District Judge candidates answer questions

BY RAY VAN COR

The Greenville Standard

 

March third is fast approaching and the position of District Court Judge is on the ballot for the primary election.

There are two Republican candidates running in the primary, Tim O Craig and Nikki McFerrin. Democratic candidate Brandon E. Collins is running unopposed.

The Greenville Standard asked each candidate to give a brief statement for the voters and posed the same five questions to each candidate.

Nicki M. McFerrin

I was born and raised in Butler County to parents who taught me, my brother and sister to work hard, be kind, and treat others as yourself.

I graduated from Fort Dale Academy, received my undergraduate degree in Criminal Justice from Faulkner University, and my law degree from Jones School of Law. My husband and I are members of St. Thomas Episcopal Church.

I have practiced law full-time since 2011, before which I was a legal assistant for eight years. From 2011-2013, prior to joining the Office of the District Attorney, I represented parties in criminal and civil matters, and served as guardian ad litem in numerous cases.

Since 2013, I have worked as a full-time Assistant District Attorney and am honored to serve on the Alabama District Attorney’s Association Crimes Against Children Resource Council and the Alabama District Attorney’s Association Domestic Violence Resource Council.

I was privileged to serve as a board member for Safe Harbor Children’s Advocacy Center and Hope Afield and am committed to making sure our children grow up in safe, strong communities.

I am asking for your support and your vote on March 3 in the Butler County Republican primary.

 

Tim O. Craig

I graduated Georgiana High School in 1983 and have been privileged to continue my education beyond that. I have a diverse of an educational background as one can have for a judge.

I have a Bachelor of Science in Forestry from Auburn University 1987, a Masters in Business Administration from Charleston Southern University 1993, graduated Cum Laude from Jones School of Law Faulkner University 1997, LL.M in Taxation from the University of Alabama and over 21 years in private practice.

The judiciary should exist to serve each and every person. I would represent the county to the best of my ability. I would endeavor to be fair and impartial in my rulings and I think I have the ability to do so.

Time is important to a practicing attorney, and I wouldn’t waste my time or that of the public, if I didn’t believe that I was the best candidate to serve as District Judge. It would truly be a privilege for me to serve my county.

 

Brandon E. Collins

I want the voters of Butler County to know that my family and myself are life long residents of Butler County, Alabama. My parents are Gene and Janet Collins, who owned Greenville Tire Company located on Luverne highway for over thirty-five years.

I attended Baptist Hill, W.O. Parmer Elementary, Greenville Academy, and finished my high school career at Fort Dale Academy. I then attended Auburn University in 2001 whereby I graduated in August 2005 with a BA in Psychology with a minor in Criminology.

After attaining my undergraduate degree I began working for Federal Express in Montgomery, until being accepted to attend Law school at Thomas Goode Jones School of Law in Montgomery, whereby I graduated with my Juris Doctorate in December 2010 and was admitted to practice law in the State of Alabama in April 2011.

I want voters of this county to know that if elected I will be a fair and impartial jurist who will be willing to listen to all sides and make a decision based upon the laws of the State of Alabama

 

Question 1. Why are you running for Office?

 

Tim O’ Craig

Timing is everything and that’s the case for me. I’ve been urged for years to run for office, but the time wasn’t right.

When I heard the seat was going to come open, I felt a personal conviction to offer my diverse education and broad background of experience to serve the public.

 

Nicki M. McFerrin

I am running to improve the system for everyone in Butler County. Cases will be heard in a timely manner and dockets handled efficiently. Court orders will be enforced, ensuring parties are afforded justice.

Our juvenile court system will be priority. I will pursue grants and seek funding opportunities for community programs.

Keeping our young people from entering the criminal justice system is key.

Positive changes lead to positive results, not just for those involved in our court system, but for all the citizens of Butler County.

 

Brandon E. Collins

I am running for District Court Judge because Butler County needs a District Judge who will continue to serve with the right temperament, intelligence, and drive to get things done both fairly and efficiently.

As a practicing attorney in Butler County since 2011, I have the ability to listen to all sides and consider all points of view before rendering a decision.

 

Question 2. What qualifications are necessary to be a competent District Court Judge?

 

Nicki M. McFerrin

All judges are called to be faithful to the law, which requires experience, knowledge and commitment.

Judges need experience in the areas over which they will preside, particularly in evidentiary matters; knowledge of the law, court rules, and practice; commitment to putting in the time and work necessary to ensure justice is served.

 

Brandon E. Collins

First and foremost it is important for the District Judge to have experience in many areas of law; since the role of District Court is very broad here in Butler County due to its relatively small size.

It is also important that the District Judge not only have a firm grasp of many areas of the law, but the District Judge must also have the understanding and patience to listen to all arguments when deciding a case.

I want all litigants, defendants and plaintiffs who come before me to leave my courtroom understanding how the law applies to their situation in hopes that they leave with the feeling that they were treated fairly regardless of the outcome.

 

Tim O’ Craig

A competent District Court Judge should have a good logical mind with the ability to look at the facts and extenuating circumstances in a case and apply the law in a fair manner.

The best Judges are intelligent, but have really good common sense. You have to be a good problem solver, which also requires a good sense of creativity.

I’m impressed with analytically minded judges; they seem to find the best solutions. I believe a good judge should have a good strong moral character and be a decent person that is not afraid to stand on his morality.

 

Question 3. What qualifications do you have to be a competent District Court Judge?

 

Brandon E. Collins

I have handled almost every type of case imaginable during my years of practicing law in private practice. I have handled cases ranging from traffic tickets to misdemeanor criminal cases to felony criminal cases.

I have also represented many clients in the juvenile court system acting both as a parent’s attorney as well as a guardian

ad litem for abused and neglected children in Butler County.

Moreover, I have even handled civil cases in Butler, Lowndes and Crenshaw counties and have extensive knowledge working as an appellate attorney before the Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals.

 

Tim O’ Craig

Nothing replaces education and experience. Good common sense is also necessary to finding solutions to problems. My educational background is diverse and my work experience is very broad.

That, together with over 21 years in private practice, I understand life in Butler County from all viewpoints.

I’ve handled juvenile cases, civil and criminal cases, represented plaintiffs and defendants, handled probate and real estate matters, disability and divorce cases.

I also handled child support prosecution as well as being a former Assistant District Attorney. So I think I can duly adjudicate any case appearing in District Court.

 

Nicki M. McFerrin

I have handled cases in every area of law our District Judge is called to preside over.

My experience as both a prosecutor and criminal defense attorney gives me a unique prospective from both sides of the courtroom.

I have the most courtroom experience of any candidate, having tried hundreds of cases across our state and in federal court.

I know firsthand the importance of hard work and preparation and vow to bring the work ethic I have developed as a trial attorney to the bench. There is no substitute for knowledge and real hands on experience.

 

Question 4. Will you adhere to the U.S. and Alabama Constitution and make verdicts based on precedents set by the Alabama and U.S. Supreme Court?

 

Tim O’ Craig

Yes, I will follow the Alabama and U.S. Constitution, and I fully support the Constitution and all that it stands for.

I believe the Constitution was crafted by men of faith that they had a vision for this country and it’s one of the reasons we have been so successful as a country. I have no agenda other than following established law.

 

Nicki M. McFerrin

If elected, I will follow the law and apply it to the evidence and facts in each matter before me.

 

Brandon E. Collins

Yes, I will adhere to both the U.S. and Alabama Constitutions and render verdicts based on the laws of the State of Alabama.

It is the role of a judge to uphold the laws as passed by the legislative branch of government which is what I intend to do.

 

Question 5. Given the issue of overcrowding in Alabama prisons will that affect your verdicts?

 

Nicki M. McFerrin

No. Allowing extraneous issues to sway a verdict would be a violation of the Canons of Judicial Ethics.

 

Brandon E. Collins

While I do believe there is a major issue with prison overcrowding in the State of Alabama, it will not affect my verdicts.

My duty as the District Court Judge is to follow and apply the laws as they are passed by the legislature. In my opinion, the issue of prison reform and overcrowding must be addressed by the State Legislature.

I do believe though that if there is a viable option to incarceration that the court should take that into consideration, but if no alternative exists then the sentence must be imposed.

 

Tim O’ Craig

Absolutely not. I will endeavor to follow statewide sentencing guidelines and only vary from that when the facts and circumstances dictate it.

It’s not the place for the judiciary to manipulate verdicts to accommodate prison overcrowding. Solving overcrowding is the responsibility of the legislative and executive branches of government.

I have no agenda to solve overcrowding or promote any other ideology. I will just follow the law to the best of my ability, including sentencing.

 

We thank each candidate for taking time out of their busy schedules to respond. Though we do not endorse candidates for public office we wish each candidate good luck in their political endeavors.

 

Bruce Branum

Publisher

The Greenville Standard

 

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