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State Supreme Court Race Low On Ballot, But Still Important

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RALEIGH, N.C. — On Tuesday's ballot, there will be eight names for one of two open seats on the North Carolina Supreme Court.

The top vote-getter in that race may be elected with less than 20 percent of the total vote. In the other high court opening, there are two candidates vying for an open spot.

Those two new members will make up a total of seven justices on the high court -- it only takes four for a majority on a decision from the court.

Legal experts say the race is important.

"Every decision that the court renders impacts not just the parties to the case, but it establishes precedent for all the citizens of North Carolina from this day forward," said Robert Orr, who served on the State Supreme Court for 10 years.

Orr believes the public should know the philosophies, political or otherwise, of anyone who will ultimately render judgment.

"I'd much rather know if that judge was a plaintiff's lawyer or a defense insurance lawyer before he or she went on the bench or whether they were a prosecutor or worked in the public defender's office because that's going to shape their judicial philosophy more than how they happen to be registered to vote," Orr said.

Orr is convinced the vast majority of judges can separate their political views from the merits of individual cases.

He said he sees nothing wrong with endorsements by special interest groups, including the editorial pages of newspapers.

But Orr is frustrated with where these races appear on the ballot because so few people are even aware of the races.

"Candidates for North Carolina Supreme Court have a total of maybe $200,000 to spend for the entire campaign," Orr said. "So how can they compete in any way with all the political campaigns going on? They're just lost in the shuffle."

Here are the candidates vying for the open positions:

For Associate Justice, Supreme Court (You May Vote For One) Sarah Parker John M. Tyson

For Associate Justice, Supreme Court (You May Vote For One) Ronnie Ansley Rachel Lea Hunter Howard E. Manning, Jr. Betsy McCrodden Fred Morrison, Jr. Paul Martin Newby Marvin Schiller James A. Wynn, Jr.