In November, North Carolina voters will select the individuals who will hold of the majority of the seats on the Supreme Court of North Carolina until 2022. Four of the seven seats on the Supreme Court are up for grabs and observers expect that the races will be hotly contested despite their relatively low profile. The outcome of this election could have a major impact on the law of North Carolina and how it is applied to the citizens and businesses of the state.
The races are non-partisan – although the major political parties always have their favorites in each race. If more than two individuals are running for a seat, there will be a primary election for each seat with the top two vote getters moving on to the general election.
Voters will select a new Chief Justice for the Supreme Court of North Carolina because the current Chief Justice, Sarah Parker, is required by statute to retire from the court due to her age at the end of August.
Senior Associate Justice Mark Martin, a Republican, has filed to be the next Chief Justice. Martin, a Republican, has over 20 years of judicial experience and was a judge on the Superior Court and Court of Appeals prior to joining the Supreme Court. Prior to becoming a judge, Martin served as legal counsel to Governor James G. Martin (no relation), practiced law at the McNair Law Firm in Raleigh, and clerked for United States District Judge Clyde H. Hamilton. Martin is active in the North Carolina Bar Association and is the Chair of the American Bar Association’s Judicial Division Counsel.
Ola Lewis, the Senior Resident Superior Court Judge for Brunswick County, is also seeking the Chief Justice seat. Judge Lewis surprised many observers by challenging Justice Martin, a fellow Republican, given that she previously stated her intent to run for Justice Beasley’s seat. If elected, it would be the first time that the Chief Justice had not previously served on the Supreme Court. Prior to taking the bench, Lewis served as an Assistant District Attorney in Brunswick, Bladen and Columbus counties for two years before being appointed as a District Court Judge by Governor Jim Hunt. Hunt again appointed Lewis as a Special Superior Court Judge, a position she held until she was elected to her current position.
Were he not running for Chief Justice, Justice Martin would be up for reelection. In his absence, a pair of Court of Appeals Judges are vying to fill his seat.
Court of Appeals Judge Sam J. Ervin, IV, a Democrat, is making another attempt to join the Supreme Court after losing an expensive campaign against Justice Paul Newby in 2012. Judge Ervin has served on the Court of Appeals since taking the bench in 2009. Before taking the bench, he was appointed to two terms on the North Carolina Utilities Commission by Governors Jim Hunt and Mike Easley.
Challenging Judge Ervin is his colleague on the Court of Appeals, Judge Robert N. Hunter, Jr. Judge Hunter, a Republican, has served on the Court of Appeals since 2008. Prior to his judicial service, he had a general practice focused on serving clients in the fields of business law, estates, real property, securities law, and debtor-creditor relations. He also represented a diverse array of individuals in election law matters.
Justice Robin Hudson, a Democrat, is seeking reelection for a second term on the Court. Justice Hudson, a Democrat, has held her seat since 2007. Prior to joining the Supreme Court, she served for six years on the Court of Appeals and worked in private practice representing textile workers who suffered from lung issues related to exposure to cotton dust.
Jeanette Doran, a Republican, is the current Chair of the North Carolina Board of Review and former Executive Director of the North Carolina Institute for Constitutional Law. Ms. Doran’s biography includes time working as a federal law clerk, as an attorney in the Federal Public Defender’s Office, as a staff member at the UNC School of Government, and at the North Carolina Institute for Constitutional Law.
Mecklenburg County Superior Court Judge Eric Levinson, a Republican, rounds out the trio of candidates for the Hudson seat. Judge Levinson previously served as a member of the North Carolina Court of Appeals before resigning his seat in 2007 to serve various roles for the United States government in Iraq and Afghanistan. When he returned to North Carolina, he was appointed to his current position on the Superior Court bench by Governor Beverly Perdue.
Justice Cheri Beasley, a Democrat, the newest member of the Supreme Court is embarking on her reelection campaign. Justice Beasley was elevated from the Court of Appeals by Governor Beverly Perdue in December 2012 to fill the seat vacated by the retirement of Justice Patricia Timmons-Goodson. Justice Beasley worked in the legal department of companies in Research Triangle Park and served as both an Assistant District Attorney and Public Defender before she was appointed to the District Court bench by Governor Hunt.
Winston-Salem attorney Mike Robinson, a Republican, is vying for Justice Beasley’s seat. Robinson has been a civil trial attorney in Winston-Salem for over 33 years. His practice has focused on complex civil litigation, medical malpractice defense, insurance defense, intellectual property matters, and corporate litigation planning and loss prevention.