Opinion

We recommend four for Court of Appeals

In Friday's editions the Observer endorsed Judge James (Jim) Wynn for a term on the N.C. Court of Appeals, one of six appeals court seats on the ballot in the Nov. 4 election. Also on the ballot this fall is Chief Judge John Martin, who has no opposition in the nonpartisan court elections and who will serve another term. There are four other races for the Court of Appeals, which handles appeals from the trial courts except for capital punishment and redistricting cases. Here are our recommendations for these four races:

Sam J. Ervin IV

Two candidates are seeking the seat held by John Tyson for eight years. Sam Ervin IV, 52, practiced law in Morganton for 18 years before being appointed to the N.C. Utilities Commission. Kristin Ruth has been a District Court judge in Wake County for 10 years.

Either would make a fine appellate court judge, but we recommend Ervin.

Ervin has handled a wide range of civil, criminal and administrative matters, including appeals to the state's two high courts. On the Utilities Commission he has worked on complex issues, including the rate freeze provisions of the Clean Smokestacks Act.

Ruth has concentrated on the enforcement of child support and won national attention for her use of a pilot program with a high success rate. She is passionate and knowledgeable about family law and a capable choice for the higher court.

Yet Ervin's generalist background fits a gap in the court's current make-up. He has handled everything from capital murder cases to complex utility law. That, along with his intellect and his superior grasp of the role and usefulness of the Appeals Court make him the best choice.

We recommend Sam Ervin IV.

Doug McCullough

McCullough, of Atlantic Beach, is seeking another term. He is being challenged by District Court Judge Cheri Beasley of Fayetteville. Both are committed public servants, but our nod goes to Doug McCullough for his extensive experience as a lawyer and his commitment to fairness in the courtroom.

Cheri Beasley's experience is also varied. She has done corporate legal work, was a volunteer attorney in the Wake County district attorney's office, was a member of the Cumberland County public defender's office for five years and has been a district judge since 1999. She is a family court judge and certified juvenile court judge who has handled both civil and criminal cases. Judge Beasley is a fair-minded jurist concerned about youth who appear before her in court. She has served her community well and would be an outstanding appellate judge.

Doug McCullough's extensive resume includes 29 years in the Marines on active and reserve duty, service in Washington as counsel of the Senate Ethics Committee and several stints as acting U.S. Attorney. He has also been in private practice and was elected to the court in 2000. While in the U.S. Attorney's office in Eastern N.C. he played a key role in a drug investigation that eventually led to the apprehension of Panama dictator Manuel Noriega. More recently he wrote an important decision in a Durham case that found prosecutors had violated a defendant's right to a speedy trial – and that prosecutors had likely charged the wrong man. Judge McCullough has a serious blemish on his record, a reprimand from the Judicial Standards Commission for a DWI in 2006 that raised questions about his private conduct. That does not diminish his distinguished service in the military, on the congressional staff, as a prosecutor and as a judge. The Observer recommends Douglas McCullough for another term.

Linda Stephens

The campaign for the seat held by Judge Linda Stephens also features two excellent candidates. Former Davie County Commissioner Dan Barrett is challenging Stephens for an eight-year term.

Barrett attracted a lot of favorable attention in 2004 when he ran unsuccessfully for the Republican nomination for governor. He is a capable lawyer who has worked in private practice and who also served as chairman of the Davie Hospital board of trustees. He has written a book about N.C. employment law and has chaired the labor and employment law section of the N.C. Bar Association. His approach to public life is open and earnest. He's a problem-solver with a conservative point of view, and there ought to be a place in North Carolina public affairs for this well-grounded candidate.

Linda Stephens wins our nod for a full term on the Court of Appeals for her considerable experience as a lawyer, an effective advocate for her clients and her work first as a staff member and later a judge of the Court of Appeals. She clerked for Judge Fred Hedrick nearly 30 years ago, became a deputy commissioner of the N.C. Industrial Commission, which decides workers' compensation cases, and worked in private practice. She has been involved in a long list of professional associations and community endeavors and has been recognized as one of the best lawyers in the state. Her expertise in employment law, her work ethic and her passion for the job make her unusually well qualified for a full term. The Observer recommends Linda Stephens for Court of Appeals.

John Arrowwood

The final appellate race on the ballot also features two excellent candidates. They are Judge John Arrowood of Charlotte and Greensboro attorney Robert N. (Bob) Hunter. Both candidates are well qualified and either would do a good job.

John Arrowood has served in a number of posts, including the board of the North Carolina Railroad, a member of the N.C. Banking Commission and as member of the N.C. Rules Review Commission and the N.C. Arts Council. He clerked for former appellate Judge Gerald Arnold and was director of the court staff before going into private practice in Charlotte. He has been a special Superior Court judge, and was appointed to a Court of Appeals vacancy in 2007 by Gov. Mike Easley.

Bob Hunter also has had a distinguished career, service as a deputy attorney general and as chairman of the State Board of Elections. He has also chaired a bar association section on constitutional law, has worked with a program that helps provide counseling to lawyers who need it and served on a panel that wrote the rules for conducting nonpartisan judicial elections in North Carolina. He is also well known for representing the Republican Party in disputes over redistricting cases and has won key rulings that required the drawing of new districts to meet constitutional muster. We believe both men are exceptionally well qualified for the Court of Appeals, and the public would be well served by either. Because of his previous experience as a Superior Court judge and his year on the Court of Appeals, the Observer recommends John Arrowood.

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