Buried deep in a long New York Times report from January 31 chronicling the Trump administration’s efforts to overturn the election results is the revelation that Mark D. Martin, chief justice of North Carolina’s supreme court from 2014 to his retirement from the court in 2019, had an informal role in advising the administration on one of its more ridiculous long-shot lawsuits.

You know the one: where Texas’s attorney general appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court to throw out votes in Pennsylvania, Georgia, Michigan, and Wisconsin based on those states’ implementing changes to voting procedures due to the COVID pandemic, which Texas claimed were illegal. (The justices quickly dismissed the complaint based on Texas’s lack of standing.)

This all comes on top of an earlier Times report that had Trump, on the advice of Martin, trying to persuade vice president Mike Pence that he had the power to throw out any election results he deemed fraudulent.

Well, to some members of the state’s legal community, this all looks pretty bad for a former judge, dean of a law school, and active member of the North Carolina bar. It doesn’t help that Martin won’t answer questions from the INDY and other media outlets seeking to clarify exactly what his role was in crafting the lawsuit.

“You have a right as a lawyer to make creative arguments, as long as they have a basis in fact and law,” says Kathy Webb Bradley, a professor of legal ethics at Duke University Law School.

“To my mind, as a law school professor, [Martin] has a special obligation in terms of the model he sets because law schools are training members of a profession, and because we have an obligation that law school students understand their ethical obligations.”

Of course, Regent University–founded by televangelist Pat Robertson–isn’t home to a law school that would reasonably be called mainstream.

“It is a staunchly conservative university so I’m sure they are perfectly happy with the position [Martin] has taken,” says Bradley. “He is a loyal Republican, he wants to support the president in that way, and [it seems like] he is just sort of on the periphery.”

Chris Roslan, a spokesperson for the Regent University Law school, told the INDY the law school has no comment on the reporting. Calls to Martin’s office were not returned.

Is what we know about Martin’s behavior as embarrassing as Raleigh native and former federal prosecutor Sydney Powell’s off-the-charts attempt to convince anyone who’d listen that Dominion Voting Systems bribed Georgia election officials to favor Joe Biden, just like the company’s nefarious efforts in Venezuela to prop up Hugo Chávez?

Is it as bad as congressman Madison Cawthorn egging on a bellicose mob to storm the Capitol?

Is it as bad as U.S. postmaster general and Greensboroian Louis DeJoy effectively crippling the postal service?

Is it as bad as all the bad things Mark Meadows did to earn himself the Washington Post designation as the worst chief of staff in history?

Arguably not–Martin’s name doesn’t appear on any complaints–but it’s still a spurious move from someone who should know better. And while it’s convenient for him to invoke attorney-client privilege, it really would behoove Martin to explain himself.

Follow Editor-in-Chief Jane Porter on Twitter or send an email to jporter@indyweek.com

Support independent local journalism. Join the INDY Press Club to help us keep fearless watchdog reporting and essential arts and culture coverage viable in the Triangle.