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Supreme Court Retention Election Bill Becomes Law

UPDATE (6/12/15):  The bill was signed by the Governor yesterday and is now law

The General Assembly has actively considered a number of proposals this session that would change how we elect judges in North Carolina.  One of those bills–House Bill 222–has now passed both chambers and is on its way to the Governor for signature.

House Bill 222 will allow any sitting elected Supreme Court justice to simply indicate his or her “desire to continue in office” in order to participate in a so-called “retention election” in lieu of running against other candidates.  The electorate will then vote, in the general election, FOR or AGAINST the retention of that justice.  If the justice prevails by simple majority, (s)he keeps the seat for another eight-year term.  If not, the seat is subject to a temporary appointment by the Governor like any other vacant seat.

Note that retention elections will only be available for Supreme Court justices, not Court of Appeals judges or other jurists.  In addition, a justice who joined the Court via a temporary appointment will still have to run to keep that seat upon expiration of the appointment.

If the bill becomes law soon, we can expect Justice Edmunds, the only Supreme Court Justice whose term ends in 2016, to file the necessary retention paperwork by the deadline–July 1, 2015.  Justice Edmunds would then face an “up or down” vote in November 2016.

–Matt Leerberg

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