N.C. voters will fill one uncontested and five contested seats on the state Court of Appeals Nov. 4. All are consequential decisions, yet we believe one race merits particular attention from voters. In that race voters will have to choose between James Wynn, who has held the seat for 11 years, and challenger Jewel Ann Farlow, a Greensboro lawyer.
We highly recommend Wynn. He is a seasoned jurist with an outstanding record. His absence would be a loss.
Farlow, 50, has practiced civil and criminal law for 19 years and has a reputation for being hard-working on behalf of clients and analytical in how she approaches the law. She's a graduate of Duke University and Wake Forest School of Law. Yet voters considering that record also need to be aware she received a pardon of forgiveness in 2001 from Gov. Jim Hunt for two misdemeanor larceny convictions in 1982.
Wynn, 54, has a distinguished legal career. In addition to his years on the Court of Appeals, he is a captain in the U.S. Navy Reserve and a military trial judge. Twice he won Navy Meritorious Service awards and Navy commendation awards. He also was nominated twice – in 1999 and 2000 – for the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals by the president. His appointment was one of scores left unheard by the Senate.
Wynn has served a total of 18 years in a state appeals court seat, sitting briefly on the N.C. Supreme Court in 1998. His record shows a sharp, studious intellect, an even temperament and a vigorous work ethic (he has written more than 2,000 opinions). He serves as chairman of the judicial division of the American Bar Association and has bipartisan support, including the endorsement of four former chief justices of North Carolina.
The Court of Appeals hears almost all appeals from trial and regulatory agencies. The job demands good judgment. It also requires knowledge of the law, the ability to read quickly and analyze thoroughly and write clear decisions that interpret complex issues. Deciding whom to send to that court – or to the state Supreme Court – is one of the toughest assignments voters face. These nonpartisan races should not be political contests. The qualities that make someone an outstanding appellate judge are best detected not from a campaign, but from examining records and watching in the courtroom. Few outside legal circles get that opportunity.
This race stands out. Farlow is by all accounts an able attorney. But James Wynn is a superior jurist with deep experience. There is no reason to make a change.