Full Legal Name: Anne Murray Middleton
Name as it Appears on the Ballot: Anne Middleton
Seat Sought: NC Court of Appeals Judge
Partisan Affiliation: N/A (non-partisan election)
Date of Birth: 07-24-60
Home Address: 3420 Yelverton Circle, Raleigh NC 27612
Mailing Address (if different from home): P.O. Box 12094 Raleigh, NC 27605
Campaign Web Site: www.middletonforjudge.com
Occupation & Employer: Assistant Attorney General, NC Attorney General’s Office
Bachelor’s Degree Year & Institution: B.A. 1982, UNC-Chapel Hill
JD Year & School: J.D. 1995, Wake Forest University School of Law
Years lived in North Carolina: 40
Work Phone: (919) 716-6500
1. What are your top priorities or issues of concern for the coming term?
My top priority is to help reduce the strenuous workload of the Court of Appeals. I have practiced before the Court of Appeals for the past 13 years – it is a busy, hard-working Court that handed over 2400 cases from across North Carolina last year alone The Court of Appeals needs a judge who can be efficient from the first day forward: I am that person. As an advocate, I have handled over six times the matters before the North Carolina Court of Appeals and Supreme Court than all other 12 candidates combined. I know the job — and it would be my highest honor to sit with the judges I have appeared before on a regular basis.
2. What qualifies you to serve?
I have practiced law on every level of state court: district court, superior court, the Court of Appeals, and the Supreme Court. For the past 11 years, I have been in the Appellate Section of the Attorney General’s Office, where my practice of law, all day, every day, is before the North Carolina Court of Appeals and Supreme Court. I am the state’s lead appellate attorney for crimes against children and adult sexual offenses. In the Court of Appeals and Supreme Court, I handle the most serious child homicide, child physical abuse and sexual assault cases from all across North Carolina. I consult on these issues as well as domestic violence issues, and I regularly lecture statewide on issues of appellate law, particularly as it concerns crimes against children. I also regularly review (every 1st and 3rd Tuesday on Court of Appeals opinion days) the new decisions of the Court of Appeals. I have written hundreds of Court of Appeals briefs and read thousands of Court of Appeals decisions during my career as an appellate advocate. I know the work of the Court of Appeals, I deeply respect the function of the Court, and I have proven skills to be the most effective judge North Carolina voters could elect on November 2nd.
3. How do you define yourself politically? How does that impact your judicial approach?
I have no political or ideological identity as a jurist. Judges take an oath to be fair and impartial to all parties before the Court. The Court of Appeal, in particular, is an error-correcting Court that does not “make law” – its duty is to apply the North Carolina General Statutes, North Carolina Supreme Court precedent, and prior published decisions of the Court of Appeals. I will faithfully abide by this duty.
4. FOR INCUMBENTS: What have been your most important decisions in your current capacity? FOR CHALLENGERS: What decisions has the incumbent made that you most disagree with?
This question is not applicable to this particular election. It also would be inappropriate for a Court of Appeals candidate to comment on or second-guess a published opinion of a prior Court of Appeals panel, regardless of that candidate’s personal sentiments on the issue. Prior Supreme Court and published Court of Appeals decisions are binding on subsequent judges on the Court of Appeals, whether they agree with the decision or not.
5. What do you feel was the U.S. Supreme Court’s most important recent decision? Did you agree with the majority? What is the role of that court in setting precedent for North Carolina’s appellate courts?
In the civil realm: Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, 558 U.S. 50 (2010); in the criminal realm: Crawford v. Washington, 541 US 36 (2004) and its progeny, Melendez-Diaz v. Massachusetts, 129 S. Ct. 2527 (2009). It is of no consequence whether I agree or disagree with the majority because it is for the North Carolina Supreme Court and not the Court of Appeals to determine the extent to which these decisions will become binding precedent in North Carolina. While North Carolina has its own constitution and our Supreme Court interprets that constitution, the practical reality is that our constitution closely parallels that of the federal government, with some exceptions. This means that US Supreme Court precedent often will be determinative of state constitutional issues, with our Supreme Court deciding, on a case-by-case basis, the parameters of how the precedent is to apply in North Carolina under the North Carolina Constitution. Until the North Carolina Supreme Court has an opportunity to review a constitutional issue that previously has been decided by the US Supreme Court, the North Carolina Court of Appeals generally will directly apply the decision of the US Supreme Court to the facts of the case before it, after which the losing party may give notice of direct appeal of right to the North Carolina Supreme Court for its review and ultimate determination of the issue.
6. Do you feel that North Carolina’s current system of judicial elections serves the state well? Are there other forms of selecting judges you feel would function better or worse than the current one?
There are pros and cons to both the elective method of selecting judges and the appointment method. I believe it would be worthwhile to explore other alternatives, such as a non-partisan nominating committee for initial appointment of judges, with subsequent retention elections.
7. Have you ever pled guilty or no contest to any criminal charge other than a minor traffic offense? Please explain.
8. Identify a principled stand you might be willing to take if elected that you suspect might cost you some popularity points with voters.
We have moved to non-partisan judicial elections in North Carolina, ostensibly because we seek judges who will be fair and impartial to all parties rather than catering to special interest groups. A great many voters, however, still seek to determine party affiliation or to get candidates to indicate how they might rule on specific issues – although there are specific rules of judicial conduct against such disclosures from judicial candidates. While it might lose popularity points, I pledge to be fair and impartial to all parties who come before the Court of Appeals and to faithfully follow North Carolina Supreme Court precedent, without regard to personal sentiment.
9. Do you favor or oppose applying a plain error review to all alleged errors in capital cases? Do you favor or oppose mandating appellate review in post-conviction capital cases to help avoid arbitrariness in review of post-conviction capital cases by superior court judges? Please explain.
“Plain error” review actually places a higher burden on a defendant than the ordinary error standard, and requires a defendant to show that the error was so basic and fundamental that it probably deprived him of a fair trial. The plain error standard is used when defense counsel fails to object to an issue at trial and alert the trial court about evidentiary issues or jury instructions that could be corrected during the trial so as to avoid sending the case back for a second trial after appeal. We already use the plain error standard in all cases in order to ensure that these issues will be heard – but also to ensure that errors that are not easily corrected at trial are not later used to overturn a case in which a defendant received a fair trial. In this regard, the system is working as it should. There also is the safeguard of North Carolina Rule of Appellate Procedure 2, which the Court may utilize to ensure that other important issues may be heard on direct appeal. As to the second part of the question: every defendant who stands trial has a direct appeal of right to our appellate courts. In capital cases, post-conviction review comes after and in addition to a direct appeal of right to the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court should and does have the discretion to review these post-conviction hearings. Our legislature also has enacted an additional layer of protection for criminal defendants: procedures for demonstrating “actual innocence” after the defendant has already had direct appellate review and post-conviction review of his case. North Carolina now has one of the most comprehensive systems of protecting the rights of criminal defendants of any state in the nation.