New Durham superior court judge focused on representation, fairness

Josh Chapin Image
Wednesday, March 22, 2023
One-on-one with Judge Rhinehart
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One-on-one with Judge Rhinehart

DURHAM, N.C. (WTVD) -- Durham's newest Superior Court Judge Shameika Rhinehart was sworn in over the weekend and she talked to ABC11 about it all Tuesday night.

"I don't remember a judge coming to my school and reading to me," she said. "This is a reality and dream come true."

The Rocky Mount native will be presiding over Judicial District 14A. She was appointed by Governor Cooper to fill the vacancy created by the retirement of Judge Orlando Hudson.

"It was very humbling," Rhinehart said about the swearing it. "I think about where I grew up."

She is just the third Black woman to serve on the superior court in Durham County. Durham Mayor Elaine O'Neal was the first.

"I think I'm overwhelmed with the love and swearing in ceremony of 500 people, from all walks of life," Rhinehart said. "I believe they were there for me to say you've been a faithful servant to the people who come in the court system and in your community."

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She spent years as a district court judge and before that served as an assistant district attorney.

"I'm empathetic, I listen to both sides, I'm methodical in my decision making, I listen, I don't see statistics, I see the stories of people," she said.

Like any good judge, she didn't want to get into specifics about certain cases nor the changing face of Durham but instead how she upholds the law.

"Representation: it matters," Rhinehart said. "It's not saying you're going to get special treatment but what you're going to get is at a level playing field with someone who understands both sides."

Judge Rhinehart graduated from UNC Chapel Hill and NC Central School of Law.

She was appointed by the Governor so she'll have to run for the seat in 2024. If elected, she'll serve an eight year term.