Snapshot#8217; of 20-plus years By Cal Bryant 04/16/2007 WINDSOR – Since he was old enough to consider such things, Alfred W. #8220;Al#8221; Kwasikpui knew he wanted to be a judge. Fortunately for thi
Published 12:00 am Monday, April 16, 2007
WINDSOR – Since he was old enough to consider such things, Alfred W. “Al” Kwasikpui knew he wanted to be a judge.
Fortunately for this Greensboro native, life didn’t throw him a curveball.
Recently, “Judge K”, as he is affectionately known, was honored for his many years of service to the citizens of Judicial District 6B (Bertie, Hertford and Northampton counties). The Chief District 6B Judge was saluted by Senior Resident Superior Court Judge Cy Grant during a brief ceremony held in the Bertie County District Courtroom.
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And what did Judge Kwasikpui select for his longevity award….a camera. Perhaps he needed that way back in 1985 to begin taking snapshots of a judicial career in the Roanoke-Chowan area that has spanned more than 20 years.
“I really enjoy this job,” Judge Kwasikpui said. “This is my niche in life. This is what I wanted to do, be a judge.”
For Kwasikpui, the path leading to the seat behind the bench started by standing in front of it.
A graduate of Greensboro Page High School and Shaw University, Kwasikpui obtained his law degree from Wake Forest University. He then served in the U.S. Army, stationed at Fort Leonard Wood in Missouri where he was assigned to the Judge Advocate General (JAG).
After completing his active duty military assignment, Kwasikpui went into private law practice in Winston-Salem for a short period of time. Soon after he realized a need for more trial experience, so he went in search of a new job.
That pursuit led him to the Roanoke-Chowan area where, in 1985, he was hired by then District Attorney David Beard to work as an assistant DA.
“With my wife and I growing up and working in an urban environment, we didn’t really know what to expect when we first arrived here,” Kwasikpui said. “It didn’t take us long to come to realize that we loved the small town environment, so much to the point that our two sons (Tremaine, now 20, and Jerel, 18) were both born and raised here.”
A short five years after his R-C area arrival, Kwasikpui was successful in an election bid to become a District Court Judge. He was sworn to that position in 1990 and with the exception of one brief period of time when he once again served his country, he hasn’t left the bench in 17 years.
That one absence came in 1991 where, as a member of the U.S. Army Reserves, he was called to action for Operation Desert Storm. He served that stint in the JAG’s office at Fort Bragg.
Returning to the R-C area in April of 1991, Kwasikpui was appointed Chief District 6B Court Judge, a title he maintains today.
As far as sitting behind the bench, he said it was all about dignity and respect, not for him personally, but for those involved in court cases.
“A court of law should be treated with all due respect,” he noted. “The founding fathers of this great nation set-up a fair and impartial judicial system. We do not make the laws, we are empowered to hear the evidence and make a judgment based solely upon application of the laws set forth by our state and nation.”
At first, Judge Kwasikpui would dole out justice in what he referred to as “a traditional manner.”
“There’s no substitute for experience,” he continued, “and there’s no better experience to help you see life from all different angles than being a father. The laws of our state and nation still stand tall, but with experience on the bench comes an opportunity to consider compromises to traditional court rulings.”
To explain his point, the judge looked no further than his work with young people. He doesn’t see a hardened criminal standing before him, but rather a young mind, a sponge if you will, ready to absorb and learn all of what life has to offer.
“You look at our young people and you see our future,” Judge K said. “Sometimes their good judgment becomes clouded and they wind up in front of my bench. But instead of turning my back, I’ll give them goals to obtain, especially from an academic standpoint, and give them a chance to turn their life around.”
Judge Kwasikpui doesn’t stop there; he schedules reviews every 30-to-40 days with the young offenders. He also requires them to take part in a local peer group that meets monthly.
“I can see the pride returning to our young people,” he said. “I try to motivate them to finish high school or obtain a GED and I don’t stop there as I encourage them to go forth and obtain a college education.”
Young offenders are not the only age group that can benefit from the judge’s style of justice. He also works with substance abuse offenders, reviewing the progress of those individuals and monitors their drug screenings.
“All of this takes time, but the way I see it, it’s time well spent,” Judge Kwasikpui noted.
Judge K’s system drew praise from Judge Grant.
“Al Kwasikpui has been a tremendous asset to District 6B for a number of years,” Judge Grant remarked. “He is very fair and even-handed as a judge.”
As far as his future on the bench is concerned, Kwasikpui knows his job hinges on the political process. While he understands he may lose votes from those impacted by his judgments, he was quick to point out that his job is to serve all the citizens of District 6B.
“I cannot worry myself over elections,” he said. “I have a job to perform and that’s to apply the law as set forth by our lawmakers in Raleigh and Washington. All I can control is to make sure that I’m applying the law in a fair and consistent manner.”
He closed by saying, “God has blessed me to serve the people of this district for the past 20-plus years. I am grateful for the support of my wife, Sheryl, my sons, Tremaine and Jerel, and the support of the community. I also appreciate the good working relationship that has existed with Superior Court Judge Cy Grant, District Court Judges Tom Newbern and Rob Lewis, Trial Court Coordinator Shelia Eley and the other members of the court system.”