A District Court seat in Mecklenburg County comes down to two candidates who credit their mothers for readying them for the job.
Both incumbent Judge Casey Viser and challenger Alicia Brooks say they were raised by single moms who instilled them with values that have served them well in their legal careers. When asked why they are running, Viser and Brooks – both married and with three children each – fell back to the same phrase: “To whom much is given, much is expected in return.”
Both are also running their first countywide campaigns. Judges are nonpartisan positions; Viser is a Republican, and Brooks is a Democrat.
Brooks, a Fayetteville native, grew up in what she describes as a low-income household run by her mother after the breakup of her marriage. As a girl, Brooks says she learned the value of education and hard work. Today, she believes she has a wider perspective than Viser to understand and deal with the social problems that rear up in the courtroom.
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“My experience working with individuals from different segments of the community gives me the ability to understand and to communicate ... and to craft judgments that can have a lasting and positive impact on the lives of citizens,” she says.
Viser, who was elected overwhelmingly by his peers to fill a District Court vacancy 18 months ago, said his mother sacrificed much in her life so her children could have the best education available. In Viser’s case, that meant 12 years at Charlotte Latin. He says she also taught him the value of public service, which he says is why he became a judge.
Today, he says his priorities are to follow the law, apply it fairly and to treat all parties in his courtroom “with dignity, patience and respect.”
Both candidates have diverse legal backgrounds.
Viser, 42, got his law degree in 2000 from Campbell University, where he was president of the student bar. He returned to his hometown to join the firm of James, McElroy & Diehl, where he later became a partner.
He has handled both criminal and civil cases, and says he has worked in courts reaching up to the U.S. 4th Circuit Court of Appeals. “I have tried cases in every courtroom in the courthouse,” Viser says.
Brooks, too, has held a variety of legal jobs since her graduation from the law school at UNC Chapel Hill. She began as a Mecklenburg public defender 21 years ago, then moved over to the district attorney’s office where she prosecuted murders and other felonies.
She went into private practice in 2000 and started her own firm in 2003. She continues to focus on criminal and traffic cases, and says she has acquired years of experience in working with all constituencies of the courthouse.
Her stated priorities resemble her opponent’s: Brooks says she will run her courtroom “fairly, efficiently and effectively.”
“I will always strive to remember that the decisions I make affect the lives of real people,” she says. “To be effective, I must remain connected to the community.”