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Local judge tapped for federal seat

Greensboro News & Record

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Jennifer Fernandez

GREENSBORO - Another Greensboro judge may be headed for the federal bench.

President Barack Obama on Wednesday nominated Catherine C. Eagles, a Guilford County Superior Court judge since 1993, to fill a seat on the U.S. District Court that serves the Middle District of North Carolina. The Senate must confirm the nomination.

Eagles declined to comment through a secretary Wednesday afternoon.

When recommended for the post in July, Eagles said in an interview that she loved being a judge no matter the level.

"The most important case is the case that's in front of you this second," Eagles said.

She added that the federal bench would be "a different kind of challenge."

Before joining the Superior Court, Eagles practiced law at Smith Moore Leatherwood in Greensboro, specializing in areas such as civil litigation, product liability and trade secrets.

She was appointed to the judgeship in 1993, elected in 1994 and re-elected in 1996 and 2004. Her latest eight-year term ends in 2012.

If the Senate confirms Eagles, Gov. Bev Perdue will have to appoint a replacement for Superior Court.

In 2006, Eagles became the first woman to hold senior resident status in Guilford County Superior Court. Eagles' departure would leave vacant that position. The senior resident judge is in charge of running the Superior Court. That includes creating judges' schedules and setting policies and procedures.

Judge Lindsay Davis is next in seniority. If he were to lose re-election this year or decline the position, Judge John O. Craig III would be the next most senior judge, said Jon Bellows , trial court administrator.

Craig said Eagles has been an excellent administrator whose work has left the Superior Court in great shape for the next administrator. The federal courts will benefit from her judicial experience as well, he said.

"It's been my experience that she's pretty tough on crime and pretty strong on her sentencing," Craig said. "I just think she's a great choice. I hate to lose her, but she's just a perfect match for the position."

Eagles would join fellow Greensboro resident William Osteen Jr., who replaced his father on the court in 2007. And she would take the place of N. Carlton Tilley Jr., another Greensboro resident who took a reduced caseload in 2008.

Sen. Kay Hagan, a Greensboro Democrat and a close friend of Eagles', recommended her and two others for the federal seat in July .

Hagan said in a prepared statement announcing the nomination that Eagles has "served with distinction."

"She has a proven record of judicial fairness and my full support," Hagan said. "I will be working with my colleagues to ensure a swift confirmation for Judge Eagles."

Sen. Richard Burr, a Winston-Salem Republican, declined to comment on the nomination through his press secretary.

No timeline was announced Wednesday for the confirmation process. Osteen was confirmed eight months after being nominated by President George W. Bush.

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