Attorneys vie for seat on district court bench

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Three local attorneys — Ted Blanton, James Randolph and Doug Smith — are vying to take over the seat being vacated by Rowan County District Court Judge Bill Kluttz, who plans to retire later this year.
It would be the first time as judge for Randolph or Smith, if elected. But Blanton is no stranger to the bench. He served two four-year terms, from 1994-2002, as district court judge.
Blanton has said he decided to try to return to the bench after much reflection. In a firm with his wife, Mary, his primary areas of practice include criminal and civil cases, motor vehicle offenses, personal injury and real property law. Blanton also prepares wills, does estate planning and handles real estate closings.
Blanton’s time as judge was marked by two much talked-about incidents during his second term.
In February 2000, Blanton threatened to place a group of construction workers in jail for being too noisy during court. The crew was working on a courtroom expansion project. Blanton had repeatedly asked them to keep it quiet and ultimately had them sit inside a jury box for a few hours while he continued court.
That came on the heels of a December 1999 incident in which Blanton ordered bailiffs to remove a girl who was disrupting the courtroom. Since she was a juvenile, he could not send her to jail. A bailiff said the only place she could be placed was inside a K-9 pen and Blanton said “fine.” The girl wound up in a holding area for dogs for about 15 minutes.
Asked recently if he cared to address these incidents, Blanton said he did not. “I decline to go back and revisit the issues you mentioned,” he said.
In 2002, he returned to practice law with his wife, Mary. The couple opened their law firm in 1990.
Before becoming a judge, Blanton was elected to and served on the Rowan-Salisbury Board of Education. He also ran twice as the Republican nominee for the U.S. Congress in the 8th Congressional District against incumbent Rep. Bill Hefner.
The judicial race is nonpartisan and both Smith and Randolph have opted not to tout their party affiliation. Blanton, who has been a Republican for years, has put his affiliation on his campaign signs.
“The code of judicial conduct allows you to identify with a particular party,” Blanton said. “There are a lot of Republican voters in Rowan County; I wanted to make sure the voters knew I was identifying myself with the Republican Party,” Blanton said.
He said he knows his opponents have chosen not to identify themselves, but he said, “It’s an election. I’m of the opinion identifying yourself is helpful.”
Blanton said he thinks it’s up to the voting public to decide.
Smith was an assistant district attorney under Bill Kenerly for three years before entering private practice. The last nine years, Smith has practiced law in both the District and Superior Court divisions. Smith ran for district court judge in 2010 against incumbent Judge Beth Dixon.
Smith said he’d like to be given the opportunity to work hard to benefit Rowan County citizens.
Smith’s area of practice include family law, juvenile matters, criminal and civil proceedings, as well as felony and misdemeanor matters. He is an arbitrator and family mediator who often handles discussions with families about separation of marital property.
Smith said personally he believes the office of judge is nonpartisan and he’s running as a nonpartisan candidate.
“I would ask to be measured by my service to the public, as a prosecutor, soldier, EMT, practicing attorney, mediator and arbitrator. I’m an American,” Smith said.
Smith was an EMT in Georgia for seven years. He served in the Army National Guard and he was activated in support of Desert Storm/Desert Shield.
Randolph is an attorney with Kluttz, Reamer, Hayes, Randolph, Adkins & Carter. He has been an attorney for 24 years and has practiced all areas of law including civil and criminal.
In addition to his years of experience in the courtroom, Randolph’s credentials include certifications as both a district court arbitrator and a superior court mediator.
Randolph currently chairs the Bar Candidate Committee for the district and is the secretary-treasurer of the Rowan County Bar Association.
Of party affiliation, Randolph said judges represent people of all parties and in some cases those who are too young to vote.
“They should be focused on my experience, my ability to be fair and impartial to everyone,” Randolph said.
He said he’s proud to have the support of people from all parties.
Contact reporter Shavonne Potts at 704-797-4253.