Cumberland County District Court Judge April M. Smith resigned last week amid "debilitating" health complications made worse by the coronavirus, she said in a letter to Chief District Court Judge Toni S. King.
Smith was first elected to a four-year term on the bench in 2014. She tendered her resignation on Dec. 1, stating her last day will be Feb. 1. Her term is up in December 2022. Gov. Roy Cooper will appoint a replacement.
"It has truly been an honor serving the citizens and residents of County," she said in the letter.
Smith cited health complications as her reason for leaving her position.
In her letter, Smith explains she was diagnosed in 2017 with the autoimmune disease lupus. The chronic inflammatory disease causes abnormalities of blood vessels and connective tissue commonly involving the joints, kidneys, nervous system, and skin.
According to Smith, while there are treatments to mitigate the symptoms of lupus, there is no cure.
"Unfortunately, I, along with millions of others, will continue to battle this condition for the rest of my life because there is no cure," she said in the letter. "The effects of lupus along with treatments can and have been debilitating for me."
Smith said that she believed her lupus symptoms were under control due to treatments she had undergone, but in February, she was diagnosed with COVID-19 and her health drastically declined.
Smith said she has tried to recover from the effects of the coronavirus and lupus with the help of multiple medical specialists, but her attempts have been unsuccessful, and the symptoms have made it difficult to continue her work as judge.
"While I would love to continue to serve in our courts, I must accept that with this non-curable, chronic illness, I am no longer able to effectively administer my duties as District Court Judge and it is with great regret that I must retire at this time," Smith said in the letter.
Her seven-year tenure on the bench was not without controversy.
In 2019 she was reprimanded by the North Carolina Supreme Court for conduct “prejudicial to the administration of justice.”
The court upheld a Judicial Standards Commission ruling that recommended Smith be reprimanded for conduct in violation of the state's Code of Judicial Conduct.
The statement of charges against Smith alleged she engaged in conduct inappropriate to her office by demonstrating a lack of respect for the judicial office and for the Chief
District judge; by failing to facilitate the administrative duties of the chief judge
and court staff; by repeatedly and regularly making disparaging comments about the
chief judge to other judges, judicial staff, clerical staff, and members of the local bar;
and by failing to diligently discharge her duties, bringing the judicial office into
In her answer to the allegations, according to the Supreme Court ruling, Smith said she felt the chief judge was subjecting her to unfair treatment in court assignments by assigning her to a courtroom that heard not only a full calendar but walk-in cases; she was being assigned that courtroom more frequently than the other nine district court judges in the county; and that the chief judge would not accommodate her time off requests for medical appointments, to preside over swearing-in ceremonies, attend educational programs for judges, or take vacation.
The Supreme Court, however, found that court statistics and records demonstrated that Smith was scheduled for and actually presided over fewer court sessions than most of
her colleagues in 2016 and 2017. These same records further showed that Respondent had more days off the bench than any other judge in the district in 2015 and 2017, and that she had the second most days off the bench in 2016 after a colleague who was undergoing cancer treatment.
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This article originally appeared on The Fayetteville Observer: Cumberland County Judge April M Smith resigns amid health issues