New assistant added to staff of district attorney

Sep. 05, 2013 @ 06:42 PM

Vance County’s office of district attorneys added Ben Hunter as an assistant Thursday.

Hunter, a native of Warren County, is scheduled to be sworn in by Superior Court Judge Robert Hobgood Monday morning in Warrenton.

Hunter is no newcomer to the Vance County prosecutor’s office. His preparations in legal certification included two summer internships, including last summer in which he pronounced states’ positions on District Court cases under a provisional rule allowing him to practice law under the supervision of an attorney of the bar.

“I had that experience last summer, which was invaluable,” Hunter said.

District Attorney Sam Currin said Hunter brings strong community ties to the table, among them family ties that include his father, Richard Hunter, the elected Clerk of Court for Warren County.

“We intend to put him to work as soon as he is sworn in,” Currin said. “We are very excited to have someone coming in with such strong ties to the community. He has interned with us, so we know Ben real well.”

Hunter graduated from Warren County High School in 2002, then Appalachian State University in 2006 with a degree in the education field. He taught high school English for several years, including in Warren County where his mother Mary Hunter recently worked as the community schools director.

In 2010, he took a turn toward the legal profession, graduating from N.C. Central University’s School of Law in May. He took the bar exam in July, and the passing results came just days ago.

Hunter said he takes no bragging rights on passing the bar on his first try.

“I feel like everyone who takes that test, they feel lucky to not have to take it again,” Hunter said. “I am very happy about it, and I feel very fortunate to be able to serve the Ninth Circuit, working in Henderson, back near where I grew up. I’m ready to get started.”

Currin said Hunter’s official capacity is to take the assistant district attorney position vacant while John Hindsman is serving with the U.S Army legal justice system. The assignment could end after a year if Hindsman completes his Army deployment and chooses to return to his position with the Vance County’s D.A. office.

Hindsman deployed to the U.S. Army’s Fourth Infantry Division based at Fort Carson, near Colorado Springs, Colo., and he is entitled to return to his job when the deployment in done.

According to Currin, Hunter’s time with Vance County would hopefully extend longer even with Hindsman’s return. If Hunter can stay, the office would end up closer to the five-attorney allotment that is supposed to be in place for prosecutorial work in Vance County.

“This may very well evolve into a more permanent employment,” Currin said. “I will be working with the Administrative Office of the Courts on perhaps adding back another of Vance County’s lost positions for the attorney’s office. Of course the issue as always is all about the funding.”

Hunter will concentrate his efforts in Vance County District Court to begin with, and his case involvement would extend into Superior Court procedures more over time.

The Vance County office prepared for Hindsman’s absence by having Assistant District Attorney Allison Capps work with him on major cases as a team instead of carrying individual caseloads. Other cases were divided between Capps and Assistant District Attorney Bill Griffin.

The shortage on Vance County prosecutors began in 2009 with an opening that was not filled until Hindsman started in early 2011. However, that was concurrent to two of Vance County’s four district attorneys accepting early retirement during an effort to reduce court services staff statewide.

The 2011 end result in Vance County was a further reduction from four down to three prosecutors.

The Vance County office has periodically been stretched further since then because of extended absences that included an earlier Hindsman deployment for several months and a maternity leave by Capps of about three months starting in late December.

Currin said he will spend more of his time in Vance County because of so many major cases pending, including two dozen open murder cases in Vance compared to six pending in the other three counties combined.

“We’ll all pitch in, and that will help the transition there,” Currin said.

Contact the writer at mfisher@hendersondispatch.com.