Politics & Government

Lawyer seeking a seat on North Carolina’s highest court has a criminal record

NC Senate floor debate becomes heated over new judicial elections bill

Senate Bill 3, a bill concerning party affiliation in judicial races, was introduced and voted on after a heated debate on Tuesday, July 24, 2018.
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Senate Bill 3, a bill concerning party affiliation in judicial races, was introduced and voted on after a heated debate on Tuesday, July 24, 2018.

One of the candidates for a seat on the North Carolina Supreme Court has a criminal record, having previously pleaded guilty to misdemeanor trespassing and DWI charges.

Chris Anglin, a Republican who is one of three people on the ballot this November for the seat held by Barbara Jackson, said Wednesday that he had a drinking problem in his 20s but has since gotten sober.

He also criticized N.C. Republican Party Executive Director Dallas Woodhouse, who emailed Anglin’s arrest records to a listserv the GOP maintains, writing, “Fake Republican trying to break into peoples homes and other charges.” Anglin and Republican leaders have been feuding ever since this summer, when Anglin switched from the Democratic Party to the Republican Party and then entered the Supreme Court race — which is the highest-profile statewide race on the ballot this November.

The other candidates are Jackson, a Republican who’s seeking re-election, and Anita Earls, a Democrat and longtime civil rights lawyer.

Woodhouse has previously said Anglin “will be treated like the enemy he is,” and on Wednesday Anglin said the GOP is acting desperate “by sending something out that occurred almost a decade ago”

Anglin was pulled over in Greensboro in January 2009, around 1 a.m., and charged with driving while intoxicated. He was 23 and had a blood alcohol content of 0.14, nearly twice the legal limit. He pleaded guilty to the DWI in September of that year, and a few months later in December was charged with another crime — attempted breaking and entering. He later pleaded guilty to a lesser charge of second-degree trespassing in that case, which on Wednesday he also attributed to struggles with alcohol in his 20s.

In an interview after a judicial candidate forum in Charlotte Wednesday, Anglin said he was “incredibly intoxicated“ coming home from a party in Greensboro and tried to enter the wrong apartment, which led to the charges.

Both incidents happened while Anglin was a student at Elon University School of Law. He said that in 2010, he sought help for his drinking problem with a lawyer-assistance program. He said he no longer drinks and does not abuse drugs.

Republicans have described Anglin as a Democratic plant in the race and Woodhouse said as much Wednesday, writing that “Democrats had one of their own with a very questionable background pretend to be a Republican, so they could try and fool the voters.”

Republican legislators responded earlier this summer to Anglin’s campaign by passing a law — later overturned as unconstitutional — that would’ve banned Anglin from listing his Republican Party on the ballot even though his opponents could list their parties.

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But Anglin maintains that he’s a legitimate conservative and says he never colluded with Earls, the N.C. Democratic Party or Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper.

Ironically, Anglin’s potential role as a spoiler for Jackson was only made possible because the Republican-led legislature eliminated judicial primaries this year. If there had been a primary, which is standard, Jackson would’ve had the chance to take on Anglin then instead of facing both him and Earls now.

A recent poll by Spectrum News found that Anglin is polling in second place, ahead of Jackson.

“It’s been all over the news that I changed parties, but Republicans are still choosing to vote for me,” Anglin said in an interview last week. “I wanted to give voters somebody to support that believes in conservative values like separation of powers.”

The poll found Earls with 43 percent support, Anglin with 22 percent, and Jackson with 15 percent. A large portion of voters, 21 percent, said they were still undecided.

Anglin said Wednesday his arrests shouldn’t damage his candidacy because they were nearly a decade ago and he sought treatment. If anything, he says, they made him a better candidate — one who has insight on addictions “that are devastating our state and our country.”

Woodhouse’s attack, he says, “shows that the Republicans are out of touch with today’s society.”

Anglin passed the bar to become a lawyer in North Carolina in 2011, after he had pleaded guilty in both incidents and sought counseling. To become a licensed attorney in North Carolina, law school graduates must pass a written exam and also prove that they have “good moral character.”

According to the N.C. Board of Law Examiners, alcohol abuse is one thing that could disqualify someone from being a lawyer, but “recognition of the problem and the treatment record will be important positive evidence of rehabilitation.”

Doran: 919-836-2858; Twitter @Will_Doran