It’s regrettable that North Carolina elects rather than appoints its Supreme Court justices, and it’s becoming more so with each election. Outside money, much of it from conservative groups that do not disclose their donors, is turning these nonpartisan contests into political races. With Republican-backed justices holding four of the courts seven seats, it’s important that voters protect the court’s balance.
Fortunately, this year’s Supreme Court candidates are aware of those partisan pressures and committed to preserving the court’s independence.
We support Chief Justice Mark Martin for a full term leading the high court. He was appointed to the top role this year upon the mandatory retirement of Chief Justice Sarah Parker. In addition to his 16 years on the Supreme Court, Martin has served at the Court of Appeals and at the superior court level. We hope he will continue to take a moderate approach to the law and show a respect for precedent.
Martin is being challenged by Ola Lewis, the senior resident Superior Court judge in Brunswick County. A Democrat who switched to Republican, Lewis has been equally in flux in this election, first seeking to challenge sitting Justice Cheri Beasley, then switching to take on Martin.
We strongly endorse Justice Robin Hudson for another term. She came to the Supreme Court after serving on the Court of Appeals. As a lawyer, she argued before the state Supreme Court more than 50 times. She is a moderate justice who brings needed balance to the court. Her opponent, Eric Levinson, is a former prosecutor and current Mecklenburg County Superior Court judge. He served on the Court of Appeals before running unsuccessfully for the Supreme Court in 2006. He has strong credentials, but his conservative approach would further tilt a court that already leans to the right.
We support Justice Cheri Beasley of Raleigh for election to a full term. In addition to her time on the high court, Beasley has broad experience ranging from presiding over family court in Cumberland County to serving four years on the state Court of Appeals. The only African-American on the Supreme Court, she is a strong defender of individual rights. Her opponent, Winston-Salem attorney Mike Robinson, has a strong record as a civil attorney but lacks judicial experience.
The contest between Justice Bob Hunter and Court of Appeals Judge Sam J. Ervin IV is a conundrum. Ervin, lost his last Supreme Court election after outside money flooded the race in favor of his opponent Paul Newby. This year, Ervin is challenging Hunter, a former Court of Appeals judge who was appointed to the Supreme Court upon Martin’s elevation to chief justice. Ervin deserves to win on his second try, but Hunter is a respected jurist who could move between the conservative and progressive sides of the court. We endorse Sam J. Ervin IV but acknowledge that Hunter could build coalitions on a court split by partisan forces.