Featured photo: Democrat Cynthia Hatfield speaks during the Feb. 6 judicial campaign forum at Elon Law School. (photo by Sayaka Matsuoka)

CORRECTION (2/13): An earlier version of this article incorrectly stated that candidate Georgia Nixon had her license revoked for one year. That was incorrect and she was able to keep practicing after being sanctioned due to good behavior. TCB regrets the error.

On Tuesday evening, judicial candidates for seats in Guilford County gathered at Elon Law School in downtown Greensboro. All of the candidates were running for a seat as a court judge in District 24 . Over the course of the next two hours, the candidates were asked questions about their judicial philosophies, their stances on abortion access, what they would do to improve the justice system and more. 

Guilford County judicial candidates gathered for a campaign forum at Elon Law School on Feb. 6. (photo by Sayaka Matsuoka)

Candidates were asked the following questions:

  • Please introduce yourself.
  • Have you ever been publicly sanctioned by the State Bar and if so, what did you learn from that experience? (Being sanctioned by the State Bar refers to disciplinary action for misconduct which can lead to disbarment or suspension of the attorney’s privilege to practice law.)
  • Judges in NC hear cases where minors seeking abortion care petition the court for a bypass of the parental consent requirement. Are you pro-choice? If not, would you commit to recuse yourself from hearing any of these cases if they were to come before you?
  • What is a change you would like to see made in the judicial system?
  • What is your judicial philosophy?

In 2023, the state general assembly realigned superior, district court and public defender districts in North Carolina. The new maps for the 2024 elections can be found here.


Superior courts hear civil and criminal cases, including felony cases and civil cases over $25,000.

Superior courts are split into five divisions and 48 districts. Superior court judges rotate among the districts within their division every six months. Judges are elected by voters in their district and must reside in the district in which they are elected.


Tab Hunter

Did not attend forum.

Republican Georgia Nixon speaks during the Feb. 6 judicial campaign forum at Elon Law School. (photo by Sayaka Matsuoka)

Georgia Nixon

  • Background: Daughter of Greek immigrants, grew up working in a restaurant. Served on Jamestown Town Council for 12 years. Been practicing law since 1991 and has tried more than 140 jury trials. Currently runs her own private practice. 
  • Any sanctions?: Nixon noted that she was sanctioned in 2013 and said that she “had several associates working for [her]” and that she was “accused of something and had to make some hard decisions.” A dive into Nixon’s disciplinary case from 2013 shows that her sanction stemmed from two separate cases. 
    • The first involved a conflict between Nixon and assistant district attorneys in a case where Nixon represented a man with various drug charges. The incident revolved around Nixon’s push to alter a plea agreement that would have meant her client wouldn’t have been charged with additional crimes before a certain date. The second incident revolved around a case in which Nixon represented a client who was charged with a DWI and had his license revoked. Nixon argued that the revocation of her client’s license was a criminal sanction and thus prosecuting her client for the DWI would have constituted double jeopardy. But case law that was up to date at the time showed that license revocation was a civil penalty and not a criminal sanction.
    • In the end, because of Nixon’s general good standing of not having any prior professional disciplines and the fact that her actions were “intended to benefit her [clients],” Nixon’s license was kept from being suspended due to good behavior.
  • On humility: “I don’t think humility is going to be an issue; I’ve been practicing 33 years… and I still feel like the dumbest person in the courtroom every day…. I want to create an environment where everybody will be heard…. If you think you know everything you are the dumbest person in the courtroom.”
  • On abortion: Noted that she was pro-choice. 
  • What she would change: “Leveling the playing field” is what she would like to see. Would advocate for packets of information like the ones provided by One Step Further which provide a client’s background that gives context to their life that can help their cases.
  • Her judicial philosophy: “I want it to be about fairness…. I want everyone to be heard because we’ve all been in a position where you’ve not been heard before.”


Democrat Stephanie Reese speaks during the Feb. 6 judicial campaign forum at Elon Law School. (photo by Sayaka Matsuoka)

Stephanie Reese

Note: As the sole Democratic candidate, Reese is running unopposed in the primary and advances to the November general election.

  • Background: Judge Stephanie Reese was appointed in 2022 by Gov. Roy Cooper to fill the vacant seat left by Judge Joe Craig in District 18B before the realignment of districts last year. She has served as an assistant district attorney in Guilford County and worked as an adjunct professor at Elon University Law School and Wake Forest University Law School. 
  • Any sanctions?: Never been publicly sanctioned.
  • On humility: “This is a profession where we are constantly growing and learning… my job is to listen and to learn…. I don’t think it’s going to be a problem being humble, I’ve been humble for most of my career, and I understand that that’s because I don’t have all the answers and I never will.”
  • On abortion: Said she is pro-choice. “I would make sure to follow the structure of the law…. That choice is a personal choice…”
  • What she would change: Said she would make the first-offender diversion program for drug violations mandatory so that people don’t get convicted of felonies.“We know what that does to their jobs, to their families,” she said. Would also advocate for more money in diversion courts to help get people out of the system. Also noted that she wants to start a veterans’ court.
  • Her judicial philosophy: Two-fold philosophy: that everyone is respected and making sure that what is happening in the courtroom is the right thing.



Democrat Walter T. Trip Baker speaks during the Feb. 6 judicial campaign forum at Elon Law School. (photo by Sayaka Matsuoka)

Walter T. Trip Baker

  • Background: Has 20 years of legal experience — worked in private practice for first half and as a prosecutor for second half. He’s been a judge for one year after being appointed in February 2023 by Gov. Cooper. Been a criminal defense attorney and as a prosecutor. “I believe that the 20 years of experience gives me a unique perspective.”
  • Any sanctions?: Never been sanctioned.
  • On humility:  “You’re never going to be smarter than all of the attorneys in the courtroom… you have to lean on your attorneys to give you the proper law, but you do not have to make a snap decision, you can press the pause button if you will…. You have to be able to do the research and find the law and apply the law to the facts that you’ve heard.”
  • On abortion: Said that he is pro-choice and has presided over those types of hearings. “The whole point of those proceedings is to see, first off, if they resided in the county at the time of filing and determine whether or not they have the emotional maturity to make a decision in their best interest to talk to a primary physician about an abortion. It is a process in NC that they have to go through currently. That’s really the only business a district court judge has in that decision because it’s not our decision to make; we can’t tell someone what to do but we can help them get there if we feel that they have the maturity level and the knowledge of any consequences about that process.”
  • What he would change: Would rather judges focus on nonviolent offenses, streamline custody cases, reimagine cash bail.
  • His judicial philosophy: I made a promise when I was appointed to treat every case as important as the one before and the one after, to be accessible, to show up early, put in the time and to not get ‘black robe’ syndrome…. It’s important to know that the people who come before you… it might be the only time that they ever interact with the court system. If they leave with a good experience… we’re on a road to changing what could be referred to as a stigma with the court system… but we can address that one case at a time.”

John Parker Stone

Did not attend forum.



Democrat Charlene Y. Armstong speaks during the Feb. 6 judicial campaign forum at Elon Law School. (photo by Sayaka Matsuoka)

Charlene Y. Armstrong

  • Background: “Armed with honesty and strong with integrity” is her motto. Has worked 27 years as an attorney, practicing in Guilford for 18, primarily in family law.
  • Any sanctions?: Never had a censure, but had lots of people file complaints
  • On humility: Armstrong noted that as a nerd, she reads the cases that are dropped by the NC Court of Appeals and Supreme Court every Tuesday. “I’m one of the people who sits there and scans through cases and sees what applies to my area of law, and even with doing that, you miss something every time…. So you have to rely on your resources…. You can learn from everybody. When you realize that what you’re doing has an impact on people’s lives and you’re there to serve, you take that into consideration more than anything else.”
  • On abortion: “I’m pro choice and I’ve represented young ladies who need to have that decision made for them and it was heart-wrenching when judges decided for whatever reason not to approve that decision because the judges had whatever opinion, and these young ladies’ plans for their future and they could not talk to their parents about it; I would not recuse myself unless I had a conflict.” 
  • What she would change: Advocates for family courts in which one judge follows the case all the way through. “You don’t have to keep repeating the same facts as the case goes along…. You’re not having to relitigate the same issues.”
  • Judicial philosophy: “I view myself as a servant; I provide a service to the people who hire me. As a judge this is a service to the public. My goal will be to make people’s lives better based on their interaction with me.”
Democrat Moshera Mills speaks during the Feb. 6 judicial campaign forum at Elon Law School. (photo by Sayaka Matsuoka)

Moshera Mills 

  • Background: UNCG grad, worked in the assistant district attorney’s office, been a magistrate judge and currently practices family and criminal law. 
  • Any sanctions?: Mills was sanctioned by the state bar in 2014, as a censure. According to the disciplinary order, Mills was censured in a cast that involved her representing a client who filed an action for return of legal fees. Mills then represented that the client’s fee petition had been dismissed, which was not true.
    • “It was a matter where I believe a racist judge who is very well-known in Guilford County mishandled the manner,” Mills said during the forum. “Nevertheless, the lesson that I learned was that when dealing with the state bar, you need to, no matter what’s going on in your personal life, make sure to fight for your rights and make sure to submit every single argument and appeal that you can and don’t just let it go.”
  • On humility: “I think humility is something you work on everyday…. I think to be hard-working and make sure you do all the research and do everything you need to do to make sure you understand the issues and ask questions of the attorneys and what’s going on this particular issue… humility is something to work on everyday…. I think it’s important for folks to come into court and to feel, when they leave no matter the outcome, that they were heard and their case was heard.”
  • On abortion: Is pro-choice; “I have had the experience of representing some young ladies in those matters and they are very hard… regardless of what your opinion is, it’s a young person, who for whatever reason… is coming to the court to get that permission. As a judge, certainly follow the law, certainly make sure that as a judicial waiver, the minor understands the emotional, physical consequences….”
  • What she would change: More programs like the Children’s Law Center which allow judges to appoint a third-party entity in custody matters to interview the child and the school and bring a report to court. She also pointed to kiosks like the one in Wake County where people can take care of simple infractions like a registration ticket or inspection ticket.
  • Her judicial philosophy: “We should have grace and mercy for the folks who are in the courtroom… everybody’s important in the courtroom…. As a judge, I think it’s very, very important to treat people with kindness and with respect.”



Democrat Kelvin Smith speaks during the Feb. 6 judicial campaign forum at Elon Law School. (photo by Sayaka Matsuoka)

Kelvin Smith (i)

  • Background: Currently holds Seat 12 after being appointed by Gov. Cooper to a vacant seat in 2019. Before that was in private practice. Says he’s the most qualified for the job. “Everybody understands that the criminal justice system disproportionately affects African Americans and African-American men. And that’s no secret and so that’s why I ran for this seat.”
  • Any sanctions?: Never been publicly sanctioned
  • On humility: His background was in private practice, worked with small companies. “As a judge you listen to both sides of the equation and you make a decision and a ruling that’s going to be fair. Everybody is not going to always like your ruling…. But if you give everybody the opportunity to be herald… that’s the makings of a good judge.”
  • On abortion: Said that the responsibility as a judge is different from one as an attorney when dealing with this issue. Also appeared to allude to the fact that female judges may be biased in making this decision. “A lady justice, allegedly, is blind. So your personal perspective should not matter whether you’re pro-life or pro-choice…. I believe that judges should have absolutely nothing to do with that choice; that’s a family choice…. But the legislature commands us to make that decision and we must follow the law with that.”
  • What he would change: Wants to emphasize the Intersection of mental health and criminal justice. “Is this a bad person or are they stuck in a mental health issue?”
  • His judicial philosophy: Noted that his experience as an African-American male judge helps him empathize with people. “I always say that I would love for people to sit in that seat someday; it’s been an honor to serve.”
Democrat ShaKeta D. Berrie speaks during the Feb. 6 judicial campaign forum at Elon Law School. (photo by Sayaka Matsuoka)

ShaKeta D. Berrie

  • Background: “I would like to bring a spirit of compassion, understanding and humbleness to the bench…. One of the responsibilities I believe is to continue to learn and grow; none of us knows everything.” Currently working as an assistant public defender serving indigent criminal defendants in Guilford County. Graduated from Elon Law School in 2016.
  • Any sanctions?: Never been publicly sanctioned 
  • On humility: “I don’t know everything. I’m a nontraditional lawyer; I went to school after I had already had kids, after I’d already dropped out of high school, after I’d already tried finding jobs. I’ve worked forklift driving and everything else but even with that experience, I know that I don’t know everything. So I would use my resources; I have personal and professional resources that can help.”
  • On abortion: “It has no real bearing on my political [sic], but I am pro-choice. Being a teen mom myself, I understand that choice that I had to make. I understand where those young parents might be…. I will follow the law and I will ask the questions and make the decisions based on the facts that are presented to me and follow the law.”
  • What she would change: “Our district courts are inefficient…. We need to be more efficient. There are backlogs everywhere; this county, we can fix it.”
  • Her judicial philosophy:  “My judicial philosophy would be empathy, understanding and humility.” 
Democrat Cynthia Hatfield speaks during the Feb. 6 judicial campaign forum at Elon Law School. (photo by Sayaka Matsuoka)

Cynthia Hatfield

  • Background: Been practicing law for 35 years. Is 60 years old and has been in District Court for 34 years. Worked for a big law firm for a year, but decided it wasn’t for her. She’s “tried to get any case headed in a positive direction.”
  • Any sanctions?: Never been publicly sanctioned
  • On humility: “I have learned the hard way some things and I’ve been schooled by the best, believe me…. I appreciate the law, still. One of the best parts of practicing law is figuring out what case law brings you and how it applies to people’s lives… So I want to hear everybody’s idea of what the law should be. I’m gonna follow what it is but I’m willing to listen.”
  • On abortion: Is pro-choice. “The law needs to be followed, but boy do you need to be sensitive to this particular issue.”
  • What she would change:  Mentioned the civil court backlog. “There have to be some ways to improve that.” Called on judges to keep better track of cases.
  • Her judicial philosophy: “Sure, you come into the courtroom with a certain background and certain experience, but what I feel like is most important is trying to put myself in the shoes of the people that are before me and figure out and understand them… and have them say what is important.”



Democrat Gabriel Kussin speaks during the Feb. 6 judicial campaign forum at Elon Law School. (photo by Sayaka Matsuoka)

Gabriel Kussin

  • Background: Assistant public defender in Guilford County. Born and raised in Durham. Was a public school teacher and after-school program coordinator. Went to law school because he wanted to understand legal issues in Latino advocacy organizations. Fell in love with criminal defense, graduated from UNC-Chapel Hill law school in 2015. States that he is running as the first Latino judge in Guilford County (his mother “fought for Puerto Rican justice” according to his campaign website.) 
  • Any sanctions?: Never been publicly sanctioned.
  • On humility: “For me, the reason I got into this race in the first place, was for one fundamental principle, which is that whenever someone is coming to court… that they are dealing with the most important thing in their lives at that moment. And as long as you always remember that key part… you always will be able to take the time to listen to the arguments, to rely on not just the attorneys before you but your fellow members of the bench…” Said he would rely on the UNC School of Government as well.
  • On abortion: Said he is pro-choice. Worked with planned parenthood as a volunteer in college and also has volunteered at the local abortion clinic in Greensboro. “I know the experiences that the people are going through when they have a difficult decision to make and it is their decision. They come from all walks of life… all different areas of our county and our state… and as a judge I would only recuse myself if I was in a situation where I had worked with someone who had come before me in that environment but not because of the actual experience that I have….”
  • What he would change: He said that he would advocate for more driver’s license restoration projects. “Our state still suspends driver’s licenses for people who can’t pay court fines…. I would have tremendous power to ensure that that situation is not made worse by my actions, whether that’s helping out with relief of fines, making sure that people who miss court have an opportunity to have their cases heard before their licenses are suspended….”
  • His judicial philosophy: “My philosophy as a judge…is making sure that each individual that comes before [me]…has an opportunity to be heard completely with no concern for expediency or concern for timesaving to really make sure they have had their voice heard.” Also said that judges should continuously examine their own biases.

Brian Tomlin

Did not attend forum.



Democrat Tomakio Gause speaks during the Feb. 6 judicial campaign forum at Elon Law School. (photo by Sayaka Matsuoka)

Tomakio Gause

  • Background: Has 18 years handling criminal and civil laws; for past 13 years worked in  private practice. Been under contract with Guilford County for 15 years handling cases for child support enforcement. Also is the legal redress chair for High Point NAACP.
  • Any sanctions?: Not been publicly sanctioned.
  • On humility: “I expect that there are going to be circumstances and cases that are going to be presented to me when I’m on the bench that I’m not going to have the direct answer…. I have no issue with reaching out to other attorneys… because I don’t know everything and I’m perfectly fine admitting I don’t know everything.”
  • On abortion: Said that she is pro-choice. “I think the judge’s responsibility is to follow the law no matter what so I would recuse myself from cases in terms of what my personal opinions might be of certain situations.
  • What she would change: Would like to see more resources in terms of staff and documents to pro se litigants — or those who choose to represent themselves without a lawyer — to cut down on the cycle of having to come to court many times for lack of correct paperwork or preparation.
  • Her judicial philosophy: Her judicial philosophy is “to meet people where they are.” She also alluded to current judges who don’t come to work at certain times. “We need judges to come to work…. I expect to work when I get on the bench. We need judges that will work.”
Democrat Stephanie Goldsborough speaks during the Feb. 6 judicial campaign forum at Elon Law School. (photo by Sayaka Matsuoka)

Stephanie Goldsborough

  • Background: Been an attorney for 20 years, born and raised in Greensboro. Started career at Legal Aid Society in Winston-Salem, representing domestic violence victims. Has represented indigent defendants in district and superior courts. Now works as a criminal defense attorney.
  • Any sanctions?: Not been publicly sanctioned.
  • On humility: Talked about Judge Vincent, who made a decision and came back the next day and realized she was wrong. “This is a woman, who I think most people in here, if not everybody, respects and I think it’s a process; you’re not always going to know everything…. I hold that moment for me seeing Judge Vincent and say, ‘I made the wrong choice,’ as how I would look to be in any situation.” 
  • On abortion: Said she is pro-chioce. “Our job… as a judge… you have a limited scope in what you’re doing, it’s ultimately up to the individual to make the decision they are going to make.”
  • What she would change:  Would make sure to spend time listening to the facts of the case during first appearance to make determinations about the terms and condition of release.
  • Her judicial philosophy: “I think my philosophy might be: Don’t judge a book by its cover. No matter what people come into the courtroom, no matter what they look like… giving them the opportunity to be heard… is incredibly important.”

William H. Hill

Did not attend forum.

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