The Supreme Court of North Carolina is the highest court in the state. Disputes that cannot be resolved in lower courts are settled here. The primary function of our Supreme Court is to consider possible errors in legal procedures or judicial interpretations of the law coming from lower courts. It has no jury and makes no determination of fact.
One seat on the court will come open this year and must be filled through an election in November. But first, a primary election is required to select two candidates for the general election. The voters in the state will then determine which of the two remaining candidates will fill take a seat on the court for the next eight years.
The primary election is scheduled for June 7, 2016. On the primary ballot will be four candidates. One of them is the conservative incumbent: Justice Robert H. (Bob) Edmunds, Jr.
Justice Edmunds was first elected to the high court in 2000 and is now serving his second term on the bench as a Senior Associate Justice. He is widely regarded as a sharp lawyer who is well-versed in the law and who brings with him a strong resume. Edmunds began his service to his country as a commissioned officer in the United States Navy. Besides his distinguished career of 16 years on the state Supreme Court, he has also served on the Court of Appeals; he has had the honor of being appointed U.S. Attorney in 1986 by President Reagan; and in his early career, he worked as a district attorney.
His continued presence on the court will be important in protecting our rights, our values, and our freedoms. His vote as a Supreme Court justice could well mean the deciding factor on many important issues facing the state in the coming years, from school vouchers to voter ID to redistricting and others.
What sets Edmunds apart from the other candidates is not only his experience. He also has a solid reputation as a man of superior character. In a recent decision from which he could potentially have benefited, Justice Edmunds chose to recuse himself from the controversial retention elections issue.
Edmunds has expressed his support for retention elections saying, “across the country, retention election systems have been enacted in many states as a means of insulating judicial officials from political pressures that can distract them from their duties.”
Under retention elections—a method used by many states—the incumbent justice appears alone on a ballot for an up-or-down approval vote by the people to determine whether he will retain his seat. A low approval vote would require the governor to appoint a replacement until the next election cycle.
A recusal by Justice Edmunds from the seven-member court would leave an even number of justices to decide whether Edmunds, and other justices in the future, would run unopposed in a retention election or face challengers for the incumbency.
This could mean a possible stalemate with no ruling being handed down one way or another. And that’s exactly what happened. The remaining six-justice panel rendered a split decision which left a lower court decision in place that had previously struck down a law allowing retention elections. The lower court’s ruling said that Supreme Court justices must continue to undergo the contested election process competing directly with other candidates running for the seat.
The decision by Edmunds to stay out of a case from which he could have benefited in his re-election bid was the right decision, even though he would be the loser for it. His was the ethical decision and I think it is one factor demonstrating his fitness for the job.
I feel that Justice Edmunds compares favorably the other candidates and in fact is the superior candidate in this race. Justice Edmunds has the knowledge, experience and personal integrity that makes him the best choice to sit on our state’s highest court.
I am not the only one. If it’s any indication, Justice Edmunds has received overwhelming bipartisan endorsements from 95 of 100 county Sheriffs from around the state, including Buncombe County Sheriff Van Duncan, Madison County Sheriff Buddy Harwood, and Henderson County Sheriff Charles McDonald.
I leave you with Justice Edmunds’ own perspective on the contest to fill ‘the Edmunds Seat’: “Most folks naturally understand that being a justice is not an entry level position. We need justices who have established records demonstrating that they respect the Constitution and understand the limited role of the court. North Carolina deserves justices who have never distorted the law to satisfy their own prejudices. At the same time, we want justices who understand the real world outside the courthouse and the law books.”
God bless you, Justice Edmunds—and may you continue to serve the great state of North Carolina with distinction.
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