District Court Judge Richie Holt is retiring from the bench this spring. A successor will be named by Gov. Pat McCrory to serve out the remaining two years of Holt’s term.
Waynesville Attorney Jeff Norris, who is known for trying complicated, high-stakes civil cases, announced last week that he is seeking the judge appointment — making him the fifth to do so publicly.
“I have wanted to serve as a judge for a long time. A lot of the things I have done I’ve done in preparation for the time I might get an opportunity,” said Norris, who’s 50. “I think I could make a significant contribution to that bench and continue my public service.”
Norris interned with judges during the summers while in law school in Pennsylvania, and after graduating he spent two years in a clerkship for a traveling federal judge. He worked for a large firm in Philadelphia doing civil litigation on a national and international scale before returning home to Haywood County in 2000.
Norris handled the full gamut of criminal and family District Court cases for a while, but soon found himself back in the world of big, extensive civil lawsuits.
Norris hopes to continue the strides made in recent years to make District Court function more efficiently. Norris has been an active member of the Republican Party in the past, including two terms as chair of the Haywood County Republican Party.
Attorneys in the seven western counties will vote on the judge candidates, a process conducted through the N.C. Bar Association. The local bar’s top five picks, along with the number of votes that each got, will then be sent to Gov. Pat McCrory, who makes the final selection. McCrory, a Republican, has the option under a recently changed state law to go out on his own in naming the appointment rather than taking the bar’s recommendations. It is expected that he will name a Republican to the seat.
The seat will then be on the ballot in 2016. Whoever gets the appointment now would presumably have an advantage come election time.
The other four candidates in the running were featured in an article in last week’s edition. They are:
• Kristy Parton, 37, solo family law attorney in Sylva.
• Tessa Sellers, 36, all-around solo practice in Murphy.
• Hunter Murphy, 33, all-around solo practice in Waynesville.
• Sean Johnson.
To read last week’s story on these candidates, visit www.smokymountainnews.com/news/item/12346.