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Cooper appoints District Court judge

Gov. Roy Cooper on Monday announced the appointment of C.W. “Mack” McKeller as District Court Judge for the Judicial District 29B, serving Henderson, Polk and Transylvania counties.

McKeller will fill the vacancy created by Chief District Court Judge Athena Fox Brooks, who was appointed to a Special Superior Court judgeship earlier this year.

McKeller served in the U. S. Navy for 13 years as a lieutenant commander and commanding officer. He is also the founding member of McKeller Law Firm in Brevard, representing clients in civil and criminal matters at the trial and appellate level. McKeller received his Juris Doctor from Campbell University School of Law and his Bachelor of Arts degree from Wake Forest University.

In July the District 29B Bar Association nominated five attorneys for the vacancy. Henderson County Clerk of Superior Court Kim Gasperson-Justice received the most votes, 52, followed by Jason R. Hayes and McKeller, the only Democrat, with 44 each. Other nominees were Robert P. Brackett Jr., who received 41 votes, and Ryan A. Bradley, with 24 votes. The list also included three Republicans — Gasperson-Justice, Hayes and Bradley — an unaffiliated voter, Brackett.

Cooper's press secretary, Ford Porter, pointed out that Cooper has been bipartisan in judicial appointments. He appointed Brooks, a Republican, to the Special Superior Court seat. And in the batch of appointments announced Monday he also  appointed Annette Turik, a Republican, to the District Court bench in the jurisdiction serving Wayne, Lenoir and Greene counties.

Cooper has one more appointment to a Henderson County-based judgeship. Chief Superior Court Judge Mark Powell retired from his seat on Oct. 1.

McKeller has been practicing criminal and family law in Brevard since 1995. When they go to work in a courtroom lawyers “want to feel that their time is not wasted and they want a fair result and they want somebody that’s going to listen to them and treat their clients like people,” he said.

Peering at the list of eight lawyers who applied, McKeller said they would all serve credibly. “I think we want someone who has experience. We want somebody who’s reasonably well-versed in the law and we want somebody who’s going to treat everybody that walks in that door like a human being. I promise that every day I’ll treat everybody who walks in that door (behind the judge’s bench) and that door (the public part of the courtroom) like a human being and I’ll respect everybody’s time and talent.”