North Carolina Constitution's Section 6 calls for the separation of
powers. The mandate is simple and to the point: "The legislative,
executive, and supreme judicial powers of the State government shall be
forever separate and distinct from each other."
judicial races are under attack by Art Pope and his friends. Although
not elected to office, Pope, through the use of his vast fortune,
controls the Governor’s office and both chambers of the North Carolina
General Assembly. He dictated the redistricting plans, the state’s
budget and much of the legislation that is hurting North
Carolinians – many of the issues are being or will be challenged
in the higher courts. But the good news is that Gov. Pat McCrory is
happy to be part of Pope's cabinet because it leaves him time to hand
out cookies and try to clean the egg off his face.
finance laws meant to keep party politics and big-monied special
interests from deciding judicial elections and influence court
decisions were done away with or changed under Pope’s direction. He saw
to it that the public campaign fund that helped level the judicial
playing field was abolished. And he upped the cap on individual
contributions to judicial candidates from $1,000 to $5,000. In other
words, he set the stage for special interests to buy special favors.
And now he is fundraising for his choice for the appellate courts.
most who they are casting their votes for in the judges' races and the
question often will be met with a blank stare or a giggle and silly
remark such as "Everyone who has four letters in their first name."
judicial candidates are supposed to be nonpartisan and are forbidden to
discuss pending or probable cases coming before their courts, it can be
difficult to determine whom to support. The outcomes in these elections
often are determined by whim rather than reason. And now that the door
has been opened to millions of dollars being used by outside interests
-- frequently from out of state -- and used primarily for negative
advertising, the winners can be those who are going to be beholden to
During the 2014 elections, three judges will be elected
to the 15-member North Carolina Appeals and four justices will be
elected to the seven-member North Carolina Supreme Court. The seats are
for eight years and will have substantial impact on whether justice is
served for the next several years.
The only way that I know to
get a feel for whether a judge is sticking to basing opinions on
statute, Constitution and case law is to look at their actions while
serving as judges. And those who know me won't be surprised that I've
done just that.
I've chosen to support three appellate court
candidates -- Appeals Court Judge Mark Davis is running to retain
his seat; Appeals Court Judge Sam "Jimmy" Ervin IV is seeking a seat on
the state Supreme Court, and Supreme Court Justice Cheri Beasley wishes
to remain on the bench.
Justice Beasley was the first black
woman to win a statewide race without being first appointed when she
was elected to her former seat on the Court of Appeals. Previous to
that, she served for nine years as a District Court judge. She stepped
up to the Supreme Court upon appointment by Gov. Beverly Perdue.
being appointed to the Appeals Court, Judge Davis handled more
than 65 appeals in the N.C. Court of Appeals, Supreme Court of North
Carolina, and the U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit so has
the right experience to hear and decide cases.
According to the
Brennan Center for Justice, a nonpartisan public policy and law
institute that focuses on the fundamental issues of democracy and
justice, when Judge Ervin ran for the N.C. Supreme Court in 2012,
it became one of the most controversial and expensive judicial races in
the country. Together, Art Pope and his friends in partisan
organizations -- both inside and outside the state -- spent more than
$2.5 million on negative advertising aimed at defeating Ervin.
I see negative political campaign ads, I always have to wonder why. If
the candidate they support is so excellent, why don't they spend the
money promoting their favored candidate rather than attack the
opposition. Can't they think of anything nice to say about their own
candidate? Every time you see a negative ad against anyone, you might
want to ask yourself the same question.
Hugh Morton showed us
years ago how pennies can add up when he had school children collect
change to use toward the purchase of the USS North Carolina so that it
could avoid the wrecking ball and instead find a permanent home in
Wilmington. He launched the Save Our Ship Campaign, and the result was
that of the 1.1 million North Carolina schoolchildren, 700,000
gave at least a dime which totaled -- in today's dollars -- more than
Campaign money is no different -- whether $5, $25 or
$5,000-- if everyone gives what they can afford, it will add up and
help tip the scales in the direction needed to have free, unbiased, and
unbeholden courts. It will help balance the scales and put the
blindfold back on Lady Justice.
I hope you will join me in
supporting these candidates. There is no doubt that a lot of cloudy
money will be used to try to defeat them. Few, if any, of us have the
financial means to match the corrupt money pouring into races, but we
have something better -- our vote -- and together, we can help make up
the difference in campaign contributions.
Together, we can help
save this last bastion of separation of powers continue to stay above
politics. So, brothers and sisters, can you spare a dime...a dollar...a
FOR MORE INFORMATION
the candidates and enjoy a continental breakfast from 7:30 to 10:30
a.m. on Friday, March 21, at the Pier House at Hilton Gardens in Kitty
Hawk. The limit on contributions to judicial candidates has been
increased to $5,000 per election cycle. Checks should be written to
each of the individual candidates.
If stopping by the breakfast to meet the judges, please RSVP by email to [email protected].
To learn more about the judges, go to their campaign websites at:
Semans Ross is a retired journalist and former editor of the Outer
Banks Sentinel. She is also a Democratic candidate for the District 1
seat on the Dare County Board of Commissioners. You can read more of
her blogs at http://www.sunshineOBX.blogspot.com.)
comments powered by