In this year’s elections, voters will be asked to select two candidates to serve eight-year terms as associate justices of the North Carolina Supreme Court. As we’ve done in previous Supreme Court elections, Lawyers Weekly reached out to all of the candidates on the ballot and asked them to complete our Candidate Q&As. Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, this year’s Q&As were conducted entirely via email.
Justice Mark Davis’s responses are provided below. Davis’s opponent, former state senator Tamara Barringer, did not respond to multiple emails sent to her campaign.
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Justice Mark Davis – Candidate for Associate Justice
How would you describe your judicial philosophy?
I believe that judges should decide each case fairly and impartially. One of my bedrock principles is that a judge’s political beliefs should have no bearing whatsoever on their judicial duties. It is essential that judges do their work in a strictly non-partisan fashion.
What do you believe makes you the best candidate to serve as an associate justice?
I believe judicial experience is the key factor in my race. Judging at any level is difficult, and it is particularly hard at the Supreme Court. We are dealing with the most important and complex civil, criminal, and constitutional issues arising under NC law. I cannot imagine doing this job without the benefit of the six years I spent on the NC Court of Appeals.
Do you believe that systemic racism is a problem in our criminal justice system? What do you believe the judiciary can and should do to ensure that all residents are afforded equal protection under the law?
I think we are all troubled by disturbing incidents involving racial inequity that have occurred around our country over the past months. In my view, policymaking decisions are for the other branches of government, and the obligation of the judiciary is to make sure that North Carolina’s justice system is operating free from any type of racial or other form of discrimination.
Supreme Court candidates now run for office as partisan candidates and are often called upon to resolve partisan political disputes. How can the court ensure that citizens can trust it to resolve all disputes in a fair and objective manner?
The best way to accomplish this result is for judges to make sure that there is no hint of any political or other bias in the opinions they render.
What do you think the state’s judiciary can do or should do to ensure that all citizens have and can afford access to justice?
I would like to see more funds be appropriated by the legislature for organizations that provide legal services to indigent persons. I also favor encouraging lawyers in private practice to do more pro bono work in order to make the goal of access to competent legal representation for all persons a reality.
Are there any lawyers or judges, either ones you’ve worked with personally or whose work you admire, who have especially influenced your views on how to be a good judge?
Former Chief Justices Jim Exum and Burley Mitchell are my two greatest judicial mentors. Each one of them consistently demonstrated all of the qualities that we look for in judges. They were incredibly smart, conscientious, and hard working. They also showed a genuine love for the Supreme Court and a commitment to integrity in all respects.
What would you consider to be your proudest day or moment of your career to date?
The day I was sworn in as an Associate Justice on the NC Supreme Court was the proudest moment of my professional life. It was the fulfillment of a life-long dream and I am honored every day to have the privilege of serving in this capacity.
Is there anything we didn’t ask you about that you think it would be good for voters to know to help them make their decision?
I think experience counts when it comes to serving on the Supreme Court. I have been an appellate judge for almost eight years. I have written over 500 opinions and decided over 1,500 appeals. Before that, I was a practicing attorney for 17 years in both the public and private sectors.
I am proud to have broad bipartisan support within the statewide legal community. I am also proud to have been endorsed by three former Chief Justices, 14 other former appellate judges, 32 former presidents of the State Bar and the NC Bar Association, and by 13 statewide organizations.