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DECISION UNLIKELY TO AFFECT N.C. JUDGESHIPS
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DECISION UNLIKELY TO AFFECT N.C. JUDGESHIPS

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North Carolina should not be affected by a U.S. Department of Justice decision to throw out Georgia's system of electing judges because Georgia's method discriminates against blacks, a state assistant attorney general says.

``I don't think our system is in jeopardy because of this, or anything else,' James Wallace Jr. said Friday.Three years ago, to facilitate nomination of black candidates, the N.C. General Assembly created nine predominantly minority judicial districts with 11 Superior Court judgeships, Wallace said. That plan was pre-cleared by the Justice Department.

Superior Court judges are nominated by districts but elected statewide. So far, Wallace said, black candidates from the new districts have fared well in statewide elections.

Since 1964, any election changes statewide, or in 40 of the 100 counties, must be pre-cleared by the Justice Department. ``The statewide election of judges hasn't been pre-cleared, but we've been doing that for almost a century,' Wallace said.

Wednesday, the Department of Justice said that Georgia discriminated against blacks by electing judges in broad judicial circuits by majority vote rather than by a plurality. It declared illegal judgeships in 30 of the state's 45 judicial circuits.

For other Southern states, the ruling could signal a tougher Justice Department stance on applying the Voting Rights Act to judicial elections.

Not everyone is happy with North Carolina's method of electing judges. The Republican party has filed suit seeking elimination of statewide elections, saying it is difficult for Republicans to win.

But the N.C. Association of Black Lawyers intervened on the state's side in that suit, Wallace said.

``Our plan is not under attack, and I wouldn't expect it to be, except by the Republican party,' Wallace said.

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