Anna Elena Worley
Candidate for District Court Judge, District 10
Full Legal Name: Anna Elena Worley
Name as it Appears on the Ballot: Anna Elena Worley
Party: Non-partisan Race
Date of Birth: February 9, 1971
Campaign Web Site: www.JudgeWorley.com
Occupation & Employer: District Court Judge, State of North Carolina
Years lived in Wake County: I moved to Wake County in 2003.
1. What do you believe are the most important issues facing the District 10 District Court? What are your top three priorities in addressing these issues?
While the District Court faces several issues every day, I continue to feel strongly that the families of Wake County deserve a judiciary that remembers that children feel the effects of our courts' decisions, even when they are not parties to an action. In our juvenile courts, dealing with abuse, neglect and dependency, and in custody and child support matters, the rulings that are made today, affect our county's citizenry for years to come. In addressing children's issues, I strive to ensure that children whose families are involved in domestic violence have only safe, non-abusive interactions with their parents. I believe that it is important to make sure that children have stability, including having caregivers that they can depend upon to provide for their basic needs and emotional development. And, I set prompt and meaningful hearings when emergency situations arise, whether a crisis presented by the acts of the child or his custodians.
2. What in your record as a public official or other experience demonstrates your ability to be an effective district court judge? This might include career or community service; be specific about its relevance to this office.
As a District Court Judge, I have worked to fairly and equitably apply the laws of North Carolina. I listen carefully to the facts presented in court. I am a Family Law Specialist certified by the North Carolina State Bar Board of Specialization and a DRC-Certified Family Financial Mediator. Therefore, I have chosen to serve as a Family Court judge. I sit three out of every four weeks in Family Court, hearing cases involving custody, child support, spousal support, division of property, and divorce. I have been able to use my expertise to guide me in how to provide families with resolution to their draining disputes. Our Family Court's one-family-one-judge policy is a natural extension of the concentrated experience of a Family Law Specialist -- focusing on the larger picture and understanding the connection between the law and the litigants' capacity to comply with the rulings of the court. Finally, my mediator training leads me to try to ensure that before starting a hearing, parties have exhausted their options for alternative dispute resolution. I may even be able to suggest some possible compromises that they have not yet discussed. While it is my job to hear the evidence and enter an order to resolve their dispute, I remind parties that if they are able to reach an agreement, it can be their decision. My expertise enhances judicial economy.
During the fourth week of my rotation, I often sit in Domestic Violence Court, or in a criminal courtroom. In order to better adjudicate the complexities of cases involving domestic violence, in 2011 I chose to attend a four day class, Enhancing Judicial Skills in Domestic Violence Cases, presented by the National Judicial Institute on Domestic Violence. It was provided exclusively to judges, and I was the only North Carolina judge in our class. We spent hours doing exercises to increase awareness of victim and perpetrator behavior, judges' roles in the community response to domestic violence, cultural issues in domestic violence, and enforcement of civil and criminal domestic violence orders. As far as criminal court is concerned, I believe my background in family law gives me extra sensitivity to the impact of sentences on the defendants and their loved ones. I understand that money that I may order be used for a fine might be better applied to supporting a child; or, that arranging affordable daycare so that required community service can be completed may be a serious difficulty.
3. How do you define yourself politically and how does your political philosophy show itself in your past achievements and present campaign platform?
Judicial races are non-partisan races, and courtroom decisions are not based on personal beliefs, but on the law. Our founding fathers promised justice for all, and I have done what I can to maintain that promise. I have chosen to participate in groups and organizations that work to protect those with the least access to resources, the least access to education, and the least access to justice. I earned a grant to represent asylees fleeing oppression and seeking refuge on our shores. I tutored in an elementary school, meeting with youngsters whose lack of English proficiency disadvantaged them in their classrooms. I volunteered and taught with the Red Cross for over a decade, passing on what I had learned about how to protect the injured and ailing. I represented victims of domestic violence free of charge through the Wake County Volunteer Lawyers Program and Project Together. As a member of the Board of Governors of the North Carolina Academy of Trial Lawyers, I took pride in and inspiration from our banner that read "[p]rotecting people's rights." Currently, I assist women re-entering the work force at Dress for Success, both assisting with "suiting" and with career development (which includes interviewing skills, resume development, and job application). I believe that our courts are not only responsible to the people, but responsible for providing a fair and balanced playing field to the people who are at highest risk.
4. Identify and explain one principled stand you would be willing to take if elected that you suspect might cost you some popularity points with voters.
Spanish is my second language. I understand that immigration issues are hot-button issues, especially in a rapidly growing and changing county like Wake County. However, I remain committed to making certain that every resident of Wake County, regardless of skin color, regardless of nationality, regardless of immigration status, and regardless of language restrictions, be provided with fairness in our courtrooms. No one should be scared to come before a court of law in our county or our country to prosecute an assault, to report a theft, to provide the best for his children.
5. The Independent's mission is to help build a just community in the Triangle. How would your election to office help further that goal?
The District Court is the face of the entire court system. The majority of people who have any dealings with a court find themselves in court for either a traffic matter, or a domestic matter. True, the court has other vital civil and criminal functions, but if we cannot dispense these most basic services in a just manner, then the rest of the court's services will be questioned by all parties. I endeavor to treat everyone patiently and courteously. I seek to find the balance in every case between protecting the public and a sentence that would be unduly punitive to a defendant. I am committed to giving everyone a fair hearing, respectfully listening to the evidence provided, and allowing everyone her say in court.
6. How long do you plan to serve if elected, and how long will you be able to serve?
I am honored to serve Wake County as a District Court Judge. I hope to remain a District Court Judge for the remainder of my legal career. I do not foresee seeking office on a higher court or in another public capacity.
7. North Carolina prosecutes 16-year-olds as adults. (Thirteen-year-old juveniles who are charged with felonies can also be prosecuted as adults, if transferred from juvenile court.) A bill to raise the juvenile jurisdiction age to 18 is expected to be considered in the 2012 legislative session. Do you support the age increase? Please explain why or why not.
If re-elected, I would apply the law of the State as instituted by the legislature. Nonetheless, judges are elected to apply their knowledge and understanding, their discretion, to the cases before them. Currently those over sixteen are charged as adults whether they are accused of shoplifting, minor scuffles, or life-threatening assaults. I do not believe that judges should change the law through activism from the bench, but would support the legislature in raising the age at which children are presumed to have adult prudence. Thereafter, judges should be allowed to apply the discretion for which they were elected, deciding whether the accused should face adult prosecution, given the gravity and circumstances of each youngster's case.
8. What is your experience in juvenile court? What can be done to prevent delinquency and gang involvement?
The juvenile court hears matters not only of the crimes of those under the age of sixteen, but also of abuse, neglect and dependency, matters of the termination of paternal rights, and matters of adoption. Periodically, cases before the Juvenile Court have sister cases regarding custody before the Family Court, that must be coordinated. Prior to my election, I tried cases of termination not only in our District Courts, but also handled them on appeal. Although I understand that there are many factors, I believe that the strongest remedy to delinquency and gang involvement is making sure that our youth understand that there are options and opportunities available to them – and making certain that there are. That starts before they ever appear in a court. However, once they have done something that brings them before a judge, I believe that the judge should have a full and varied palette of possible punishments, including educational, public service, drug treatment and in appropriate cases, more punitive options.
9. What improvements could be made in the Wake County judicial system to expedite the trying of cases and ease caseloads?
Judges have an obligation to be efficient without sacrificing accuracy. Litigants should not be forced to make repeated trips to court to have their case resolved. Caseloads can be eased by referring cases to civil mediation or criminal diversion programs. Both provide for rapid resolution. There should be more times devoted to holding temporary custody hearings and temporary support hearings rapidly after the institution of a lawsuit. In an effort to prevent continued hearings, Family Court has Administrators who assist in getting cases on the calendar/docket in the place most likely to be reached. And, Family Court has an on-line calendar that can and should be used by litigants to find days for hearings that suit their purposes. Once issues are calendared, Judges should actively manage their hearings.