The Good Book says judge not, lest ye be judged, however, a number of Guilford County citizens have decided to forgo that advice and have instead chosen to seek or keep District Court judge’s positions in North Carolina’s 18th judicial district, which hears cases and other legal business for all of Guilford County in two courts – Greensboro and High Point.
This election, there are five contested District Court judges’ races.
This week the Rhino Times is covering the two races for open seats. Miranda Reavis against Bill Davis, and Marc Tyrey versus Mark Cummings. Next week the Rhino will cover the contests where there’s an incumbent.
Bill Davis v. Miranda Reavis
This race is an interesting one because both candidates work as assistant public defenders in the Guilford County public defender’s office.
Bill Davis says he enjoys his current job as an assistant public defender in Guilford County but now he has his sights set on being a judge in the same judicial system.
“It’s been a really good place to work,” Davis said of the public defender’s office.
Davis regularly volunteers with Guilford County Teen Court, which helps keep at-risk kids out of the criminal justice system, and he also works with the Triad Veterans Stand Down event and with Urban Ministries. Davis, who’s on the board of the Greensboro Criminal Defense Lawyers Association, has served as president.
Davis said he thinks several factors make him a better selection than his opponent in the November election.
“I think it comes down to three things – experience, ability and connection to the community,” Davis said.
He received his law degree from Duke University School of Law after doing his undergraduate work at UNC-Chapel Hill. As a teenager, he attended the North Carolina School of Science and Mathematics, which he said was formative for him because he grew up in Murphy, NC, and that allowed him to learn new things in a new environment in Durham.
Davis said he’s been practicing law in Guilford County’s courts for 18 years, which he notes is double the experience of Reavis.
Davis pointed out that the NC State Bar polls local attorneys and scores judicial candidates in various categories and that, in this race, he has been rated higher than his opponent in every category.
Davis has been endorsed by the NC Association of Women Attorneys and others.
Davis also is very active at First Friends Meeting Quaker Church.
“I’ve been involved in a lot of things in the community,” Davis said.
According to Davis, as a public defender, sometimes what his clients want is the right thing because he or she is innocent, but in other cases what his clients want is to be found innocent even though he or she is guilty. He said that’s one reason he wants to be a judge, because serving in that position would enable him to always be seeking the right outcome.
Miranda Reavis, who graduated from Elon Law School in 2009, has been an assistant public defender since early 2011. She has represented both adult and juvenile clients and handled everything ranging from simple misdemeanors to complex felonies. Reavis has also worked in the mental health and drug courts in Guilford County.
She met her husband, a prosecutor, while in law school and now she’s a mother of 18-month-old twins.
She said it’s her affinity for the court that makes her want to be a judge.
“I love District Court,” Reavis said.
She also said she sees being a judge as a way to help people.
“I want to treat people holistically,” Reavis said, “and help them get what they need to be productive citizens.”
“I hope to start a veterans’ treatment court when I’m elected,” Reavis said.
She said of her opponent, “He has more years, but I have a much broader range of experience.”
She said that range comes from handling a wider variety of legal matters in her career than Davis has.
Reavis wrote in her campaign literature, “I have devoted my life to public service and trying to make a difference in the lives of others. Serving as District Court Judge will allow me to use my knowledge of our justice system to focus on matters that greatly affect our community here in Guilford County.”
When not practicing law or spending time with her young twins, she works in the community with veterans, as well as with organizations such as the Queen’s Foundation – which mentors young females who have strong leadership potential but lack some resources to develop that potential. She is also active at Our Lady of Grace Catholic Church.
Mark Cummings v. Marc Tyrey
Attorney Mark Cummings is a Dudley High School graduate who majored in political science at the University of the South (aka Sewanee) and then got his law degree from Campbell University.
He said that it’s very easy to find disparity in our justice system – “not just racial but also socio-economic.”
“Because I’m a lawyer, I see that every day,” he said.
He added, “The disparity in the justice system is the civil rights issue of our day.”
Cummings said he wants the opportunity to be a judge in order to play a bigger role in battling that injustice.
“I don’t think we have to accept this disparity in the justice system,“ Cummings said.
Cummings said he decided to run for judge in the summer of 2015 after taking note of large disparities in Guilford County courts. He said it struck him that there was a real need for change in the justice system.
He also said Guilford County court needs an African-American male judge to increase diversity.
Cummings said the majority of those going into the courthouse are African-American males, so it makes sense to have a judge that shares a common experience with them.
Born in Alamance County, Cummings came to Greensboro when he was a year old.
In his legal practice, Cummings’ handles a lot of criminal law as well as wills and guardianships.
He said he has one of the best records out there for winning jury trials, and he said that he believes his courtroom experience is more extensive than that of his opponent, Marc Tyrey.
“We need judges who are more concerned about what’s written in the Constitution than what’s written in the local newspaper,” Cummings said.
“Together we can balance the scales,” he said.
Tyrey has his own eyes set on that judge’s seat and said this week that he, not Cummings, is the best choice. Tyrey said he’s been a prosecutor, a defender, done civil work and handled other types of cases.
“My campaign is based on 20 years of experience,” Tyrey said. “I’m one of the only, if not the only one, who has been at every table.”
When it came time to fill an empty judge’s seat in early 2015, area attorneys picked Tyrey as their number one choice. Though the governor didn’t appoint Tyrey to the seat, Tyrey still took that as a vote of confidence from his fellow attorneys.
“I won those local votes,” he said. “That told me that my colleagues had confidence that I could do the job.”
He also said that his wide variety of experience in the legal profession is something that’s very important for a judge.
“That’s something that has some real significance,” he said. “Those judges are required to move from courtroom to courtroom. I’ve handled a variety of different cases.”
He said those cases have been in District Court, Superior Court, the state’s business court and other legal venues.
As for his desire to become a judge, he said, “I think that’s a natural evolution.”
Tyrey also said that, given all of his experiences in the court system, he feels as though he has the right temperament to be a fair and effective judge for Guilford County’s citizens.
“I feel like I have perspective,” he said, “and I feel like perspective is important.”
According to Tyrey, he has also developed good insight as to when someone appearing in court needs a helping hand and when he or she “needs to be put in handcuffs and taken out the back door.”
Tyrey graduated from Guilford College and then received his law degree from Campbell University and now has two children, ages 13 and 10.
“A lot of my non-law time goes to then,” Tyrey said.
On the side, he serves on a board of an organization that promotes youth lacrosse.
“Part of what we do is reach out to the community and try to grow the game,” Tyrey said.
“We’re trying to work with the Ben Chavis YMCA to get kids who are underrepresented in the game interested in lacrosse,” he said.
He also said it’s a lot of fun when a young player who hasn’t been exposed to the sport takes a lacrosse stick in his hands and gets bitten by the bug.
“It’s a growing experience for everyone including adults,” Tyrey said.