Wrightsville District Judge Rita Bailey said at the meeting of Political Animals Club today that she'd seek election to Willard Proctor's former judgeship in the May judicial election. Proctor was removed from the bench less than 24 hours ago. Bailey's at mid-term in the essentially part-time job and so she can run without risk of losing her seat.
Proctor held one of the so-called "subdistrict" judgeships, elected from districts drawn with significant minority populations to increase the chances of election of black judges. The subdistricts are part of settlement of a lawsuit years ago over judicial selection. Circuit Judge Marion Humphrey, who's said he intends to retire at the end of the year, also represents a subdistrict, creating another opportunity. Whites may run for these subdistrict judgeships, but none has yet been elected to one.
Lots of loose ends remain after Proctor's abrupt departure, in addition to lining up retired judges to hear his cases until the governor can appoint an interim judge. Proctor attempted to return to his office after hours yesterday. County officials said a courthouse watchman, as instructed, stopped Proctor and asked him to turn over his keys. He did so without incident. Efforts are underway to inventory equipment -- computers and other things -- purchased for the court division.
Work is underway also to end the problematic ties between the court and the probation program Proctor founded, controlled and supported with fees he assessed, Cycle Breakers. It's not yet known if Proctor's employees will continue to work independently or join the central probation program in which most other courts participate.
Prosecuting Attorney Larry Jegley has been reviewing jail records to determine if any prisoners are jailed on account of failure to pay charges imposed by the Cycle Breakers program, a practice among those for which Proctor was ousted from office by the state Supreme Court. Probation fees are supposed to go to the county. Proctor invented an illegal "civil probation" program under which he charged fees for elements of the Cycle Breakers program, which has some outstanding financial obligations that Proctor incurred. When the fees weren't paid, Proctor would jail probationers until they paid.