By L.A. Williams, Correspondent
Christian Action League
RALEIGH — Twenty years ago Judge Barbara Jackson began her legal career clerking for Chief Justice Burley B. Mitchell Jr. of the Supreme Court of North Carolina. Now she hopes to go back there as a justice herself and take with her a philosophy of fairness and judicial restraint.
“I believe it is the duty of the judicial branch to judge fairly and impartially, and with the limitations provided by the constitution and laws of the state,” Jackson said, pointing out the N.C. Constitution’s mandatory separation of powers clause. “Judges should judge, not legislate.”
A graduate of UNC law school, Jackson describes herself as a fair and even-handed person with a personal integrity that has made it easy for her to follow the Rules of Professional Conduct required for attorneys wherever her career took her.
After clerking for Justice Mitchell, she worked for Governor Jim Martin, spending significant time dealing with individuals in the penal system on matters of Executive Clemency but also tackling issues that ranged from the Voting Rights Act to state contracts. She spent four years on the staff of the Governor’s Advocacy Council for Persons with Disabilities and followed that with four years of private practice. Jackson has also worked as General Counsel for N.C. Secretary of Labor Cherie Berry.
She said her broad experience both in private practice and public service has helped immensely during her time on the North Carolina Court of Appeals, to which she was elected in 2004. Since that time she has written some 500 opinions, keeping true to her philosophy.
“My fairly narrow view of interpretation to the law is in line with my conservative values and I think that’s what people are looking for on our State Supreme Court,” Jackson said.
A longtime member of Highland United Methodist Church in Raleigh, she said her faith plays an important role in her life.
“I don’t know how somebody could take the life and death matters that judges have to deal with and not have a base of faith to rely on,” Jackson said. It’s that faith that she says has given her a peace even during a hectic year of campaigning.
“I just think that it’s been a real privilege and an honor to serve on the Court of Appeals. And even though I got into this race to work hard and to win, no matter what happens, I’ll continue to serve the people,” she said. “I know I’m doing the right thing and on the right course, so it will all turn out the way it should.”
Despite that confidence in her personal path, Jackson told the Federalist Society at a recent candidate forum that she has “grave concerns about the election of judges” because so few voters really know much about the judicial candidates.
“We understand from the political experts that people vote for us based on ballot order; they vote for us based on our name … and finally whether we’re female,” she said. “… They should be voting for us because they are looking at our record and who we are and what our qualifications are, our resumé.”
Judges chosen at the state level are elected to an eight-year term.
Even so, she said she does believe there is more interest in judicial seats this year and she hopes that will lead voters to a deeper understanding of the importance of getting to know the candidates and what they stand for.
Jackson said the core values with which she was brought up and expected to follow have served her well throughout her legal career and helped her build the integrity that she sees as her greatest strength.
“I think my career choices have demonstrated a commitment to equal justice under law, freedom from bias and compassion,” she said.
To find out more about Barbara Jackson, log on to www.judgebarbarajackson.com or go to www.ncfamily.org and click on the Voter Guide. You may read some of her legal opinions at www.aoc.state.nc.us/www/public/html/opinions.htm.