Jannah Theme License is not validated, Go to the theme options page to validate the license, You need a single license for each domain name.

North Carolina Judicial Races High Stakes With Majority Online | WGN 720 Radio

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — Two North Carolina Supreme Court seats up for election in November have taken on special significance as the outcome could flip the court’s partisan makeup at a time of political polarization.

Registered Democrats hold a 4-3 edge in the field, but Republicans will regain the majority for the first time since 2016 if they win at least one race. The seats have an eight-year term, so barring unplanned retirements, Republicans will be confident of maintaining their lead for at least 4 1/2 years if successful.

Outside groups spend big money to influence the races. According to documents filed with the Federal Communications Commission, the two super PACs have committed to spend about $3 million in advertising in the two largest television markets alone.

In keeping with the non-judicial election this year, the ads focused on crime and abortion.

North Carolina is among several states with tight races on the high court following a U.S. Supreme Court decision that gives states the power to decide the legality of abortion. Abortions are legal in North Carolina up to the 20th week of pregnancy — with some medical exemptions after that — making the state an option for women from more restrictive nearby states.

Court of Appeals Justices Republican Richard Dietz and Democrat Lucy Inman are seeking to replace retiring Associate Justice Robin Hudson. And Associate Justice Sam Erwin IV, a Democrat, is seeking re-election against Republican Trey Allen, who is currently the state’s chief judicial counsel.

State GOP materials label Allen and Dietz as “conservative judges.” And at a recent Democratic rally, Gov. Roy Cooper called for electing Inman and Erwin “because they will be fair and they will follow the law.”

In the interview, the four candidates promised to rule without party or ideological goals if elected.

“My vote in each case will be based on my best understanding of the law and the facts, and my personal politics will not enter into the equation,” Allen said.

Erwin, the grandson of the late Watergate chairman, Sen. Sam Erwin Jr., said he had already met that standard during his appellate career, calling himself “pretty allergic to ideological labels.”

In addition to the usual legal conflicts, the justices could hear challenges to policies passed by the Republican-controlled General Assembly that could win a veto majority in November. These could include voting, gun and abortion legislation, which Cooper has stalled with threats or actual vetoes since 2019. Lawmakers must also redraw veto-proof congressional districts.

North Carolina’s Republican leaders plan to consider further abortion restrictions in 2023, but have not reached a consensus.

The liberal-leaning North Carolina Families First PAC jumped on the abortion issue, airing a TV ad accusing Allen and Dietz of “extreme views” that “could allow lawmakers to criminalize abortion by forcing women and girls to give birth.”

Judges and judicial candidates are subject to rules designed to ensure impartiality in the matters they may decide. Allen and Dietz said they would approach any case with no presumptions about how they would lead.

“When I see an ad like this, I get frustrated because I think it reinforces this idea to the public that the judges have already made up their minds,” Dietz said.

Advertisements by the outside group Stop Liberal Judges argue that one ruling, written by Inman and another brokered by Erwin, that blocked electronic tracking of certain convicted sex offenders for decades, is proof that they are “failing to protect our children.”

Inman, who joined the Court of Appeals in early 2015 and ran unsuccessfully for the Supreme Court in 2020, called them a “false and deceptive smear” that belies her record as a trial and appellate judge.

“Exploiting child victims for political gain is wrong and against the law,” she said.

The election comes at the end of a two-year court term that has been marked by several high-profile split decisions — in favor of the Democratic majority — on redistricting, voter ID and criminal cases.

Democratic politicians and allies hailed the majority’s views as victories for equality and justice. Opposing opinions of republican judges were sometimes sharp, accusing the other side of judicial activism.

“It was a very difficult and difficult term,” said former Supreme Court Justice Bob Orr.

Without talking about specific cases, Ervin demurred that partisanship permeated the majority opinion.

“To say that a group of people voting together is voting for partisan purposes is not a fair accusation in the absence of evidence that the decision in question was not legally supported,” said Erwin, who, if re-elected, would have to to step down at the end of 2027 for mandatory retirement at age 72.

Allen and Dietz emphasized that judgment is perceived by the public.

“I have become increasingly concerned about what I believe to be a growing public perception that the court acts, or has acted, more as a political body than as a legal body,” said Allen, who as general counsel works under Chief Republican Judge Paul Newby.

Dietz said he has never written an opinion since joining the Court of Appeals in 2014, a sign of his desire to work with colleagues.

“How you get stronger decisions, and how you reassure the public that justice is done, is by bringing people together and getting an outcome that everyone agrees on,” Dietz said.

Inman said there were good reasons for her dissenting opinions, some of which were ultimately upheld by the Supreme Court.

“It’s better to have experience to know when to uphold the law, and when to get along, it doesn’t serve,” she said.


Related Articles

Back to top button