This is the final installment of the series on this years Supreme Court races in North Carolina. This article will focus on the Beasley/Robinson Race. For those of you just joining, here are the previous installments:
- The NC Supreme Court Races
- NC Supreme Court Races: Chief Justice Race
- NC Supreme Court Races: Chief Justice Race Part 2
- NC Supreme Court Races: Chief Justice Race Updates
- NC Supreme Court Races: Associate Justice Race
- NC Supreme Court Races: Associate Justice Race PT 2
- NC Supreme Court Races: Associate Justice Race PT 3
Quick Recap of the race between Cheri Beasley and Mike Robinson
This is an Associate Justice race. Cheri Beasley is the incumbent, Mike Robinson the challenger. North Carolina judicial races are nonpartisan on the ballot, however the reality beyond the ballot is that Beasley is a Democrat and Robinson is a Republican.
Beasley was a 2012 Perdue appointment. In order to retain her seat, Beasley has to run for re-election this year. Beasley was apparently supposed to have one challenger – Ola Lewis. Lewis instead decided to challenge Mark Martin for the Chief Justice spot — a race which if Martin was running alone in as Chief Justice Parker was ending due to legal restrictions on age limit. It appears that when Mike Robinson entered the race, Ola Lewis decided to hop out of that race. I covered some of this in prior articles. See NC Supreme Court Races: Chief Justice Race and NC Supreme Court Races: Chief Justice Race Part 2.
The net effect of the change-up with Judge Lewis leaving the Beasley/Robinson race is now there will be no primary. Remember, NC law requires that when there is more than one candidate in a judicial race, there is a primary to reduce the number to one candidate. Had Judge Lewis stayed in that race, it is possible she and Robinson could have forced Beasley off the ticket. In the end, Judge Lewis would have been a clear choice for the seat due to her greater experience on the bench versus newcomer Robinson in the final election. Instead, we now have an unknown against Beasley and a split race for the Chief Justice spot, which should have been a solo race for the logical next in line – Mark Martin.
About Cheri Beasley
As previously state, Beasley was appointed by former Governer Bev Perdue in 2012 when Justice Patricia Timmons-Goodson retired. There was a bit of controversy surrounding the appointment, as former Governor Perdue reversed an executive order that required a commission of legal experts appoint Supreme Court Justices. In reversing the that executive order, Perdue gave herself the sole power to appoint Justices. That order could be interpreted as only applying to Perdue’s term as Governor even though the new Governor, Pat McCrory had just been elected. Needless to say, there was outcry at this perceived power grab. Read the executive order.
As there was controversy with Beasley coming in, there is also controversy as she runs for re-election. This time, it’s from statements made by Beasley that call into question her possible bias against the new North Carolina Voter ID law (HB 589 or VIVA).
Beasley’s comment, as reported by the Carteret County News-Times:
“You’ve heard a lot about voter I.D. and a lot of folks are confused about that and the confusion is by design,” said Justice Beasley. “If you’re going to change (voter laws) and you’re doing it for the right reason, make sure everyone is aware of the changes. Put everyone on equal footing.”
Arguably, everyone should be aware as the ID portion does not go into effect until 2016. The comment pretty clearly shows a bias with the ‘by design’ being a part of it. Beasley’s comments raised ethics concerns. Civitas explains:
Her conclusory statements at a Democratic Party dinner raise serious problems under the ethics rules that apply to judges. Although there is not yet a case before the state high court about the voter ID law, there is one on its way there. In August 2013, the League of Women Voters of North Carolina and the North Carolina A. Philip Randolph Institute (an AFL-CIO affiliate) filed a state lawsuit claiming the voter ID law violates North Carolina’s constitution. While that case is currently in the Orange County Superior Court, there is no question that the case will be appealed (no matter what the outcome is in the trial court) and will eventually end up before Justice Beasley.
Under Canon 3A(6) of the Code of Judicial Conduct of the Supreme Court of North Carolina, a “judge should abstain from public comment about the merits of a pending proceeding in any state or federal court dealing with a case or controversy arising in North Carolina or addressing North Carolina law.” Further, under Canon 3C(1), a judge should disqualify herself “in a proceeding in which the judge’s impartiality may reasonably be questioned.”
The article goes on to state another possibly conflict of interest with hearing the case that has been filed over the voter ID law by the NAACP. Beasley is a “subscribing lifelong member” of the NAACP. Again, from the Civitas article pointing out this conflict and suggesting recusal:
Yet according to Justice Beasley’s biography on her campaign website, she is a “Subscribing Life Member” of the NAACP from “1997 – present.” (In an odd discrepancy, her membership in the NAACP is not listed on her official biography at the North Carolina court website.) Thus, Justice Beasley is a member of an organization that has filed a federal lawsuit against the same voter ID that is also at issue in a state lawsuit that will reach her court on appeal. Even if she had not criticized the voter ID law at issue in North Carolina state and federal courts at a political fundraiser, she ought to recuse herself because of her continuing membership in the NAACP, which is a party in the federal lawsuit.
The NAACP affiliation is not on Justice Beasley’s Biography section of the website either, but instead under the handy ‘career‘ tab. It is worth noting that Justice Beasley attended a NC NAACP banquet last Fall where Moral Monday and the lawsuit were discussed. It was reported in the FayObserver, but that site has taken down the article since it’s publishing in September 2013. The Free Republic has some of the article text, however. Here is the relevant portion:
Shelton was the keynote speaker at the 25th annual Life Membership Banquet for the Fayetteville branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. Shelton is also the NAACP’s senior vice president for policy and advocacy.
The NAACP has helped organize the Moral Monday events to protest various laws that have been passed by the Republican-controlled General Assembly this year, including a controversial voter identification law.
At the banquet, eight people were honored with plaques commemorating their lifetime memberships. They included Associate Justice Cheri Beasley of the N.C. Supreme Court. The group’s mother of the year, Audrey B. Cammon, also was recognized during the banquet, which is part recruiting drive and part fundraiser.
A summary of positions based on the Beasley website are as follows:
- Supreme Court of North Carolina, Associate Justice (12/12 – Present)
- North Carolina Court of Appeals, Associate Judge (1/09 – 12/12)
- District Court Judge (2/99 – 2008)
- Assistant Public Defender (1/94 – 2/99)
- Instructor (Part-time) Business Law I (3/95 – 5/95)
For a detailed look at Cheri Beasley’s history, philosophy and associations , read her Judgepedia page and can visit Beasley’s official Supreme Court biography. There is also a copy of her Judicial Questionnaire available online.Her campaign site does not list any endorsements.
Points of Contact for Cheri Beasley:
- Campaign Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Campaign Site: http://www.justicecheribeasley.com/
- Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/JusticeCheriBeasley
About Mike Robinson
Mike Robinson is currently a managing partner at Robinson and Lawing, LLP and has been practicing law for 33 years. His specialty is business litigation and mediation, as well as intellectual property litigation. Going by his campaign site, this would be his first run for an elected Judge position. Career history via Judgepedia:
- 1997-Present: Managing partner/partner, Robinson & Lawing, LLP
- 1992-1997: Partner, Litigation section, Robinson, Maready, Lawing & Comferford, LLP
- 1980-1992: Partner/Associate, Litigation section, Petree, Stockton & Robinson
Robinson earned his undergrad at Davidson and his law degree in 1980 at the University of North Carolina School of Law in Chapel Hill. Robinson’s campaign site links to a resume.
Robinson’s entry into this race apparently caused Judge Ola Lewis to change her mind and challenge Mark Martin for the Chief Justice position. A quick recap from my prior article, NC Supreme Court Races: Chief Justice Race:
Lewis was recently quoted as saying “political gamesmanship” was responsible for her getting into the Chief Justice race against Sr. Associate Justice Mark Martin. There is an implication here that Lewis was upset when Mike Robinson entered the Beasley race, making it a three-way run requiring a primary to reduce the number to two candidates. From that implication, one might wonder if Robinson had the GOP encouraging him to run, but attempts to verify such an attempt have not panned out. Regardless of what groups did or did not encourage Robinson to enter the race, the net effect for Lewis in hopping into the Chief Justice race has not been positive coming from the Republicans. Read more: Ola Lewis says ‘political gamesmanship’ influenced her decision to run for chief justice
There is an update to this recap. I had the opportunity to speak with Judge Lewis at the Wake Republican Women’s luncheon where multiple judicial candidates were given a short time to speak to the group. Judge Lewis indicated that Mike Robinson had made a statement that he had been asked to run by the NC Republican party. I have yet to find confirmation of that reported in the media, however a source says that at the Executive Committee/Central Committee meeting in Concord at the end of January 2014, Robinson made a statement to that effect. Another source tells me they feel Robinson misspoke or was misinterpreted as many in the party did not know who he was prior to his announcement to run. It might be wise to take this information with a grain of salt on all accounts.
Points of Contact for Mike Robinson:
- Campaign Email: email@example.com
- Campaign Website: http://votemikerobinson.com/
- Campaign Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/mikerobinson
- Campaign Twitter: https://twitter.com/mikerobinsonnc