Judicial Selection And Retention In North
firmly supports continued changes in the way we select and retain
judges in North Carolina.
Carolina has good reason to be proud of its civil justice environment,
including a stable judiciary composed of learned, impartial,
independent, and career-minded judges. This is due to the fact that,
even though our Constitution provides for popular election of judges,
and they all stand for reelection periodically, almost all of them
were initially appointed by our governors, and, until recently, were
This situation has changed.
The rise of the two party system has made elections contested and more
competitive. Special interests at both ends of the political spectrum
have contributed heavily to candidates in judicial elections. In one
hotly contested election in 1994, plaintiffs' attorneys gave hundreds
of thousands of dollars to someone with no judicial experience to
unseat a sitting Supreme Court justice because of his perceived
conservative views. Although the plaintiffs' lawyers' candidate was
eventually defeated, in all more than three-quarters of a million
dollars were spent by three candidates for this one seat on the Court.
Elections by popular vote are
for those who want to put in place certain governmental policies so
they can attract a constituency. This is not the case for judges who,
except in a very limited sense, do not establish policy. Judges decide
cases. They consider cases which are properly before them and brought
by aggrieved parties. For the most part, they decide them on the basis
of legal Constitutional principles, statutes, common law, and
precedents. Judges must often make decisions which are NOT popular.
The judiciary is answerable
to the people because the people can change the Constitution, and
legislatures can change the common law and the statutes. Also, North
Carolina judges are susceptible to administrative removal from office
by action of the Judicial Standards Commission and the Supreme Court
for questions of performance or ethics. Other officeholders are not
accountable in this way.
NCCBI applauds the
Legislature for its first move in this direction: the approval of
nonpartisan elections of Superior Court judges who will run and be
elected only in their own districts. We are also encouraged by the
increased use of alternative dispute resolution, and urge its
expansion. Finally, we believe the Legislature should carefully weigh
the recommendations of the Commission on the Future of Justice and the
Courts for further meaningful reform.
If you have comments on any of the NCCBI positions
or other issues,
click here for a feedback form
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