By MIA MITCHELL, Daily Dispatch Writer
In the Ninth Judicial District's only contested race, District Chief Judge Charles S. Wilkinson hopes to keep the judgeship he's
held for the past 26 years.But if things go as Vance County prosecutor S. Quon Bridges would like at the polls on Tuesday, he'll have his turn at the bench.
For Wilkinson the race is about experience.He's been a District Court judge in the Ninth District since 1976 and chief judge since 1994.He
has received special certification as a juvenile court judge which has allowed him to establish custody mediation in the district, settling 57 percent of custody cases.He
has also helped establish equitable distribution mediation to the four counties, which settles 80 percent of divorce cases.
Bridges, too, has experience.Aside from being a public defender for the past 13 years, he's
worked in legal aid, in private practice and as a public defender.
It's varied experiences that makes a judge effective, Bridges says.He
hopes to dismiss the assumption from some who feel a prosecutor would make for a "harsh" judge.
Bridges says it's time for change.He
is making his
first attempt at a judgeship and could have chosen between several seats up for reelection this year.He
chose Wilkinson's seat because Wilkerson is eligible for full retirement and Bridges is generally dissatisfied with the court's management.
If seated, Bridges says he
will work toward decreasing the case backlog in District Court, which he
has described in public forums as "out of control" and "huge."He
will also work to restore respect and decorum in the courtroom.
Wilkerson says the court is managed just fine.Wilkinson's solution to the backlog of cases, which he
says is not huge, is to hire more clerks to manage the paperwork.
If there were more courtrooms and more clerks in the district, he
suspects the case loads might be reduced.