Senior Associate County Attorney Keith Smith was recently appointed to District Court Judge in Judicial District 26, serving Mecklenburg County.
The appointment came from Governor Roy Cooper on June 29 to fill the vacancy created when Mecklenburg County District Court Judge Donald Cureton was elected to the county’s Superior Court.
Smith, 59, will assume his new role on August 1.
“I was fortunate to be selected, and I’m honored to have been selected by the governor for this opportunity to serve,” Smith told QCity Metro.
He previously served as an Assistant District Attorney for Rowan County and Court Improvement Project Coordinator for the Administrative Office of the Courts.
In a Q&A with QCity Metro, Smith talked about his appointment, journey into law and passion for public and community service.
What is the process to be considered for appointment as a District Court judge?
There is a bar election. Mecklenburg County Bar has approximately 5,700 attorneys. The members of the bar have an opportunity to vote based on individuals who have requested to be considered for the vacancy.
Members of the bar vote on members who would like to fill the vacancy. There were four individuals vying for the position.
I was fortunate to be the top vote-getter, but that doesn’t provide any guarantee that you’ll be selected by the governor. I was fortunate to be selected, and I’m honored to have been selected by the governor for this opportunity to serve.
Why did the Governor choose you?
I believe the governor felt that my qualifications were well-suited for the opportunity. I don’t think I stood out any more than anyone else regarding the candidates. All the candidates were great.
But I know one of the things that he outlined was my experience, my commitment to service and the community, as well as just that long-term involvement in the justice system, whether it be the criminal justice system or the human services field.
You’ve spent time at community events and helping those in need, especially as a member of Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity. Where did your passion for helping the community start?
It all started when I was a kid in China Grove, N.C. My parents really worked and instilled in me the value of helping people and working hard. My parents were always helping people in the community. No matter their circumstance. And we came from humble means; my father worked at the cotton mill, and my mother was a domestic worker.
What inspired you to get into the law field and become an attorney?
Having read a good bit, I learned about Thurgood Marshall, who was incredibly influential to me. His work made me want to be in a position where I would have an opportunity to have a say about how people were treated, with the goal of making sure everyone is treated fairly.
What do you look forward to in your new role?
I look forward to another opportunity to serve the community and to grow.
What advice have other judges given you?
Be willing to listen, take some directives and observe. It’s going to be a learning curve, but the good thing is that there are a lot of judges who have said they are willing to help me.