To Serve and Support
Appointed district court judge of the 13th Judicial District in November 2020, The Honorable Quintin McGee plans to make Brunswick, Bladen and Columbus counties better than he found them.
Note: This story was originally printed in North Brunswick Magazine and has since been revised to correct an error. The print edition misstated that Judge Quintin McGee is the first Black male judge in the 13th Judicial District, which is not the case. That distinction lies with Judge Fred Gore, who was also the first Black District Court Judge in Columbus County. Judge McGee is the first Black male District Court Judge in a Brunswick County seat and the second Black male District Court Judge in the entire 13th District.
November 13, 2020, marked an important milestone for assistant district attorney Quintin McGee. On that day, he was appointed district court judge of the 13th Judicial District, which encompasses Brunswick, Bladen and Columbus counties. Along with this honor, he also became the first Black male to serve as a district court judge in a Brunswick County seat and the second Black male to serve as a district court judge in the entire 13th Judicial District (Judge Fred Gore was the first). His appointment came following a months-long process to fill the vacant seat left when Honorable William Fairley retired (see sidebar).
Passionate about his work, Judge McGee doesn’t take his new position lightly.
“I want the public to be able to come into my courtroom and know that they’re going to have a person who’s experienced in the law, someone who is dedicated to public service, who has a tremendous work ethic and is going to decide cases accurately based on the facts and the law,” he says.
McGee grew up in Statesville, North Carolina. He and his brother were raised by their mother, who instilled time-honored values in her children.
“‘Leave it better than you found it’ wasn’t just a phrase she spoke, but a philosophy she embodied,” McGee says. “Likewise, I try to improve any situation that I’m involved in.”
The boys were also surrounded by grandparents and a supportive community who taught them the importance of citizenship, integrity, keeping your word and becoming a scholar. McGee and his grandfather, John McGee, have always shared an especially close bond. One of the most meaningful moments of McGee’s life was when his grandfather placed the judge’s robe on him at his swearing-in ceremony.
“Without him, I probably wouldn’t have become the man that I am today,” McGee says. “He taught me the importance of possessing a strong work ethic, providing for your family, being a responsible citizen that gives back and being an upstanding member of your community. Those are values I have tried to emulate and expand upon.”
McGee simultaneously earned two undergraduate degrees from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 2007: one in economics and the other in management and society.
During his four years at UNC, he became involved in community outreach and served as a volunteer guardian ad litem for children in the Orange County court system. “It really felt good to help children who needed an advocate in that way,” he says.
However, it was an internship at the National Football League in New York that redirected his career path. During that experience he worked closely with a few of the NFL’s attorneys.
“Some of them had previously worked for the FBI, some had been in private practice and still others had been in government service,” he says. “Talking with them about their various experiences propelled me toward law school.”
After graduating from UNC, he applied for and was accepted to the law school at North Carolina Central University. During that time he interned at the district attorney’s office in Alamance County, ultimately graduating and passing the bar in 2010.
With credentials in place, McGee returned to Statesville and opened the Law Office of Quintin McGee. Soon afterward, an opportunity arose to move his private practice to Wilmington.
“The most important lesson I learned while in private practice was that the courtroom clerk is the lifeblood of the judicial system,” he says. “I discovered very quickly that nothing an attorney or judge may say or do in a courtroom matters unless that action is documented in the record by the clerk.”
In 2013 he accepted the position of assistant district attorney (ADA) in the 13th Prosecutorial District of Brunswick, Bladen and Columbus counties (which was renamed the 15th Prosecutorial District in 2016).
McGee considered the transition from private practice to prosecutor as another opportunity to give back.
“My role as prosecutor allowed me to serve as a voice for victims in those three counties for eight-and-a-half years,” he says. “It was an important job that I took pride in.”
He remains passionate about serving the public in his new role on the bench.
“As a judge, I have a job to do: to fairly and impartially decide the issues of the district court – the issues of the citizens of the county that I serve,” he says. “One of the most impactful things I’ve heard about judicial service is that if your community is not better off for you having served as a judge, then you wasted your time. Therefore, I approach my job every day knowing I’m to serve the public interest.”
Spending time with family and friends is important to McGee. In May 2017 he married Veronica Lett-McGee, a licensed clinical social worker and current director of the new senior center in Leland. Learning has always been his passion, which he acquires through travel and reading nonfiction books.
“It’s a great way to keep my mind sharp and also learn about new and different things,” he says.
Equally important is volunteering in the community. McGee currently serves on the boards of Communities in Schools Brunswick County, The Juvenile Crime Prevention Council and Cape Fear Council of the Boy Scouts of America.
“I have a heart for children,” he says, “to ensure that our kids have enriched lives and start off with the tools they need to be successful later in life.”
Since purchasing a home in Leland in 2013, he has witnessed the explosive growth of the area.
“Many different communities and new homes are popping up within the town, as well as new businesses and shopping centers,” he says. “The town is thriving, and it’s a great place to live.”
Everything adds up to a life of service in a place he loves.
“I’m appreciative and grateful for the appointment from Governor Cooper,” McGee says. “I look forward to serving all of the citizens of Bladen, Brunswick and Columbus counties with distinction, integrity and honor for many, many years to come.”
District Court Judge Appointment Process
North Carolina District 13 is comprised of six district court judges. By North Carolina statute, three must reside in Brunswick County, two must reside in Columbus County and one must reside in Bladen County. Since Justice William Fairley, who recently retired, was a resident of Brunswick County, his replacement also had to be an attorney who lives in Brunswick County.
When a district court opening is created by retirement, all the attorneys of the district bar get together to nominate potential candidates and have a vote-in. The top five vote-getters are then submitted to the governor. At that point, the governor’s office conducts interviews with the candidates, and the governor makes the final decision. He can select any of those five, or he can choose any other qualified person. On November 13, 2020, Governor Cooper appointed Quintin McGee. It’s an elected position going forward. Judge McGee will be up for election and on the ballot in November of 2022.