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Former judge Blanton looks to return against local attorney Randolph

Later this year when District Court Judge Bill Kluttz retires, two local attorneys ­— Theodore “Ted” Blanton and James Randolph — each believe they will be the best person to replace him. Both names will appear on the November ballot.

Blanton has served, from 1994-2002, two four-year terms as district court judge. In 2002, he returned to practice law with his wife, Mary. The couple opened their law firm in 1990.

Randolph is an attorney with Kluttz, Reamer, Hayes, Randolph, Adkins & Carter. Randolph currently chairs the Bar Candidate Committee for the district and is the secretary-treasurer of the Rowan County Bar Association.

Both men have been practicing in various areas of law for a number of years — Randolph for 25 years and Blanton for 30 years.

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.

Blanton has said he decided to try to return to the bench after much reflection. 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.

A few months prior, Blanton ordered bailiffs to remove a girl from his courtroom who was causing a disruption. She was a juvenile and because he couldn’t send her to jail, Blanton gave the OK for her to be placed in a K-9 holding pin.

Blanton said what separates him from Randolph is that he has raised four children. Blanton and his wife have three sons and one daughter. He said having a family gives him a “particular understanding of child custody cases and domestic cases.” 

What both men agree on is that all Rowan County citizens have adequate access to legal help and the legal system, when it comes to criminal court cases.

Blanton and Randolph do differ on how citizens can gain access to legal help when it comes to civil matters. 

Blanton said the access to legal services isn’t the same for civil cases.

“It would take an act of the legislators to provide funding for these cases,” Blanton said.

Randolph said not everyone can afford an attorney particularly in family law. He added there are groups who can help provide legal services, but he understands they can’t help everyone.

“It comes down to individual attorneys offering a certain number of hours a year pro bono through legal aid or other organizations,” he said.

Randolph said he has in the past provided pro bono legal services for clients.

Randolph is a certified district court arbitrator and superior court mediator. He’s also an active member of St. Luke’s Episcopal Church. Randolph is vice president of agency relations and past president for Rowan County United Way. He’s also former chair of the Rowan Helping Ministries board of directors.

Randolph has been endorsed by former Rowan County District Attorney Bill Kenerly, former Superior Court Judge John L. Holshouser and local attorney Cecil Whitley. He’s also received an endorsement from criminal defense lawyer turned author, John Hart.  “I’m happy to have support from people from all political parties and all walks of life,” Randolph said.

Rather than talk of endorsements, Blanton said his only real focus was on the “people who mark the ballots.”

He also said he’d prefer the voters decide when asked why voters should support him over Randolph.

“I think when you’re looking at who is best qualified and you don’t know the two candidates you turn to practicing attorneys, prosecutors for guidance,” Randolph said.

He pointed to the N.C. Bar Association’s distribution of the judicial performance evaluation survey.

On his Facebook page, Randolph, includes information about the survey that was released by the N.C. Bar Association, which does not rate the judges, but makes the survey available to the people who do. 

Blanton received the lowest of the tabulated ratings, but received the most number of responses, while Randolph ranked the highest of the candidates.

“Local attorneys and prosecutors scored me higher than my opponent in all six categories,” Randolph said.

The categories include professionalism, communication, overall performance and integrity.

Both candidates have taken to social media site, Facebook, where voters will find an appeal from Blanton to submit letters to the Salisbury Post that essentially says why they plan to vote for him. Blanton also has a short video from his wife, Mary.

Both men also have websites that detail their qualifications and experience.

For more information about Blanton visit his website at www.blantonforjudge.org or www.facebook.com/blantonforjudge and for more information about Randolph visit www.facebook.com/jamesrandolphforjudge or www.votejamesforjudge.com.

Contact reporter Shavonne Potts at 704-797-4253.

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