Unless you have been under a rock, you know that November 6th is rapidly approaching and everybody running wants your vote. It’s pretty easy to stay informed about the candidates and issues involved in the big races for president or governor; however, a lot of voters simply don’t get the information they need to make an informed decision in our State’s judicial races. This certainly isn’t the voters fault. Most voters have never had any interaction with our judicial system and understandably do not want to. Also, judicial elections in North Carolina are non-partisan which means the candidates do not run on any party’s ticket so they do not have attached labels that go along with them.
This year there are several races throughout the state for District and Superior Court Judge. Basically, a District Court judge hears a wide variety of cases ranging from divorce/family court, juvenile delinquency, criminal misdemeanors and civil cases involving less than $10,000.00. Superior Court Judges mainly hear matters involving civil matters usually in excess of $10,000.00 and felony criminal matters. A really useful tool has been created this year by the North Carolina Bar Association. The NCBA sent out surveys to all attorneys throughout the state earlier this year that asked very important questions about the candidates running for these judicial seats. The evaluations were then taken by the NCBA and published in an easy to read format. These evaluations can be found at www.electncjudges.org and it only takes a few minutes to locate your county of residence and in a few clicks of the mouse you can see who the candidates are and what the attorneys that practice and work with them on a daily basis think about their qualifications to serve as a judge.
In addition to the races for District and Superior Court Judge, there are four races for seats on our State’s appellate courts. The appellate courts basically serve as a safeguard to ensure that laws and procedures are applied fairly and properly in the lower trial courts. There are three seats up for election on our Court of Appeals. First, Chris Dillon is challenging incumbent Cressie Thigpen, David Robinson is challenging incumbent Linda McGee and Martin McGee is challenging incumbent Wanda Bryant.
There is one race for a seat on the North Carolina Supreme Court. You may have heard a little something about this race between incumbent Paul Newby and Sam Ervin, who currently sits on the Court of Appeals. Many have called this race the second most important election in our whole state behind the governor’s race. Although this race is non-partisan, there is a widespread belief that the outcome will potentially influence how our legislative districts are mapped out in the future.
Everyone should make their own decision about these races. Our judges hold a great deal of power and make extremely important decisions that can impact all of us. It is each voter’s responsibility to find out all they can about each candidate and vote their conscience. As always, the most important thing is to get out and vote!
-Article written by Mark Herring, a partner with White & Allen, P.A. in Kinston, N.C. concentrating in both criminal and civil litigation