Opinion pieces in the Richmond County Daily Journal and the Greensboro News & Record agree that partisan politics was driving a new law that introduced a retention election option for elected state Supreme Court justices seeking a new term. A Superior Court panel recently struck down that law (see Gavel Grab).
Journalist Clark belongs to the state’s Commission on the Administration of Law & Justice, argues that true reform might may best be brought about with an appointive system: “Research has found that judges tend to conform their decisions to public opinion when they have more closely contested elections. In other words, elections pressure judges to act like politicians. That’s not going to produce fair and impartial justice.”
Writing in the Daily Journal, Chris Fitzsimon, Executive Director of N.C. Policy Watch, argues that if lawmakers were truly committed to judicial reform they would have introduced a proposal that called for the process to begin “several years down the road” and included a “package of constitutional changes considered by a commission with public hearings.” They did not do this and instead chose for a “hastily passed retention scheme” that could be put in place in time for Republican Bob Edmunds to run in a race that will decide the balance of the court.
Fitzsimon concludes by adding that the “same state lawmakers who are now allegedly concerned about the nature of judicial elections repealed public financing for judicial candidates a few years ago, increasing the role of big special-interest money in the selection of judges.”