The Nettle Voter Guide - Supreme Court Edition
Note: this is the opinion of DrFrankLives.

North Carolina elects its judges, at all levels. Moreover, the state has instituted a new public financing system which brought with it non-partisan elections of judges. I can tell you from experience that the public financing system, despite numerous flaws in reporting and timing requirements, works. Judges spend the primary season raising money in small (under $500) amounts. If they reach the qualifying level of donations, they then receive public funding and can spend the general election season campaigning, instead of begging.

One cost of the new system, however, is that voters are deprived of the one bit of information many of them had about the judicial candidates: the party ID. Straight ticket voting no longer votes for any judges, leaving the voter with an entire page of the ballot full of people they have never heard of, running for offices they never consider, but which have an enormous effect on their lives. With that in mind, The Stinging Nettle presents the following guide to the Supreme Court races.

First, take a look at the excellent Judicial Voters Guide which was put out by the State Board of Elections. This informative and detailed guide is paid for in part by that $3 checkoff on your state taxes. That checkoff DOES NOT RAISE YOUR TAXES. It is actually a chance for you to do what you normally can't do: tell the government exactly how to spend your tax dollars. So check it. Now, on to the races:

Supreme Court Races

Parker Seat Justice Sarah Parker has been an appellate judge in North Carolina since 1985. She has been on the Supreme Court since 1993, and is a bastion of experience on a Court which has seen significant turnover. The role of institutional memory on a Court cannot be overstated, and Justice Parker represents that institutional memory. She is also the hardest-working politician you will ever meet. It is said that if there are three Democrats meeting anywhere in North Carolina, one of them will be Sarah Parker.

Parker is also a fine jurist. She is thoughtful, professional, and detailed in her opinions. Her opponent criticizes the time it takes her to turn around her opinions after argument. In doing so, he shows either ignorance of the difference in caseload between the Supreme Court and the Court of Appeals, or a disingenuous attack. Either choice is unbecoming of a judicial candidate.

Parker's opponent is Court of Appeals Judge John Tyson, who has been well-received as a judge on that Court, and who has generally hewed to a conservative, but not radically so, point of view in his opinions. Formerly in-house counsel at Revco and Family Dollar Stores, he has also taught law at Campbell University and had his own firm in the 1990s. He has been on the Court since 2000. Tyson is engaging and personable, but he has joined several other Republican candidates in demagoguing social issues in a campaign for the Supreme Court. He is running as the "CONSERVATIVE" choice for Supreme Court.

Sarah Parker is the only Democrat and only woman currently on the Court.

Frankly, we have enough conservative white guys up there to fill a Brooks Brothers store. The loss of Parker would be a blow to the Court system. If Tyson loses, the State gets to keep his capable service on the Court of Appeals. The choice is easy. The Nettle Recommends Justice Parker for another term.

Orr Seat What some consider to be the folly of judicial elections is represented best in the melee to fill the seat of retired Justice Robert Orr, who left to head up a conservative think tank. Justice Orr was a solid and well-respected judge. His retirement was a loss to the Court. But nothing would be a bigger blow to the Supreme Court than for Rachel Lea Hunter to win this seat. At all costs, this woman must be kept off the Court. Her blog, which I will not link to, is full of crazy pages-long rants against her fellow Republicans, who rightly realized they had a ticking time bomb on their hands, and rejected her candidacy - the only thing they've done right this election season.

The other candidates are: Court of Appeals Judge Jim Wynn, Wake County Superior Court Judge Howard Manning, Assistant U.S. Attorney Paul Newby, Administrative Law Judge Fred Morrison, Former Court of Appeals Judge Betsy McCrodden, Raleigh Attorney Ronnie Ansley, and Durham Attorney Marvin Schiller. This is a plurality takes all race.

While Ansley and Schiller are accomplished attorneys, they risk the label of "perennial candidate" in this race. Ansley, a solid Democrat, has previously run for Congress and Lieutenant Governor. He is earnest and engaging. But this is not his race. North Carolinians should thank him for running, however, because by doing so, he kept Hunter out of the top spot on the ballot.

Schiller just got creamed in a primary for Court of Appeals. He has essentially dropped out of the race for this seat due to an illness in the family, but according to The Independent, will still appear on the ballot.

Fred Morrison, also, is a bit out of his political depth in this Statewide race. He has had a long and distinguished career as an attorney. However, this race comes down to four candidates: Wynn, McCrodden, Newby and Manning.

Howard Manning, Jr. is one of North Carolina's best trial judges. His decision in the Leandro case, in which he required the state to more fully fund public schools in poor counties, was politically courageous. He is a Republican, but one which the Nettle could easily support, based on his ability and demonstrated willingness to do what is right from the bench.

DrFrank, however, would hate to lose him off the trial bench, where he is a pleasant island of competence in a sea of poor performance.

If there is any doubt about the rightward tilt of the North Carolina Republican Party, it can be seen in the party's choice to endorse Assistant U.S. Attorney Paul Newby in this race over the vastly more qualified Manning. Newby is certainly intelligent, and has amassed a solid record of prosecutions in the U.S. Attorney's office. But he is running perhaps the most ideological race ever run for the Supreme Court. One of his key positions is to keep "under God" in the Pledge of Allegiance. He claims to have seen 20 years of ideological rulings from the judiciary do damage to the Constitution, which is odd, since the last 20 years in the Eastern District of North Carolina and the Fourth Circuit have been dominated by the rightward ideology of the Bush and Reagan appointees on those Courts.

His signs are all over Raleigh in churchyards - a clear violation of their tax-exempt status. If you are against gay marriage as a scourge on humanity, and you want a conservative activist who claims to be for judicial restraint, then Newby is your man. If you are a Republican, and you want to elect a judge instead of a political activist, then Manning is the clear choice.

Court of Appeals Judge James Wynn has the perfect resume for the position. A graduate of Marquette Law School with an LLM from UVa, he brings a sharp intelligence to the bench. As President of the ABA's Appellate Judges Conference, he has worked hard to improve the public image of the judicial system. He has served on the Court of Appeals since 1990, with a brief stint in an appointment to the Supreme Court in 1998. A former law partner of Toby Fitch and G.K. Butterfield, he has the connections to run strongly in Eastern North Carolina. He also happens to be a solid judge, with a strong record on the Court of Appeals and as a Navy Judge Advocate. His appointment to the Fourth Circuit was unconscionably obstructed by Senator Jesse Helms in 1999, and he deserves to be elevated to the Supreme Court. Again, concerns for diversity on the highest Court add weight to this choice.

Betsy McCrodden has previously served on the Court of Appeals for a short time. She has had a distinguished career in both the representation of Death Penalty defendants in appellate matters, as well as worker's compensation law. She makes a convincing case that it is time for a judge with experience in those areas on the Court, especially in light of the Court's recent rulings eviscerating the right of seriously injured workers to sue outside of the worker's compensation system in cases of extreme negligence. But, as impressive as her experience is, it is not in league with Jim Wynn's. In order to defeat the surge of support that Newby is likely to get from conservative evangelical voters in November, Democrats need to unite behind Jim Wynn. His political talents, judicial ability, and sharp mind should be put to work on the North Carolina Supreme Court.

While Howard Manning would be a fine Supreme Court justice, the Stinging Nettle enthusiastically supports Judge James Wynn for the North Carolina Supreme Court.

Next, the Court of Appeals judges. But this post is already long enough.

Posted by DrFrankLives

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