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Judge Lora Baker seeks to continue making a positive impact in Judicial District 42

Late last year, Governor Roy Cooper appointed Polk County attorney Lora Baker to finish the term of District Court Judge Emily Cowan, who had recently resigned. 

Becoming a judge was a natural step on a path Judge Baker has been following ever since she attended freshman orientation at UNC-Chapel Hill and watched a mock trial being shown on the screen of Morehead Planetarium.

“I found it fascinating,” Judge Baker said. “I couldn’t look away and my mom told me she knew at that moment that I would become an attorney.”

Because the term filled by Judge Baker ends this year, she had to almost immediately start campaigning for the November election—in which she’ll face Republican Monica Gillett—to secure a full four-year term serving Judicial District 42, which includes Henderson, Polk and Transylvania counties. 

The task was made especially challenging because Judge Baker is politically unaffiliated, which means she had to collect approximately 2,700 signatures just to get on the ballot. Since no Democrat is running in the race, HCDP members and a multitude of other organizations, groups and individuals in the three-county district enthusiastically and successfully gathered signatures for her.

“I’m thankful to be on the ballot,” Judge Baker said. “I love being a judge. I especially enjoy the family law side of it because I feel that is where I can make the most difference. To me, it’s all about helping these little people find their way, making them feel comfortable and being an advocate for the children’s best interests.”

To do this, she has spent time in each of the three communities learning about the resources and organizations that can help struggling people get back on track and stay out of trouble.

Judge Baker notes that most people don’t realize how many lives are affected by district court judges, making these races much more significant than the average voter realizes. “These judges have a noticeable impact on people on a day-to-day basis. If you—or your child—have to appear in a district court, the judge’s temperament and values and character will matter a lot.”

As a judicial candidate, Judge Baker cannot speculate about how she would rule on specific issues, but she emphasizes that she cares strongly about civil rights, civil liberties and the constitution. “I care about people and try to treat everyone with respect. I think that I am even tempered, and I want everyone to feel heard, to get a fair day and a fair shake. Equal access to justice is important to me.”   

Originally from Tabor City near the coast, Judge Baker completed her undergraduate degree at UNC, married her high school sweetheart, and earned her law degree at Campbell University.

She then moved across the state to join the law firm of Phillip Feagan in Columbus. “I was looking for a good role model with a moral compass and dignity and found that in Phillip Feagan,” she said. “Plus, my husband and I fell in love with the mountains. It’s so beautiful here.”

Judge Baker and her husband have an 8-year-old son and a 5-year-old daughter.  They enjoy spending time outdoors, riding as many roller coasters as possible and attending Tryon First Baptist Church. 

For more information about Judge Baker, see her website at or her campaign Facebook page. You may also enjoy reading this article from the Tryon Daily Bulletin in which she said, “My judicial philosophy is not so different from the golden rule we all grew up with. I strive to treat everyone with fairness, listening to their stories and understanding that for the person before me, this could be one of the most important days of their life.”


NC Judicial System Basics

As voters become increasingly aware of the importance of judicial races and try to learn more about them, an overview of the state’s court system may be helpful.

In North Carolina, the court system is separated into three divisions: the Appellate Division, the Superior Court Division and the District Court Division. The Appellate Division is comprised of the NC Supreme Court and the NC Court of Appeals. This year, Justice Allison Riggs is up for reelection on the Supreme Court while Martin Moore, Ed Eldred and Judge Carolyn Thompson are in races for the Court of Appeals.

The Superior Court and District Court divisions are the trial court divisions, with the superior courts hearing cases involving felony crimes, civil cases of $25,000 or more and appeals from district courts. North Carolina’s district courts handle serious but lower level criminal cases, juvenile and magistrate matters and civil cases between $10,000 and $25,000.

Five judges serve District 42, which was previously labelled District 29B. Judge Baker is one of these five.

Upcoming changes in district court include a move toward a family court model and increased use of technology.

For more information on the organization of the NC Court System, visit


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