Chatham Magazine April/May 2018

Page 42


Sherri Murrell the judge


s Chatham’s newest district court judge, Sherri Murrell presides over cases in both

the new Chatham County Justice Center

and Orange County courtrooms. She was elected in 2016 after 16 years as a public defender, trying her earliest cases in the Chatham County Historic Courthouse. A Tar Heel for both undergrad and law school, she and her husband, Duncan, an English teacher at Chatham Central High School and freelance magazine writer, are raising their two daughters, Caroline, 14, and Sarah Anne, 11, in Pittsboro. On any given day, she may rule on traffic tickets, misdemeanors or the particularly difficult decisions of family court, often involving children. Those cases, she says, “are both tough and rewarding. I’m constantly reminded that there are real human beings that are having these experiences.” In one recent case, Judge Murrell was confronted with whether to permanently remove two children from their parents’ care. “[These] children were young and [their temporary guardians] were interested in adopting them. For that to happen, the biological parents had to either give up or have their parental rights legally terminated. Cases like that are painful because no matter how deficient parents are, they love their children and usually don’t want to give them up.” In this case, she ruled to end the parental rights, opening the door for the guardians to adopt. But it’s never easy. “I would rather somebody tell me they are going to lock me up than take my kids,” she says. “Those are the two fundamental ideas: people want to be free and they want to have their kids. So you run the gamut from terribly sad to a situation that ends up, for these children anyway, as being incredibly positive.” - MW