TO AMEND THE NORTH CAROLINA CONSTITUTION TO REPLACE THE PRESENT PRACTICE OF SELECTING JUSTICES AND JUDGES OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION AND JUDGES OF THE SUPERIOR COURT GENERALLY BY GUBERNATORIAL APPOINTMENT, FOLLOWED BY ELECTIONS, WITH A METHOD BY WHICH (1) TWO CANDIDATES FOR JUSTICE AND JUDGE WILL BE NOMINATED BY A JUDICIAL NOMINATING COMMISSION, THE GOVERNOR WILL APPOINT ONE OF THEM, AND AT THE NEXT ELECTION THE VOTERS WILL CHOOSE IN A NONPARTISAN ELECTION BETWEEN THE TWO PERSONS, (2) AT THE END OF THE TERM OF A JUSTICE OR JUDGE WHO HAS SUCCESSFULLY WON AN ELECTION, THE QUESTION OF THE JUSTICE'S OR JUDGE'S RETENTION IN OFFICE IS SUBMITTED FOR APPROVAL OR DISAPPROVAL BY NONPARTISAN VOTE OF THE PEOPLE, (3) PROVISION IS MADE FOR THE CASE OF WITHDRAWAL OF A CANDIDATE BEFORE THE ELECTION, AND (4) PROVISION IS MADE FOR APPOINTMENT OF THE CHIEF JUSTICE FROM AMONG THE ASSOCIATE JUSTICES.
Subject to approval by the voters at the November 6, 2012, general election, amends Section 16 of Article IV of the North Carolina Constitution to create a nomination, appointment, and retention election system for appellate judges and justices and superior court judges. Makes conforming statutory changes to GS Chapter 7A only if the voters approve the constitutional amendment.
Constitutional Amendment. Current law provides for the election of judges of the Superior Court, judges of the Court of Appeals, and justices of the Supreme Court. This act creates a new appointment and retention process for vacancies of Superior Court Judges, Court of Appeals Judges, and Supreme Court Justices. To fill such a vacancy, the Governor will appoint a person from among two nominees from the Judicial Nominating Commission (Commission) for a term that extends through January 31 after the next statewide election for members of the General Assembly that is held more than 210 days after the vacancy. That election will be between the two candidates nominated by the Commission, with the winning candidate elected to a regular term. Provides procedures when the person appointed or when the person not appointed by the Governor chooses by July 31 of the election year not the seek election. Makes an incumbent who was successful in a contested election or in a retention election and files for retention by February 1 of the election year, subject to approval by nonpartisan ballot. The regular term of office for judges on the superior court and appellate division judges and justices is eight years, expiring on January 31. If the voters fail to approve the retention of the judge or justice by a majority of votes cast, the office will become vacant at the end of the term and the Governor will appoint a replacement as detailed above. Provides procedure when a vacancy occurs in the office of Chief Justice.
The term of office of a person elected before January 1, 2013, to the office of Chief Justice, Associate Justice, or Judge of the Appellate Division for a term which extends beyond January 1, 2013, and who is in office on December 31, 2012, is extended through January 31 of the year following the eighth year after the date any such Justice or Judge was last elected to the office. If the person continues to serve for the remainder of the term, that person may stand for retention in the office for a succeeding regular term as provided, subject to the provisions of law relating to mandatory retirement. If the person continues to serve for the remainder of the term but does not stand for retention election, a vacancy is created in the office upon expiration of the term, and this vacancy shall be filled by nomination and appointment as provided. The term of office of a person appointed before January 1, 2013, to a vacancy occurring during the period beginning on the sixtieth day before the 2012 general election and ending December 31, 2012, to the office of Chief Justice, Associate Justice, or Judge of the Appellate Division for a term which extends beyond January 1, 2013, and who is in office on December 31, 2012, shall end on January 31, 2015. If such person wishes to remain in office at the end of that term, he or she must sit for a retention election as specified at the statewide election for members of the General Assembly held in 2014. Vacancies occurring in the appellate division before January 1, 2012, will be filled by the nomination and appointment procedure detailed above. Upon the death, resignation, removal, or retirement of any incumbent on or after January 1, 2013, the resulting vacancy will be filled by nomination and appointment as detailed above.
Directs the General Assembly to create a Judicial Nominating Commission, as specified.
Statutory Provisions. Requires persons appointed by the Governor to fill vacancies to first be nominated by a 16 member Judicial Nominating Commission (Commission), created in new Article 1A of GS Chapter 7A. Specifies Commission members, appointing procedures, term limits, and enumerates Commission duties and nominating procedures. Requires the Governor to issue commissions to those judges or justices nominated and appointed to office.
Amends GS 7A-16 (concerning the Court of Appeals) to state the Court of Appeals consists of 15 judges, with the Chief Judge selected by the Supreme Court Chief Justice. Deletes provisions pertaining to previous judge appointments and terms. Makes conforming changes to GS 7A-10, GS 163-1, GS 163-9, various sections of Article 25 (Subchapter X) of GS Chapter 163 and GS 163-182.16. Amends GS 143-318.11(a) to permit a closed session to consider the candidates seeking judicial nomination by the Commission. Repeals GS 163-328(e), 163-329(a) and 163-329(b1).
Enacts new GS 163-333.1 to codify guidelines pertaining to elections occurring after the Governor fills a vacancy by appointment, and when either candidate nominated by the Commission chooses not to run for election. Enacts new GS 163-331.2 to provide guidelines governing retention elections.
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