N.C. Journalist Worries About Eroding Trust in Fair Courts

gavel_cash_20121102165220_320_240Appointed to a new commission aiming to improve North Carolina’s judicial system, a journalist says he hopes that its work will help build public trust in the independence and impartiality of our courts.

Doug Clark of the Greensboro News & Record says in a column that he’s especially concerned about trust in the state courts and in helping educate the public to better understand how they work:

“In recent court races, we’ve seen outside groups with partisan interests spend millions of dollars to promote or attack judicial candidates. Our legislature ended public funding for appellate campaigns, which had been successfully adopted after the 1996 report and relieved candidates of having to raise so much money. Now lawmakers aim to return partisan labels to the ballot for some judicial races. These aren’t steps that instill public trust in the impartiality of our justice system.

“I’m also concerned about a lack of transparency and access to information in the justice system, as well as the public’s lack of understanding about the work of judges and the courts.”

Almost two decades ago, the Commission for the Future of Justice and the Courts in North Carolina remarked, “The public cannot have confidence in the fairness of decisions when judges must raise large sums in campaign funds from lawyers and other interest groups.” Clark says, “If anything, we may have bigger problems today.”