Two attorneys are competing for a District Court judgeship that is opening for the first time in nearly a quarter of a century.
William Solomon, 42, whose practice is based in Rocky Mount, and Sharon Sprinkle, 57, whose practice is based in Tarboro, are seeking to succeed Judge John Britt.
Britt, a Tarboro native, first successfully campaigned in 1996 for the position when he was 32, but he has opted not to continue serving.
The winner of Tuesday’s general election will serve in what is called Seat 3 for Edgecombe and Nash counties as well as Wilson County.
Elections from 2002 forward for candidates for district court judgeships in North Carolina had been nonpartisan, but the General Assembly moved to return to having the political affiliations of those candidates listed on the ballots, effective in 2018.
Solomon is a Democrat and Sprinkle is a Republican.
Solomon said he believes there is neither a Democratic nor a Republican way to put on a judicial robe, have a gavel, direct the attorneys to do what they need to do and tell the bailiffs what they need to do.
“There are people with Donald Trump signs in their front yard beside my sign,” he said. “There are people with Joe Biden signs in their front yard beside my sign across this district.”
Sprinkle, when asked about why she is affiliated with the GOP, said, “Well, I’ve always been a Republican.
“I was in College Republicans when I went to Carolina, which is amazing, considering it was Carolina,” Sprinkle said, a reference to UNC-Chapel Hill being long seen by many as a campus that predominantly is politically Democratic.
Additionally, Sprinkle said, “District courts are not big-issue courts, but I can tell you that as a Republican that I do support the rule of law and the Constitution, as we are required to do.”
Sprinkle also said she believes one can count on the Republicans in the judiciary supporting the more conservative view of the law, such as being for gun rights. She said Republicans favor the least government involvement in a person’s life and support law enforcement officers.
“And I could not see myself being a Democrat and basically what they stand for these days. So I’m glad for the opportunity to run as a Republican versus the unaffiliated races,” Sprinkle said.
Both Solomon and Sprinkle have extensive resumes.
Solomon in 2000 earned a bachelor’s degree in economics from N.C. A&T State University and in 2003 earned a law degree from Campbell University’s law school. After his first year at Campbell, Solomon interned for then-attorney Lamont Wiggins, who also at the time was a Rocky Mount city councilman and who went on to become a Superior Court judge in 2018.
Solomon worked another summer for Wiggins and after earning his law degree he worked for Wiggins before opening his own office in 2007.
Sprinkle in 1985 earned a bachelor’s degree in political science from UNC-Chapel Hill and went to the officer candidate school for the U.S. Marines, but suffered a broken bone in one of her feet. Sprinkle decided to enroll in Campbell University’s law school and earned her law degree in 1989.
Sprinkle subsequently practiced law in Rocky Mount with attorneys Walter Early and Bob Chandler and for a time stayed at home with her daughters but did mediation.
From 2001 to 2015 Sprinkle worked on the prosecuting side as an assistant district attorney. Sprinkle returned to private practice and for about a year was an attorney with attorney Jessica Creech Williams in Rocky Mount.
Sprinkle was managing partner at S&P Law in Rocky Mount from 2016 until going solo in June 2019.
Presently, Sprinkle’s practice includes handling the domestic violence cases for Nash County via My Sister’s House, which is the program providing outreach and shelter services for survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault.
This is Sprinkle’s second try to win election to a position on a district court bench, with the other time having been in 2016.
District courts in North Carolina hear cases involving civil, criminal, juvenile and magistrate matters.
Both Solomon and Sprinkle spoke about why voters should choose them.
Solomon said he believes one of the more detailed parts of the work of district courts is in dealing with juvenile cases. He said his office presently is representing the Guardian ad Litem program in Edgecombe, Nash and Wilson counties.
In North Carolina, the Guardian ad Litem program, which was established in 1983, equips community volunteers to serve abused and neglected children by advocating for their best interests in court.
When a petition alleging abuse or neglect of a juvenile is filed in district court, the judge appoints a Guardian ad Litem advocate and an attorney advocate to represent the child in court.
“That’s been a part of my practice now for the last 3½ years,” Solomon said.
Solomon said he does not believe there is any other attorney in the three-county district who has such experience in juvenile court.
“I think everything is important that comes through the courts, but I tend to think that those are the most important cases that we deal with, because if you get something wrong there, you’re messing around with how soon a child can live in a permanent situation,” Solomon said.
Sprinkle, in stating why she believes voters should choose her, said district courts handle many different areas of the law. She said she believes she has enough experience in all the areas the district court handles “to be a good and fair judge for that seat.”
Sprinkle said she believes she is the more experienced of the two candidates for this position and also said she has lived in Tarboro 29 years.
“And it is a Tarboro seat. So I hope to keep it as a Tarboro seat and (have) it go to the person who lives in Tarboro and Edgecombe County,” Sprinkle said.
In other judicial contests, for Seat 4, Judge Tony Brown, a Democrat, is being challenged by Mike Eatmon, a Republican.
Seat 5 is held by Judge Ed Brown, a Democrat whom Gov. Roy Cooper appointed in August 2019 to fill a vacancy resulting from the death of Judge John Covolo.
Brown is unopposed this year, as are Chief District Judge William Farris, a Democrat who holds Seat 6, and Judge Beth Freshwater-Smith, a Republican who holds Seat 7.