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The Daily Tar Heel

Judge Carolyn Thompson appointed to N.C. Court of Appeals

contrib-city-carolyn-thompson-court-of-appeals
Photo Courtesy of Paula A. Wolfe.

Judge Carolyn Thompson was appointed to the N.C. Court of Appeals by Gov. Roy Cooper on Sept. 11 to replace Judge Allison Riggs, who was appointed to the N.C. Supreme Court.

Thompson previously ran for the Court of Appeals in 2022 for Seat 8, but lost the race to Judge Julee Flood. However, Thompson said she remained interested in the position.

On Sept. 9, Thompson said she received a call offering her the appointment, and she began work on Sept. 12. Thompson said she also plans to run for re-election in 2024.

“I'm grateful to the governor for considering me for the position because he's familiar with my work ethic, having appointed me before and my tenacity about making sure I put all 100 percent interest in keeping the seat in a campaign,” she said.

Most recently, Thompson worked as a deputy commissioner in the N.C. Industrial Commission, which she was appointed to by Cooper after the 2022 election.

Prior to her work on the commission, she worked for nine years as a judge in District 9 on both the district and superior court divisions. She has also had experience as a trial attorney.

J. Henry Banks, a former District 9 judge, served at the same time as Thompson, and said she will bring diversity and a human element to the court because of her experience at the front lines of the judicial system.

“I think it'll be improved with this idea of having more lawyers or former judges on the bench who’ve actually tried cases and get the dynamic of a trial,” he said. “I think she'll bring that perspective to it, ‘Oh, I have done this, and therefore I know so many nuances.' So she'll bring that idea of experience on the trial level to the court which will be a breath of fresh air, quite frankly.”

In her time as a judge in the District 9, Thompson worked on a wide variety of cases but developed a passion for domestic abuse and juvenile cases, Banks said.

Thompson said she also serves as a mentor in the Granville County Teen Court, where teenagers who would normally face trial in court can be given a trial by fellow peers instead of being criminalized.

Additionally, Thompson is an ordained minister and works with ministries to help women in domestic violence situations. Joy Forrest, the executive director of Called to Peace Ministries, said Thompson volunteers to teach survivors how to approach court cases involving domestic violence and present their experiences in a way that will help their case.

Forrest, who has known Thompson for six years, said she admired how Thompson understood cases of domestic violence.

“She's one that sat and listened to get the whole picture first and then get her judgment,” Forrest said. “She didn't just assume. That's what really gets me is to watch judges on the bench start assuming things without listening. So she's always been one to stop and listen to everything and to analyze it before just jumping in based on her presuppositions.”

Thompson said the work she does inside and outside of the court motivates her to make fair decisions and reminds her of her responsibility to help those around her.

“Some of my greatest accomplishments are from family members that meet me in Walmart and say, ‘Hey, because of what you said or did, my son turned his life around,’ or the letter that I get from someone who's now in college and say, ‘You listened to my desire to leave that abusive home, and because you put me in a loving home, I'm now in college and thriving,'” she said. “Those are the accomplishments that don't show up on a resume. Those are just things that I carry to continue to motivate me to do the right thing.”

@DTHCityState | city@dailytarheel.com

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