The 2018 elections might seem like they’re on the distant horizon, but one lawyer has decided to announce her plans now to seek a seat on the state Court of Appeals.
Earlier this week, Judge Rick Elmore, a Republican on the 15-member court, announced that he would not seek a third eight-year term, according to The Associated Press. Elmore announced his plans early to give others a chance to mull a candidacy in what once again has become a race subject to partisan elections.
Elmore, 66, would not have been allowed to serve a full eight-year term had he sought election and won in 2018. North Carolina law makes 72 the mandatory retirement age for judges.
Allegra Collins, a 45-year-old Raleigh-based attorney who teaches at Campbell University law school and often represents clients at the state appeals court and N.C. Supreme Court, announced on Friday her plans to seek Elmore’s seat in the 2018 elections.
Collins, a Democrat who started her law career as a clerk to former appeals court judge Linda Stephens, said she would “endeavor to continue” the “fair and impartial work” of Elmore if she were successful at the polls.
Though North Carolina’s appeals court judges have run in the past in nonpartisan races, the General Assembly recently changed the law to make all judicial races — from the district court level to the state Supreme Court level — partisan.
Each party will hold primaries to select which names will be on the general election ballots.
Collins, a mother of two who is married to Wake County Superior Court Judge Bryan Collins, said she has been troubled by other government branches describing the judiciary as too partisan. Earlier this year, the General Assembly reduced the size of the appeals court to 12 seats, a Republican-backed measure that limits Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper’s power to appoint replacements to the bench. The appeals court hears cases in panels of three. The seats were to be eliminated as judges retired.
Cooper vetoed the law, but the Republican-controlled General Assembly overrode the veto. The law is now being challenged in court.
“I don’t think the judicial branch has become more politicized from inside the branch,” Allegra Collins said. “The judges have done a good job of trying to keep their heads down and stay true to the law.”
Collins completed her undergraduate studies at UCLA and the College of William and Mary. She received her law degree from Campbell.
“Because of the law I have to run as a Democrat,” Collins said. “But my judicial philosophy is not to be partisan but to be fair and impartial.”