Candidate Vetting Interview-Phil Berger, Jr., NC Court of Appeals Judge

Interview questions were developed by a Vetting Committee of 10 members of the Coastal Carolina Taxpayers Association. All candidates for a particular office were asked the same questions. Interviews were conducted by 3 rotating members of the Vetting Committee. Summaries are the agreed-upon consensus of each 3-member group. Candidates were asked to interview in-person, but phone interviews were offered for candidates living outside Craven County if schedules would not allow travel.
Name, Candidate Position: Phil Berger, Jr., NC Court of Appeals Judge
Interview Date: 10-7-16
Party Affiliation: Republican
Interviewed: Phone
Name: Phil Berger, Jr.
Phone:   336-613-4254
Address: 2107 Summit Drive, Hillsboro, North Carolina, 27278
Educational Background:
Went through public schools in Rockingham. Obtained BA in History from UNC Wilmington in 1994. Worked two years. Graduated from Wake Forest Law School in 1999.
Went into the family business (a small town practice) with Dad and brother, and stayed in private practice for 7 years.
I represented the Department of Social Services in a case in which a child was abused. The case was not prosecuted as it should have been. That led to my becoming District Attorney in Rockingham County, a position I held from 2007 through 2014.
I’ve been an Administrative Law Judge since 2015.
Demonstrations of Leadership:
I was elected by 43 other District Attorneys to lead the North Carolina Conference of District Attorneys, an organization which is involved in both continuing education and working with the General Assembly.
I served as president of the Kawanis Club (an organization which does a lot of positive things) for 2 years.
I started a youth football organization in Eden and am an active coach.
I’m on the Board of the Boys Club. I believe it is my responsibility to show young people that folks in the criminal justice system are good people.
I’m on the Board of Directors of the Eden Chamber of Commerce and was named their Director of the Year in 2003.
Memberships and Associations:
See above section.
Why are you running for this office?
We need to be guided by the Constitution and not “legislate from the bench.” I have a record of following the law. One could say that I’m “tethered to the law.” That’s what we need on the bench.
What is the organizational structure of your campaign, fund raising capability, etc.?
I head it. Joyce Kohn heads my fund raising and has raised approximately $80,000. We run a frugal campaign. Nobody is hired. We have a campaign ad up on facebook at “Phil for NC.” I have 20 years’ experience running campaigns starting with my father’s first two campaigns for the NC Senate and including several Congressional campaigns; I think our campaign is going well.
Which of the Founding Fathers do you most admire?
George Washington.
He wanted to retire to his farm, but every time he was asked to serve, he did. Time and again, he gave up what he wanted personally, and put our country’s welfare first. His self sacrifice is inspiring.
Margaret Thatcher once said, “Consensus is a lack of leadership.” Do you agree? Why or why not?
With some issues, consensus is a good thing. With others, especially in matters of principle, one should stand alone if necessary, and bring others to one’s own point of view.
Which President do you most admire?
When he was elected, the country was headed in the wrong direction. He infused the country with optimism. He made people believe that things could be better. He adhered to unwavering principles. He set the country in a different direction. He won the cold war. He laid down the foundation of conservative principles that are still being felt today.
Do you believe the Founding Fathers intended the Constitution to be:
            a. An evolving document whose meaning changes with time, or
            b. A permanent set of rules to limit the power of the federal government?
A permanent set of rules to limit the power of the federal government. Its meaning is the same today as it was when it was written. For instance, the 2nd Amendment needs to be interpreted literally.
The founding fathers gave us a method to amend the Constitution to reflect changes in society.
Discuss an ethical dilemma you faced. What happened? How did you resolve it?
As District Attorney, I had to field complaints against an attorney I had worked with on a number of cases over a period of 10 to 15 years. He was accused of the criminal charge that he signed affidavits that contained falsehoods. I felt some reluctance to proceed against a friend.
In spite of my concerns, I reported my findings to the state bar. True to my oath to the court, I correctly reported that this person had broken the law.
Where do individual rights come from?
What do you know about Common Core? What is your position on it and why?
It has caused tremendous disruption in our educational system. It is an attempt to infuse “social justice” into our schools, and is a disaster. Like so many mandates from the feds, it is rife with problems.
We need to put control back into the hands of teachers and parents. My wife is a teacher. We have lots of discussions about textbooks and curricula that we do not agree with.
What is your opinion on gun ownership, registration, and gun free zones?
The 2nd Amendment is very clear about gun ownership. I am a gun owner. I have a concealed carry permit.
I cannot discuss the issue of gun registration because that issue could potentially come before me in court, and if I discuss it now, I could not hear the case if it came before me later.
Gun free zones invite violence and should be eliminated. Law abiding citizens who have not committed a felony should be allowed to carry.
What does the phrase “Separation of Church and State” mean to you?
Individuals are free to exercise the religion of their choice so long as it doesn’t promote the overthrowing of our government or committing violence upon our citizens. Beyond that, we are free to practice our religion of choice without interference from the state.
If elected, what would be your number one priority item during your term in office?
To follow the law. It’s simple to say, but many judges have difficulty doing it.
This interview was conducted by Kathryn Blankley, Hal James, and Raynor James.

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