Campbell Law School Dean J. Rich Leonard has announced the inaugural recipients of the Judge Robert Farmer Fellowships, which consist of six summer fellowships in the Wake County justice system.
The Judge Robert Farmer Fellowships are awarded to Campbell Law students with demonstrated financial need and a calling for public service. The Fellows each have funded positions, through a generous donation, in the Resident Superior Court Judges’ Chambers, the District Attorney’s Office, and the Public Defender’s Office.
In an email to the fellowship recipients, Niya Fonville, assistant director of Career and Professional Development, wrote: “On behalf of Dean Leonard, it is my privilege to congratulate you on being the inaugural class of recipients of the Judge Robert Farmer Fellowship. We commend you on your desire to ensure that the tenets of justice are upheld, whether as a prosecutor or public defender. “
The inaugural Judge Robert Farmer Fellows are:
1. Robert Bland (’21) — District Attorney
2. Trevor Guyton (’21) — District Attorney
3. Katherine Orndoff (’21) — District Attorney
4. Catrina Spagnualo (’22) — Public Defender
5. Lauren Wilson (’21) — Public Defender
6. Amber Younce (’21) — District Attorney
Students between their second and third year of law school had the opportunity to apply for the fellowships based on a demonstrated interest in the Wake County justice system. The selections were made by a committee that included distinguished members such as, the Wake County Senior Resident Superior Court Judge, the Wake County District Attorney, the Wake County Public Defender and Dean Leonard.
Dean Leonard said, “We did not place any Judicial Fellows this summer because with courts closed as the result of COVID-19, the judges were afraid they would have insufficient work to keep the fellows busy.”
The fellowships are made possible through a donation from the nonprofit Carolina Correctional Services Inc. of which Judge Farmer was an active board member. In his role as chair of the organization, he helped oversee the design and implementation of several innovative court-based programs in Wake County, including both adult and juvenile drug treatment courts.
Judge Farmer began practicing law in North Carolina in 1960 and embarked on a career dedicated to public service. Elected to the North Carolina House of Representatives in 1970 and nominated to the Governor’s Advocacy Commission for Children and Youth from 1971-1973, Judge Farmer’s career is emblematic of a dedicated public servant and Wake County citizen.
In 1977, Judge Farmer joined the Wake County bench as a Superior Court Judge and went on to become the Senior Resident Superior Court Judge. He also served as the very first chairman of the State Ethics Commission. Noted for his professionalism throughout his distinguished career, Judge Farmer was awarded the 1993 Joseph Branch Professionalism Award by the Wake County Bar Association.
When asked about the career of Judge Farmer, Dean Leonard said, “For lawyers of my generation, Judge Farmer was a legendary jurist.”
Current Wake County Senior Resident Superior Court Judge Paul Ridgeway ‘86, commenting on the new program, said, “We are tremendously grateful for the opportunity to work with talented Campbell Law students and are so pleased that one of the legends of our courthouse, Robert Farmer, is honored in this way.”
The newly created fellowship program will continue the passion Judge Farmer showed for Wake County.
“It is a signal honor to create a program at Campbell Law in his name to advance what he cared about so deeply, the quality of the criminal justice system in Wake County,” Dean Leonard said.