Three candidates for Pitt County District Court Judge seats are running unopposed. Galen Braddy and Brian DeSoto are incumbents; Mario Perez is a former judge running for a seat created this year to aid with an increasing number of cases in the court.
G. GALEN BRADDY, 54, Avon Road, Grimesland
OCCUPATION: Chief District Court judge for Pitt County
EXPERIENCE: Braddy has served as a Pitt County District Court judge since 2000. He currently serves as the state chairman of the Family Court Advisory Committee, which he was appointed to by Chief Justice Cheri Beasely. Prior to that he was appointed to be a member by former Chief Justice Mark Martin. He was appointed by Martin to the Criminal Justice Information Network and has been on the North Carolina Association of District Court Judges Board of Governors since 2008, is slated to be the president of the organization in 2022 and is currently the president-elect. He was in private practice from 1992-2000. His degree is from N.C. Central University School of Law.
- COVID-19 Braddy said his main focus is to try to navigate through difficulties posed to normal court operations by the COVID-19 epidemic and related health issues. He said he will try to make sure cases move in an efficient order without exposing the public and courthouse personnel to COVID-19 while making sure people have equal access to justice at the courthouse.
- Child Custody Cases: Braddy said he does more child custody cases now than he did when he first got on the bench. He said the cases are some of the most serious matters because they involve the future of children. He said coming up with a plan to help get families out of crisis with these cases has been a challenge that weighs on him.
“To me they are one of the most serious matters that we hear because we’re dealing with young folk’s futures and heartbeats and it’s not a car, it’s not a house but it’s our future, and those cases, they’ve always carried a lot of weight with me,” Braddy said.
“I always said if I could become a judge I’d like to become the type of judge I would want to appear in front of and that’s what I’ve always maintained in my mind when I walk in that court I say ‘I serve at the pleasure of the people and I want to make sure they feel confident whether it’s the result they get or not that they’ve been listened to, that they’ve been shown respect and that they had a well thought out decision entered in their case,” Braddy said.
MARIO PEREZ: 61, Oxford Road, Greenville
OCCUPATION: Public defender
EXPERIENCE: Perez was appointed to the Pitt County District Court seat vacated by Gwyn Hilburn in March 2018 by Gov. Roy Cooper, the first Mexican-American to hold a local judgeship. He was defeated by Republican Daniel Entzminger in November 2018. He has been serving as an assistant public defender since. Perez has 34 years of legal experience including as a trial attorney for the United States Department of Justice. He operated private practice in Greenville between 1999-2018. His degree is from Georgetown University School of Law. He is native Spanish speaker fluent in English as well.
- The Hispanic community: Perez said he is able to work with the Hispanic community by helping them with criminal, family and other legal matters in his office as one of the few Hispanic attorneys east of Raleigh.
“I felt that my work was not complete. To me, being a judge in 2018 was really the pentacle of my professional career. I spent 34 years being a lawyer, working really hard in private practice, running a business, serving the community; to me the legal professional is a calling, being a lawyer is a service. To me, the ultimate way to serve is to be a judge.”
W. BRIAN DESOTO, Major Smith Road, Greenville
OCCUPATION: District Court Judge since 2012.
EXPERIENCE: Private practice 2005-07; assistant Pitt County district attorney 2007-12; degree from University of Mississippi School of Law.
DeSoto did not participate in an interview. He is a 1998 graduate of D.H. Conley High School and attended Western Carolina University on a football scholarship.