When Judge Timothy Finan passed away last year, N.C. Gov. Pat McCrory looked to a Pitt Community College graduate to fill the vacancy, selecting Annette Turik to serve the state’s 8th Judicial District for the remainder of Finan’s four-year term. For Turik, a 1986 PCC Paralegal Technology alum from Kinston, it was another milestone in a law career she began planning as a third-grader. That’s right, while 80 percent of today’s college students change majors, Turik is still working on the dream she had as a youngster, making her way through the ranks—from courier to paralegal to attorney to judge.
“I decided when I was in the third grade that I wanted to be a lawyer,” she says. “My teacher told me that as much as I stood my ground and argued my point on everything that I would be good at it. I kept that goal all through school.”
As a junior at Kinston High School, Turik began working as a courier with the Wallace, Morris & Barwick law firm. She says it was a valuable learning experience that allowed her to see a law practice up close and personal and witness a lawyer’s daily routine. “I loved the law and was excited to be working toward being a part of a profession in which I could help people with their legal problems and perhaps make a difference in their lives,” Turik says.
After graduating from high school, Turik enrolled in the Paralegal Technology program at PCC. She explained that her parents could not afford to send her to college, making PCC’s affordable tuition and proximity to her home a perfect fit.
“I knew with a paralegal degree from PCC, I could get a job as a paralegal and then attend evening programs for undergraduate and law school,” she explained. “…The Paralegal Technology program was instrumental in preparing me for my career path.
“I knew that I was going to continue my education and become a lawyer,” she continued. “My paralegal degree was the stepping stone that I needed to be able to work in the legal profession while I was pursuing my dream of becoming a lawyer.”
Turik has fond memories of PCC, calling her educational experience “outstanding” and adding that the paralegal program provided her with the skills needed to be ready for work as a paralegal right away. “The courses [at PCC] were taught by lawyers or people in the legal or law enforcement field who added real life experience to the classes being taught,” she said. “I had hands on experience with courses where our instructor took us to the courthouse and even evidence photography with police officers.”
Upon graduation from PCC, Turik worked full-time as a paralegal to put herself through the criminal justice program at N.C. Wesleyan College in 1991 and law school at N.C. Central University in 1997. She said the job gave her a chance to work closely with lawyers and gain experience in the legal field.
“When I was in law school, everyone would ask me questions after class because they knew I was a paralegal and worked in a law office,” Turik said.
With her law degree in hand, Turik went to work in her hometown as an associate attorney with Wallace, Morris & Barwick. After six years, she moved on to become an attorney and partner at Wooten and Turik, PLLC in Kinston. As an attorney, Turik tackled a wide variety of legal issues, both in and out of the courtroom. She gained trial experience in virtually every area of District Court, including criminal, juvenile, abuse and neglect, termination of parental rights, civil, child custody and support, divorce, alimony and distribution of marital property.
She also served as an attorney for the Lenoir County Department of Social Services and has experience with foreclosures, real estate, wills, collections, small claims and guardianship issues.
“As an attorney in private practice for over 18 years, I have had the opportunity to represent people in every area of District Court,” Turik says. “I have helped people with their legal issues, which sometimes has meant guiding them through some of the most difficult times in their lives. This experience has helped me understand and recognize what a person might be going through.”
Turik made a bid for District Court judge in 2012 but came up short in a three-person race. She eventually earned a seat on the bench November 25, 2015, when McCrory selected her to fill Finan’s district court vacancy in a district that covers Greene, Lenoir and Wayne counties. Turik says she enjoys serving as a District Court judge and hopes she can make a difference in the lives of people who find themselves in court.
“…The most challenging aspect of being a judge is making decisions every day that can significantly affect the lives of others,” she says. “As a judge, you have to take the facts of each case and try to find the best solution that you can. This is not always easy.”
To be a good judge, Turik says she must be fair and impartial in all cases and treat all people equally. She added that judges must be good listeners as well in order to give everyone a chance to be heard before applying the law to each situation.
With her current term set to expire at the end of this year, Turik says she will once again run for District Court judge in November in order to keep her position for another four years. “I hope to maintain my position as a District Court Judge in Lenoir, Wayne and Greene Counties for many years to come,” she said.
For individuals considering a law career, Turik’s advice is for them to follow their dreams. “Never say, ‘I can’t,’” she says. “If you want something bad enough, you can figure out a way to make it happen …. Anything is possible if you work hard and never give up.”
– Rob Goldberg