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Tag Archives: Judicial Elections

Why change? Voters do just fine when electing judges (access required)

There has been increased interest lately in the process by which North Carolina selects its judges, an interest driven by bills introduced last year in the General Assembly and the North Carolina Bar Association’s proposal for a hybrid merit selection system. Largely missing in this discourse has been a defense of the electoral process as successful and effective.

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Inviting judges to the parties (access required)

Legislation that would put Democrat, Republican or Independent beside a judicial candidate's name on the ballot has evoked strong responses from people on both sides of the issue. Senate Bill 47, which would mark the return to partisan judicial races, passed the North Carolina Senate last week by a vote of 36-13. At press time for Lawyers Weekly, the bill was awaiting House action. North Carolina began switching to nonpartisan judicial elections in 1998 and completed the switch in 2004.

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Does the Missouri Plan strip politics from the process or power from the people? (access required)

While the North Carolina Legislature wonders whether a massive change in how the state chooses judges is a good idea, John Johnston, a Kansas City, Mo., attorney, has no doubts. Johnston, president of the Missouri Bar Association, is a strong supporter of the judicial election system that bears his home state's name: the Missouri Plan. That's the kind of plan that reform-minded North Carolina lawyers like Charlotte attorney John Wester (pictured right) want to see their state adopt. On the other side, supporters of the status quo, like Raleigh attorney Robert Numbers (pictured left), say the Missouri-type plan would take power from the voters.

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Should NC trust voters to elect the best judges? (access required)

If the North Carolina Bar Association has its way, voters in 2012 will be presented with an opportunity to create a drastically new, and complex, system of selecting the state's judges. But some attorneys say North Carolina's current system is fine, and the power to select judges should be left where it is: in the hands of voters. The NCBA is pushing Senate Bill 458, which would establish the so-called Missouri Plan, a system that allows voters to either retain or reject sitting judges who are nominated by a commission and appointed by the governor.

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Perdue order creates panel, cedes power for judge picks (access required)

Saying "this is history," Gov. Bev Perdue signed an executive order last week that will establish a nominating commission to screen candidates for consideration when judicial vacancies come open. "You've seen a page turned in the North Carolina judiciary," Perdue said after she signed the bill, flanked by seven former N.C. Supreme Court justices and chief justices from both parties. The order takes effect July 1 and does not require any legislative action.

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Bill would insert committee into judicial elections (access required)

A measure introduced in the General Assembly last week would create a hybrid system of selecting judges that would combine a screening committee with elections by the public - the first system of its kind in the nation. The legislation was crafted by the NCBA Committee for Judicial Independence, co-chaired by former N.C. Supreme Court Chief Justice Jim Exum and John Wester (pictured), past president of the NCBA. "This bill, if enacted and approved by the people, will greatly improve the way we select judges in North Carolina," Exum said in a prepared statement.

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Legislature considers re-injecting parties into judicial elections (access required)

Measures to restore partisan judicial elections are gaining momentum in both houses of the General Assembly. Supporters say voters need more information about judicial candidates. Opponents of the measure agree, but say that party affiliation is not the information voters need. "Yes, the public needs to know more," said John Wester, past president of the N.C. Bar Association. "But just like a book cannot be judged by its cover, so a candidate for the bench cannot be judged by their political party."

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