N.C. Judge Recuses in Case That Involves His Reelection Bid

Justice Robert Edmunds of the North Carolina Supreme Court has recused himself from participating in hearing a case involving his own reelection, according to Election Law Blog.

A Superior Court panel recently voided a new law giving elected N.C. Supreme Court justices an option to seek a new term in a retention, rather than contested, election (see Gavel Grab). The state’s elections board has asked for review of that ruling by the Supreme Court, and an expedited hearing was set for April 13.

Edmunds had planned to run for retention under the new law and more recently indicated his intention to run in a contested election. The challenge to the state law was brought by plaintiffs including an attorney who has intended to oppose Edmunds in event of a contested election.

Justice at Stake mentioned the controversial statute in September when then-Interim Executive Director Liz Seaton described, in a Talking Points Memo commentary, what “appears to be a banner year for elected politicians trying both new and well-established ways to bully, politicize or pack impartial courts” (see Gavel Grab). Seaton explained:

“Voters in retention elections typically keep incumbent judges. And judges running for retention don’t have to face an opponent. The first North Carolina Supreme Court member to be affected by the new law? A Republican judge now sitting in the majority in a 4-3 split on the state’s highest court. If the old law were standing and voters toppled the Republican judge in a contested election next year, the conservatives would lose their majority. The process is being changed not to insulate the judiciary from political pressure, but instead to serve political ends.”