NC high court may shift fur­ther left

The Charlotte Observer (Sunday) - - Encore - BY WILL DO­RAN wdo­[email protected]­sob­server.com Will Do­ran: 919- 836-2858, @will_­do­ran

The chief jus­tice of the North Car­olina Supreme Court an­nounced his plans to re­tire this month, pav­ing the way for a 6-1 Demo­cratic ma­jor­ity on the state’s high­est court. Mark Martin, first elected in 1999, is the longest­serv­ing jus­tice now on the court. Ac­cord­ing to a press re­lease from the North Car­olina Ju­di­cial Branch, he is leav­ing to be­come the dean of the law school at Re­gent Univer­sity, a Chris­tian school in Vir­ginia. “It has been the high­est of hon­ors to serve the peo­ple of North Car­olina as their Chief Jus­tice,” Martin said in a writ­ten state­ment. “I will for­ever cher­ish the mem­o­ries of serv­ing with so many amaz­ing and ca­pa­ble peo­ple. It is now time to di­rect my fo­cus to help­ing pre­pare the next gen­er­a­tion of lead­ers.” Martin has been chief jus­tice since 2014. He is one of two Repub­li­can judges re­main­ing on the court. But with his de­par­ture, his va­cant seat will be filled by Demo­cratic Gov. Roy Cooper. Cooper does not have to pick a Repub­li­can to fill out the rest of Martin’s term, which ends in 2022. For­mer N.C. Supreme Court jus­tice Bob Ed­munds worked along­side Martin for 16 years and con­sid­ers him one of his best friends, he said in an in­ter­view. Martin was the youngest Supreme Court jus­tice in North Car­olina his­tory when first elected, and Ed­munds said he han­dled the role well de­spite his age. “Over the years I watched him I was in­creas­ingly im­pressed with him, and he did an im­pres­sive job as chief jus­tice,” Ed­munds said. When they’re not hear­ing cases or writ­ing opin­ions, Supreme Court jus­tices lead com­mit­tees and do other ad­min­is­tra­tive work within the jus­tice sys­tem. Martin’s ef­forts in that realm in­cluded a “ci­ti­zens’ com­mis­sion to im­prove the ad­min­is­tra­tion of jus­tice in North Car­olina” that he cre­ated in 2015, ac­cord­ing to his re­tire­ment an­nounce­ment. Martin was also a key pro­po­nent of the “Raise The Age” leg­is­la­tion that passed in 2017, which will end North Car­olina’s prac­tice of au­to­mat­i­cally charg­ing all 16- and 17year-olds as adults in the crim­i­nal sys­tem. Cooper posted on Face­book a photo of Martin swear­ing him in as gov­er­nor and said he would get to work pick­ing a new judge to fin­ish the re­main­ing three years of Martin’s term. If Cooper picks a Demo­crat to re­place Martin, it will rep­re­sent a fur­ther shift left­ward for the court, which had a Repub­li­can ma­jor­ity as re­cently as 2016. After the 2016 elec­tions the court shifted from a 4-3 Repub­li­can ma­jor­ity to a 4-3 Demo­cratic ma­jor­ity, when Ed­munds lost to Demo­crat Mike Mor­gan. And after the 2018 elec­tions, when Demo­cratic chal­lenger Anita Earls de­feated Repub­li­can in­cum­bent Bar­bara Jack­son, the court’s Demo­cratic ma­jor­ity grew to 5-2. Martin was the for­mer head of the ABA’s ju­di­cial divi­sion, and in 2011 Martin was also in­ducted into an ex­clu­sive group called the War­ren E. Burger So­ci­ety, named for the for­mer U.S. Supreme Court chief jus­tice. “It got very lit­tle pub­lic­ity at the time, but it’s ba­si­cally like the Nobel Prize for ap­pel­late judges,” Ed­munds said.

HARRY LYNCH [email protected]­sob­server.com

NC Supreme Court Chief Jus­tice Mark Martin was one of two Repub­li­cans on the court.

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