Judicial Candidates' Forum 2012

Domestic violence research has shown that perpetrators frequently use verbal abuse to coerce their victims into appearing at bond hearings in order to support the release of their abuser.  This was one of the many facts about domestic violence discussed at the 2012 Judicial Candidates Forum held on October 2, 2012 at UNC Charlotte’s Center City Building.  The event was organized by the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Women’s Summit, the Domestic Violence Advocacy Council, the League of Women Voters of Mecklenburg, and United Family Services.  Each organization focuses on bringing awareness to domestic violence issues in our community through research, outreach and providing services to victims of domestic violence. 

Over 100 participants were drawn to the event, excited to hear from all twelve candidates present in the contested District 26 judicial races.  The forum explored each candidate’s knowledge of and experience with domestic violence and family law.  There was also discussion on the importance of cultural competency in the courtroom because of our increasingly diverse community and the sensitivity and knowledge needed to address differences in cultures.  Candidates present at the event included David Strickland, Kary Watson, Judge Charlotte Brown-Williams, Tracy Hewett, Judge Jena Culler, Grant Smithson, Judge Tyyawdi Hands, Jeff Thompson, Judge Donnie Hoover, Alyson Traw, Gary Henderson, and Roy Wiggins.

The purpose of the forum was to inform voters on the candidates’ background including their education, training and experiences that contribute to their job credentials.  Participants were eager to learn about each candidate and some candidates even shared personal stories, providing additional insight into how they plan to serve the courts that handle criminal and minor civil matters.

Candidate Tracy Hewett, who drove a truck to support her daughter and herself while she was in law school, discussed the importance of self-awareness in ensuring that a judge’s personal biases do not influence rulings from the bench. Judge Charlotte Brown-Williams, Hewett’s opponent, shared her perspective on attending law school in her early forties and the potential for biases to influence decisions in the courtroom.

The audience in attendance was as diverse as the county itself.  Participants came from all areas in Mecklenburg County and included voters of different ages and political affiliations. One attendee, Frankie Tack, a Substance Abuse Instructor at CPCC, brought six of her students to the event.  Tack said, “This forum provides my students with a first-hand opportunity to learn how the system works and to meet the candidates in this year’s election.”  This type of event is a way for younger voters to participate in the political arena and provides them with a unique opportunity to learn not only about candidates but about different views from citizens in attendance. 

For candidate bios and links to the candidates’ websites please visit the Women’s Summit website at: http://womenssummit.uncc.edu/sites/womenssummit.uncc.edu/files/media/candidates%20bios.pdf


Lisa Yarrow is the former director of the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Women's Summit.