Arrowood seat

John S. Arrowood, who was appointed to the N.C. Court of Appeals in 2007 by Gov. Mike Easley, after serving briefly as a superior court judge, has served capably in his first year, earning him the respect of colleagues and the endorsement of all three statewide lawyer’s associations.

Before serving on the bench, Arrowood practiced commercial law for a Charlotte law firm, and he is a former law clerk in the N.C. Court of Appeals. The Indy strongly endorses Arrowood over his opponent, Robert N. (Bob) Hunter, Jr., a private attorney with no judicial experience (who is not to be confused with the well-regarded appellate judge, Robert C. Hunter).

A registered Republican, Robert N. Hunter has paid lip service to conservative ideology, and opposed important Supreme Court decisions in filling out questionnaires for groups like the N.C. Family Policy Council, an anti-gay advocacy group. On the NCFPC questionnaire, he volunteered that, in addition to his opposition to Roe v. Wade and Lawrence v. Texas, the latter of which judges struck down a state sodomy law, he felt the Supreme Court cases did not guarantee a “right to immoral conduct.” In exposing his rightist ideological leanings so clearly, Hunter would threaten the integrity of the court, if elected.

McCullough seat

Doug McCullough is running an extensive campaign to maintain his seat on the N.C. Court of Appeals, to which he was elected in 2000. Recently, McCullough wrote the majority opinion in State v. Washington, an important case that affirmed defendants’ rights to a speedy trial.

However, McCullough has made several critical missteps outside the courtroom, which compel us to endorse his challenger, district judge Cheri Beasley. In 2007, McCullough pleaded guilty for driving while impaired during the previous year. The N.C. Judicial Standards Commission issued a reprimand, finding that the incident showed a “failure to personally observe appropriate standards of conduct to ensure that the integrity and independence of the judiciary shall be preserved.” More recently, McCullough showed poor judgment at a campaign event by making openly partisan comments.

Beasley, who has served capably as district judge in Cumberland County for 10 years, following her appointment by former Gov. Jim Hunt, would bring sound judgment and diversity to the N.C. Court of Appeals. In her questionnaire, she demonstrated thoughtfulness on controversial issues such as the 287(g) program and a desire to implement alternative sentencing, including dispute resolution and mental-health treatment, in order to alleviate court caseloads and empower victims. “Making sure that justice is truly accessible to all is my commitment,” she writes. We applaud Beasley’s focus, and encourage her election as a powerful change to this conservative-leaning seat.

Stephens seat

We endorse Linda Stephens, who was appointed to the N.C. Court of Appeals in 2006 by Gov. Mike Easley. She lost an election later that year, and was re-appointed by Easley in 2007. According to colleagues, she loathes campaigning, but—more importantly—serves capably as an effective, no-nonsense judge.

Last year, Stephens wrote the majority opinion in State v. Hess, and the minority opinion in State v. Styles, which strike an important balance in determining the legal parameters for traffic stopslately, the impetus for a gross misinterpretation of the 287(g) program. Stephens’ analysis in both cases is solid, and we feel that, despite losing an election in 2006, she makes a strong candidate for re-election in 2008.

Challenger Dan Barrett, a former candidate for governor and a private attorney with no judicial experience, likened himself to Justice John Roberts on the N.C. Family Policy Council’s candidate survey, and gave himself an 8 out of 10 rating, with 10 representing an “originalist” approach to the law. Though he filled out his Indy questionnaire thoughtfully—and refused to take NCFPC’s bait in disavowing Supreme Court decisionshe presents no compelling reason to unseat Judge Stephens.

Wynn seat

The Indy stands by its primary endorsement of James A. (Jim) Wynn, over challenger Jewel Ann Farlow. Wynn was appointed by former President Bill Clinton to serve on the U.S. Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals, a decision blocked by the late U.S. Sen. Jesse Helms. Judges and lawyers describe him enthusiastically as a highly intelligent arbiter, who avoids partisanship and ensures access to justice by all.

Farlow, a private attorney whose Web site contains the bizarre pronouncement that judges must stop “making excuses” for criminals, did not return a questionnaire for either the primary or general election.

Tyson seat

The Indy stands by its primary endorsement of Kristin Ruth, who has served capably as district court judge in Wake County for 10 years, and has developed innovative solutions to family law cases.

We also applaud the campaign of Sam J. Ervin IV, who has shown deftness with the law in orders he has written as a member of the quasi-judicial N.C. Utilities Commission. Previously, he worked as a well-respected criminal defender in the western part of the state, skillfully representing controversial defendants and carrying much of the load of death penalty cases.