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As voters cast their ballots each Election Day, judicial races are often overlooked — they’re the least publicized, least funded and least understood of the lot.

Bradley Letts will have to keep his day job, but the Superior Court Judge will soon begin serving as a temporary judge for the Cherokee Supreme Court. 

Voters could see more Ds and Rs on their election ballot in 2016 if Republicans push through legislation to make local school board and statewide judicial races partisan.

The exploration of inadequacies at the Jackson County Justice Center has been years in the making, but it’s looking like — for now, at least — the solution will focus on ramping up security and leave the issue of space for another time.  

“There’s two issues I want to bring to your attention, issues I’ve been bringing to your attention for the last 10 years,” Superior Court Judge Bradley Letts told commissioners at their annual planning retreat last week.

Stories from the 2014 midterm election:

The legal community in the seven western counties has thrown its support behind Attorney Tessa Sellers, from Murphy, to fill a district court judge vacancy.

Six attorneys vying for a vacant district court judge seat in the region will try to win the endorsement of the legal community this week, which could help their chances of landing the coveted spot on the bench.

A fifth attorney has added his name to the list of possible nominees for an open District Court judge position in the seven western counties.

Attorneys in the seven western counties will to be called on in the coming weeks to weigh in on their top pick to fill a vacancy on the judicial bench.

A monumental judge’s election to fill three 30th District Court seats in Western North Carolina has ended after a clean, tightly-contested election.

When the dust settled three new judges were seated — Donna Forga, Kristina Earwood and Roy Wijewickrama.

Forga’s win could have been the most suprising as she unseated Judge Danya Ledford Vanhook, who was appointed a little more than a year ago to replace the retiring Marlene Hyatt. At forums during the campaign Forga spoke of the lessons learned as a single mom working her way through college and law school and the influence of the judge’s she has worked with.

“I’m so looking forward to serving the people of this district,” Forga said after her win. “And I also want to say how impressed I was with the quality of the judicial candidates. It makes me proud to be one of them.”

“Honestly, this is my dream, what I’ve been working for. Just incredible,” said Forga.

With voter turnout very high, the closest race of the three was between David Sutton and Kristina Earwood. Earwood, a Sylva attorney, managed to narrowly beat out Sutton by less than 2,000 votes.

At a forum in October, Earwood talked about how important it was to treat everyone equally in the courtroom.

“It’s very important to treat those people with respect. It’s really important that when someone steps through the door of a courtroom, there is no color, there’s no race, there’s no economic line — justice is blind. At the end of the day, we’re all human beings. I do think it’s very important because of the impact we have on people’s lives,” Earwood said.

In the third race, Waynesville attorney Roy Wijewickrama bested fellow Waynesville attorney Steve Ellis.

In forums throughout the judge’s race, all the candidates spoke of how difficult it would be to replace the demeanor and courtroom presence of Hyatt and retiring judges Danny Davis and Steve Bryant. Davis and Bryant had a combined 50 years experience on the bench.

District Court judge races are non-partisan, which means the candidates are not affiliated with any political party.


District Court Judge (Vanhook seat)

Donna Forga    30,282

Danya Ledford Wanhook    22,364


District Court Judge (Bryant seat)

Kristina Earwood    27,032

David Sutton    25,159


District Court Judge (Davis seat)

Roy Wijewickrama    27,904

Stephen G. Ellis    23,864

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