Peer evaluations available in judge races

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For all the high-octane rhetoric leading up to the March 15 presidential primary in North Carolina, District Court races don’t tend to generate a lot of headlines or sound bites.

Thank the Lord for small blessings.

But absent the shouting and Twitter fights, the judiciary is an integral part of criminal justice. Voters in Nash, Edgecombe and Wilson counties will be asked to choose from a field of four candidates in the 7th District Court race. That’s not the easiest decision to make, especially given the fact that most of us don’t see lawyers in action everyday.

The N.C. Bar Association has sought to provide information from a survey about the impressions each candidate has made on others in the legal community. North Carolina lawyers were asked to evaluate the qualifications of incumbent judges and non-incumbent candidates in six areas: integrity and impartiality; legal ability; professionalism; communication; administrative skills; and overall performance.

The results are available on a judical performance evaluation website – electNCjudges.org.

The candidates for the 7th District Court bench are Beth Freshwater-Smith, Sharon Sprinkle, Andrew Whitley and Lamont Wiggins.

Smith received the most favorable performance rating from lawyers who responded to the survey. Her overall performance rating was 4.3 on a 5-point scale, and more people responded to questions about her than any other candidate in the race.

Sprinkle’s overall performance rating was 3.89; Whitley’s overall performance rating was 3.82; and Wiggins’ overall performance rating was 3.67.

A performance evaluation among peers should not be the sole factor considered by voters going to the polls. But it’s probably worthy of consideration, at least, in our education process before the March 15 primary.