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State needs better way to select judges

State needs better way to select judges

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Your editorial, “Random selection for judges” (Nov. 6), hit a long-term problem. There is no way the ordinary voter has enough information about our courts and judges to make a considered selection. The 1997 report by the Commission for the Future of Justice and the Courts in North Carolina, which was titled, “Without Favor, Denial or Delay,” prompted the League of Women Voters of Moore County to study the situation.

This grew to involve many of the N.C. State League of Women Voters chapters and most levels of the court system. The sitting judges, the Administrative Office of the Courts and the Future Commission were all cooperative, even including two retired Supreme Court justices. The legislation eventually drafted for the selection of judges called for nominating committees in the appropriate area of each court consisting of community leaders, educators, etc., but no more than one-third could be lawyers.

They would submit the names of three attorneys to the governor, who would appoint one.

If the governor could not accept any of those nominated, an additional three names could be requested, but the governor must appoint from those six nominees.

After serving the court for a period of time, the judge would be up for an affirmative vote. Yes or no only. If the sitting judge was not affirmed, or left the seat for any reason, the appointment procedure would begin again.

In 1999-2000, the legislation passed in the N.C. House. The Senate committee changed the bill to the degree that it was no more than the governor being able to appoint any attorney. It failed, and I agreed that this variation was asking for “political” courts. Some who worked on this project felt that just getting appointments was a plus, trusting that an elected official would choose the best person available. Later improvements could be made to insure courts would not be political.

I hope you and many others will continue working to approve a way of selecting quality judges so that everyone can believe our courts really dispense justice to all. An uninformed public vote is surely not the best way.

The writer lives in Colfax.


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