs. I have been a janitor, dishwasher, landscaper, car salesman, grocer, telephone collector, apartment maintenance worker, warehouseman, truck loader, restaurant server, bellman, cashier, and held several other miscellaneous jobs. This varied experience allows me to relate to the litigants who appear before me.
Q: What is the toughest criticism you think you will face in this election, and what is your response to that criticism? A: My toughest criticism, and possibly only criticism, will be that I have been reprimanded two times by the Judicial Standards Commission. My first reprimand was for trying to assist my sister in a domestic violence situation. I attempted to assist/advise her in getting a restraining order and upon reflection believed that I may have crossed the line from brother/friend into advocacy which is prohibited. I REPORTED MYSELF TO THE JUDICIAL STANDARDS COMMISSION and they decided that my conduct may have decreased public confidence in the Judiciary. I fully cooperated with the investigation and accepted the Public Reprimand which is the lowest level of public discipline a Judge can face. My second reprimand was for making statements to Assistant District Attorneys in cases involving my wife's clients. In each case, the verdict had been entered and the defendants had been sentenced. The Judge and jury had departed the courtroom. These cases were not in my court and not in my jurisdiction. In one case I was discussing the outcome with a District Attorney I have known for 6 years and consider a friend. I was not in a robe and not acting in any official judicial capacity. I have accepted that making the comments in the courthouse was inappropriate. In the second case I was making what I considered a joke and expressing my personal frustration that a drug addict was being sentenced to up to 14 years in prison for possessing a very small amount of cocaine. I fully cooperated with the investigation and the Judicial Standards Commission could have recommended much more severe sanctions such as censure, suspension or removal but again found that the lowest level of a public reprimand was sufficient discipline for my actions. I have accepted responsibility for these actions and have taken extraordinary steps to insure that I have NO involvement whatsoever in any of my wife's cases. I would ask the voters to consider that being a Judge does not make you not a human being and completely immune from making human mistakes. I would further ask that the voters judge me on an exemplary record on the bench over the past three years and not focus on less than five minutes of poor judgment or poor choice of words. I have appeared before approximately 100 judges during my legal career and have seen almost all of them do or say something I am certain they have later regretted. Again, this does not make them bad Judges, it just underscores that under the black robe all Judges are human.