Court will face rising caseloads and an underfunded system

The race for the six open seats on the N.C. Court of Appeals points out a key issue for the 15-member court – rising caseloads in an underfunded court system.

Judicial races are nonpartisan – so you can't use a straight-ticket vote to choose your candidate.

The appeals court judges work in three-member panels to review lower court decisions and make sure the law was applied properly.

Here's a look at each contested seat:

Farlow vs. Wynn

Jewel Ann Farlow, a Gibsonville attorney, is challenging incumbent Jim Wynn, a Cary Democrat, who is seeking his fourth term on the court.

Farlow, a Republican, has no prior judicial experience, and criminal records show she is the only candidate to benefit from a gubernatorial pardon, issued by Gov. Jim Hunt just before he left office in 2001, regarding a misdemeanor trespass conviction she received in 1982.

Wynn touts his experience in noting that the court's heavy caseload requires judges with “demonstrated legal skills in research and writing.” He is one of two African Americans on the court, and he stresses the need for the court to reflect the state's diversity.

Ervin vs. Ruth

Democrats Sam Ervin IV and Kristin Ruth are vying for Associate Judge John Tyson's seat.

Ervin is a Morganton attorney who has served on the N.C. Utilities Commission since 1999. He says he has practiced a wide range of law, and has handled “numerous” appeals to the N.C. Supreme Court.

Ruth, of New Hill, has been a district court judge in Wake County since 1998. She cites her work in creating a child support court that emphasized helping parents find work and getting them help for drug and alcohol abuse.

Hunter vs. Arrowood

Attorney Robert Hunter of Greensboro is challenging incumbent John Arrowood of Charlotte. Hunter was chairman of the State Board of Elections when Republican Jim Martin served as governor. Arrowood is a former member of the N.C. Democratic Party's State Executive Committee appointed to the appeals court last year by Democratic Gov. Mike Easley.

Beasley vs. McCullough

District Court Judge Cheri Beasley of Fayetteville is challenging incumbent Doug McCullough for a seat.

McCullough, an Atlantic Beach Republican, is running for a second term on the court and lists three former chief justices as supporters.

Last year, McCullough received a public reprimand from the Judicial Standards Commission for driving while impaired on Oct. 7, 2006, in Carteret County. He was the subject of another complaint to the commission in 2007 – that he made openly partisan remarks about another judicial contest. The commission did not punish him, but said an effort was made to “ensure such conduct is not repeated.”

Beasley cites her nearly 10 years experience as a district judge, much of it presiding in family and juvenile courts, and her endorsements from groups ranging from the N.C. Academy of Trial Lawyers to three of the state's major law enforcement organizations.

Barrett vs. Stephens

Dan Barrett, a Republican from Advance, is challenging incumbent Democrat Linda Stephens.

Barrett is a former chairman of the Davie County Board of Commissioners and an attorney with his own practice. Stephens was appointed to the court by Easley in 2006 and was a deputy commissioner for the N.C. Industrial Commission from 1980 to 1984. She became the first female president of the N.C. Association of Defense Attorneys in 2001.