Name as it appears on the ballot: Richard Dietz 

Age:  45

Party affiliation:  Republican

Campaign website:

Occupation & employer:  Judge, North Carolina Court of Appeals

1) Please tell us what in your record as a public official or private citizen demonstrates your ability to be effective, fair, and impartial on the bench? Please be specific. What do you believe qualifies you to serve as a Supreme Court justice?

The theme of my campaign is “Leadership for our Courts” and it defines my record and qualifications for our State’s highest court. Here’s what it means:

First, leadership means having the skills to do the work of a Supreme Court justice. I’ve handled appeals my entire career—as a lawyer working for years on complex constitutional cases, to eight years as a judge on the Court of Appeals. I’m the only candidate—and will be the only member of our Supreme Court—who is a board-certified specialist in appeals. I’ve personally argued cases in appeals courts across the nation, including the U.S. Supreme Court. I’ll bring these skills to our Supreme Court.

Second, leadership means having the character and temperament to work on the most important legal issues in our State. I’m a consensus-builder. In eight years on the Court of Appeals, I’ve heard thousands of appeals. In all that time, I’m the only judge who has never authored a dissent. It’s not because I’m afraid to dissent (I’ve circulated my share of draft dissents) but because I respect my colleagues, I listen to their views, and I work hard to persuade them to reach consensus and a just result. Leadership means being able to work with others as a team and I’ll bring this collegial approach to the Supreme Court.

Third, leadership means going beyond the courtroom to improve our justice system. I’ve led the appellate courts on this for years—everything from matching volunteer lawyers with people who could not afford legal help to creating an online “Constitutional Academy” for students stuck at home during the pandemic. No other judge can match my record of finding creative solutions to the challenges within our justice system. I’ll bring this leadership to the Supreme Court as well.

Finally, leadership means showing the public that our court system is about justice, not politics. Every judicial candidate claims they want politics out of our courts, but most can’t back it up. I’ll never spam your inbox with emails about my campaign, asking you to chip in another $5. Politicians do that. When you hear from me, it will be about my work on the court. The public will see that I’m not a politician—I’m a public servant committed to our justice system and to helping people resolve their legal disputes fairly.

2) How do you define yourself politically? How does that impact your judicial approach?

I’m not defined by politics. My passion is the law, not politics, and this is reflected in my record as a Court of Appeals judge. A famous jurist that lawyers study in law school, Judge Learned Hand, once described himself as “a conservative among liberals and a liberal among conservatives.” He could see all sides of any issue and argue any position. I take this approach as a judge—valuing open discourse and debate and listening to every perspective. This is the key to being fair and impartial, and preserving the independence of the courts.

3) What do you believe are the three most important qualities a judge must have to be an effective jurist? Which judges, past or present, do you most admire? Why?

Experience, independence from politics, and a deep understanding of the law. I admire great jurists like Judge Learned Hand, mentioned in the previous question. He was skeptical of politicians and charted his own course as a legal thinker.

4) In a sentence, how would you define your judicial philosophy?

The key part of my judicial philosophy is respect—respect for the rights in the Constitution; respect for the independent and impartial role of judges to uphold the law; and respect for the people who appear before the courts.

5) Do you favor or oppose public financing of judicial elections? What changes to North Carolina’s system of judicial elections do you believe are necessary, if any?

We should always ask if there’s a better way to do things. Our courts have become increasingly political, and we owe it to ourselves to explore how we can reverse this trend and get politics out of the court system. This includes examining how we elect our judges and finance judicial campaigns, but also how judges themselves act while campaigning. We need to raise the bar for what we expect from our judges and candidates. Too many people run for judicial office claiming to reject politics, yet they spend all their time at partisan political events and hanging around with politicians. I’ve shown that I’ll bring leadership, not politics. My request to voters is to do your homework and look me up—you won’t find me spending my time in politics. I’ve shown voters that I’m a public servant focused on helping the courts work for the people.

6) In many cases, voters know very little about the judges they are electing. Tell us something about yourself that our readers may be surprised to learn.

Unlike many judges, I don’t come from a family of lawyers.  I grew up in a small town and was the first in my family to attend college.  My first job out of high school was climbing telephone polls for the phone company, just like my dad. I’ve also been personally impacted by the challenges of affording legal help. When I was still in school, my mom got sick with cancer and passed away. She didn’t have health insurance and didn’t know any lawyers. We had to navigate Medicaid and the healthcare system on our own and it showed me how important it is for people to have advocates when faced with complicated legal problems. I now serve on the Equal Access to Justice Commission and have worked on many projects to improve access to the courts, including launching a free volunteer lawyer program at the Court of Appeals and working with the Justice for All Project on new ways to provide low-cost legal help to those in need.

7) What sets you apart from the other candidate in this race?

I have the skills and experience to serve on our State’s highest court and have also shown how I can be a leader beyond the courtroom as well. For example, when the pandemic hit, I used the technology we received for remote court hearings to create an online constitutional academy for high school students, a month-long summer seminar for law students who lost their internships, and free training videos for lawyers. These projects received national media attention and other groups across the nation launched similar programs using my model. My work on these projects later earned me the “Citizen Lawyer Award” from our State’s bar association. I’ve built a record of competence as an appeals court judge combined with a commitment to helping people outside the courtroom. I’ll bring this leadership to our State’s highest court.

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