Opinion

Why we should appoint local judges

In Mecklenburg County, a wealthy man who has never practiced law but who got angry over his divorce – in which a judge awarded his ex-wife a little more than half their joint estate – just got elected to the bench. The man he ousted? The judge in his divorce case.

If you want an illustration of why it's nuts to elect District Court judges in North Carolina, we can't think of a better illustration than Tuesday's election of Bill Belk as a District Court judge.

Belk is a millionaire heir in the well-known department store family. He has a law degree and a license but he has never practiced law as a career. He ran against Ben Thalheimer because he got mad over how his divorce was handled.

Many in the legal community are aghast at what Belk's election implies: That judges have to take care not to anger rich, influential people who could use their money and big names to oust the judge. That's the opposite of what a justice system should be.

We've said plenty of times before: North Carolina should switch to a system in which judges are appointed from a list of candidates chosen by a panel. After a set period of time, voters could then opt to retain or oust the judge.

Bill Belk has no business on the bench. The people of this county deserve better.

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