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Posted: Wednesday, March 26, 2014 12:00 pm

MOREHEAD CITY — Candidates for the upcoming statewide judicial seats urged voters to do research on nonpartisan races before hitting the polls this year and cast informed ballots in the wake of state changes that, they say, threaten the impartial nature of North Carolina’s court system. 

Supreme Court Associate Justice Cheri Beasley, Judge Sam Ervin and Court of Appeals Judge Mark Davis spoke with Carteret Democrats Saturday evening at the Carteret County Democratic Party’s first Jefferson Jackson Dinner, held at Sanitary Restaurant. 

“We are at a crossroads in this state in terms of whether our judicial system remains independent,” said Judge Ervin, whose name will appear on the Nov. 4 ballot for the seat of Supreme Court Associate Justice Mark Martin, who is running for Chief Justice with the retirement of Justice Sarah Parker.

Judicial elections in North Carolina have long used separate campaigns from the partisan executive and legislative races, they said That’s allowed them to function impartially and hold the citizenry, as well as the executive and legislative state branches accountable for wrongdoing under the law. 

But that position is threatened by funding regulations altered by the GOP-supermajority in the General Assembly, Judge Ervin said. 

Previously those running in judicial races used public financing, which established a limited fund for candidates, largely through state-collected annual attorney fees, allowing the judicial branch to function away from big-cash political agendas and remaining “voter owned.”

As of Jan. 1, however, private donors can contribute to the campaign funds of judicial candidates, upping the stakes in select races and outspending to achieve the desired wins. 

“A judge takes the law as it is and tries to make sure that it is fairly and impartially applied for the benefit of all citizens,” said Judge Ervin. “Judges don’t need and shouldn’t have a political or ideological agenda.”

Beyond crippling opposing candidates, the change calls into question the impartiality of judges who win on the backs of out-of-state entities and other big spenders. 

“(Democrats) need to stand up for what they’ve always stood up for, which is a judiciary that decides cases without worrying about what people’s politics are, without having an agenda, without being beholden to anyone who has an agenda,” said Judge Ervin.

In 2014, four of seven N.C. Supreme Court seats appear on the ballot and private elections spending could win a majority in the nonpartisan branch.

“If you want people there who will follow the rule of law without any concern about partisan agenda, you’ve got to make sure that you keep us there,” said Justice Beasley, who will run against Winston-Salem native Mike Robinson for re-election to her chair in November.

Changes to the judicial financing were stashed in the controversial House Bill 589, which transformed elections regulations across the state, most notably adding voter identification at the polls, a requirement currently being challenged by the U.S. Department of Justice. 

“You’ve heard a lot about voter I.D. and a lot of folks are confused about that and the confusion is by design,” said Justice Beasley. “If you’re going to change (voter laws) and you’re doing it for the right reason, make sure everyone is aware of the changes. Put everyone on equal footing.” 

The judges also asked voters to be diligent at the polls, being sure to vote in nonpartisan races, which can be overlooked or left blank by voters unfamiliar with the candidates. 

“The message is: please don’t forget the judges,” said Judge Davis, who faces a challenge for re-election to his court of appeals seat.

Educating voters on judicial candidates proves difficult during election season, he said, because a good candidate cannot talk about his or her positions on buzzword issues like traditional candidates. 

“It’s a good thing, because you don’t elect judges on how they feel about issues,” said Judge Davis. “You elect them to be fair and impartial and apply the law as it’s written, not as they might wish it might be.” 

The News-Times has requested candidate statements from all judicial candidates appearing on the 2014 ballots and will run profiles prior to Election Day. 

“I am not beholden to the people who’ve enacted (legislative changes,)” said Judge Ervin. “If they’re unconstitutional, I vote to strike them down, if they’re constitutional I vote to uphold them, even if I don’t like them.”

As for the financing changes, the three judges said they would seek financing for the 2014 elections from nonpartisan, nonpolitical avenues. 

“When we’re making decisions about people’s everyday lives, there’s one thing we all know for sure: justice ought not be for sale,” said Justice Beasley.

Contact Jackie Starkey at 726-7081, ext. 232; email jackie@thenewstimes.com; or follow on Twitter @jackieccnt.    

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3 comments:

  • jweaks posted at 2:45 pm on Thu, Apr 17, 2014.

    jweaks Posts: 1

    "You’ve heard a lot about voter I.D. and a lot of folks are confused about that and the confusion is by design."

    I agree with her. Many Leftists and Democrats are intentionally spreading disinformation about the new law.

     
  • Sons of Liberty posted at 4:01 pm on Fri, Mar 28, 2014.

    Sons of Liberty Posts: 1

    AMAZING, a new low for NC judges. Maybe it was the exhaust fumes from the long ride in from Raleigh and Fayetnam that they lost their ability to tell right from wrong and to know the difference from what the truth/reality is and deception. These three individuals stood up in front of law abiding, hardworking tax papers and didn't tell the whole truth. They go on the farce that they don’t want to be like politicians but yet they behave in the same manner. If it quacks like a duck and walks like a duck…. If you can't trust them to tell you the whole truth can you trust them to analyze and decipher the law? Don’t be fooled people, research this for yourself. Find the truth, these people may one day be responsible for your life, a friend’s life, or a family member’s life in a court of law. Our country was founded on the rule of law, not deception.
    The following is an excerpt from John Davis Consulting. Mr. Davis is a well-known and respected political analyst and writer covering NC. Here is his take: During the 2002 legislative session, the Judicial Campaign Reform Act was passed over the objections of Republicans, ending partisan elections for NC Supreme Court and Court of Appeals races. The law included provisions for the use of public financing of appellate judiciary campaigns, making North Carolina the first state to adopt full public financing of appellate judicial elections.
    Why had non-partisan elections not been a priority for Democrats before 2002? Because there were no Republicans elected to the NC Supreme Court from 1896 until 1994. Thanks to the national Republican wave in 1994, Republicans I. Beverly Lake and Robert F. Orr won seats on the court.
    Ten years after the first Republican NC Supreme Court Justices elected in the 20th Century took their seats, the court became 6-1 Republican with a Republican Chief Justice. That is due in great part to the 1990s being a conservative era, especially with regards to crime and justice.
    North Carolina Democrats had to act. What could be done to stop the era of Republican dominance? The answer was three-fold: 1.Non-partisan elections; 2. Public financing limits; 3. A secret fund to run independent expenditure TV ads on behalf of their slate of candidates.
    It was a trap. Take the party off the ballot, lure Republicans into limiting themselves to a meager $250,000 in a publicly financed statewide campaign, and then create an independent expenditure committee to effectively double the money being spent on behalf of their candidates.
    In 2006, the trap was sprung. A Democrat-financed independent expenditure group named FairJudges.net spent about as much independently for TV ads promoting their slate of Supreme Court candidates as candidates accepting the public financing limits, thereby doubling the influence of money in the targeted Supreme Court races.
    Case in point is the 2006 race for the Supreme Court between Robin Hudson, a Democrat, and Ann Marie Calabria, a Republican. Hudson barely defeated Calabria 50.6% to 49.4%, spending $273,759 to Calabria’s $291,056. Hudson not only benefited from the $259,101 spent by FairJudges.net on ads naming her as a “fair judge,” she benefited from the non-partisan elections bill passed by Democrats.
    Prior to non-partisan elections, Calabria would have had a partisan advantage, as voters consistently chose Republicans over Democrats in Supreme Court races in the ten years leading up to 2006, even when the GOP candidates were outspent. North Carolinians wanted a conservative appellate judiciary.
    The News & Observer published a story October 31, 2006, “TV Ads Highlight 4 Candidates,” reporting that FairJudges.net was organized by Scott Falmien, former Executive Director of the state Democratic Party. According to the N&O, a FairJudges.net press release “listed donors, mainly Democratic-leaning entities and individual: the NC Democratic Party, the N.C. Academy of Trial Lawyers PAC, the Teamsters’ political committee, several trial lawyers, and others.”

     
  • LE226 posted at 6:28 pm on Wed, Mar 26, 2014.

    LE226 Posts: 50

    Okay let's take a look at this:

    “A judge takes the law as it is and tries to make sure that it is fairly and impartially applied for the benefit of all citizens,” said Judge Ervin. “Judges don’t need and shouldn’t have a political or ideological agenda.”

    “(Democrats) need to stand up for what they’ve always stood up for, which is a judiciary that decides cases without worrying about what people’s politics are, without having an agenda, without being beholden to anyone who has
    an agenda,” said Judge Ervin.

    “It’s a good thing, because you don’t elect judges on how they feel about issues,” said Judge Davis. “You elect them to be fair and impartial and apply the law as it’s written, not as they might wish it might be.”

    The News-Times has requested candidate statements from all judicial candidates appearing on the 2014 ballots and will run profiles prior to Election Day.

    “When we’re making decisions about people’s everyday lives, there’s one thing we all know for sure: justice ought not be for sale,” said Justice Beasley.


    Does anybody out really believe that Judges do not have political and ideological agendas?........... I submit are you kidding me....you (judges) do not live in a vacuum!



    Do you believe this statement: A judge decides cases without worrying about what people’s politics are, without having an agenda, without being beholden to anyone who has
    an agenda,” said Judge Ervin........ I submit follow the money

    How about this one: fair and impartial and apply the law as it’s written, not as they might wish it might be.” ........... I submit judicial activism

    “When we’re making decisions about people’s everyday lives, there’s one thing we all know for sure: justice ought not be for sale,” said Justice Beasley. .......... I submit you are right Justice Beasley....it should not be for sale but again it's all about following the money


    I personally want to know who the donors are and what political agendas they are pushing on supporting any judge/justice's candidacy. Along with decisions that may have involved judicial activism!

    [wink]

     

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