Unlike many of the statewide races, the judicial races are often overlooked and the ones most shrouded in mystery due to voters’ lack of knowledge on the candidates and their offices. In North Carolina, judges run on partisan tickets, which is noted next to each candidate’s name below.

For this article, Triad City Beat used candidate responses compiled by the North Carolina Association of Defense Attorneys as well as information gathered from candidate websites and news reports. Full candidate responses can be viewed online here.

The NC Association of Defense Attorneys (NCADA) is a professional association for civil trial lawyers representing the interests of business, industry, insurance companies and individuals. The association has also made endorsements via their NC Defense Fund PAC this summer. They endorsed both Democrats and Republicans.

Candidates are listed alphabetically by last name first. Incumbents are listed first.

Find our complete Election Guide here.

The NC Supreme Court is the state’s highest court with one chief justice and six associate justices who review cases from the NC Court of Appeals, NC Business Court and cases involving the death penalty.

Supreme Court Associate Justice – Seat 3

Richard Dietz (R)

Richard Dietz has served on the Court of Appeals for the last eight years and said he wants to serve as a Supreme Court Associate Justice as the next step. Dietz said he’s argued cases in appellate courts across the country, including the US Supreme Court. He prides himself on being a consensus-builder and said that he’s never authored a dissent.

“It’s not because I’m afraid to dissent…,” Dietz said. “But because I respect my colleagues, I listen to their views and I work hard to persuade them to reach consensus and a just result.”

Dietz also noted that he prioritizes being a judge, not a politician.

“Every judicial candidate claims they want politics out of our courts, but most can’t back it up,” he said. “I’ll never spam your inbox with emails about my campaign, asking you to chip in another $5. Politicians do that. When you hear from me, it will be about my work on the court.”

Lucy Inman (D)

Lucy Inman has served as a judge for the last 12 years, and as a Court of Appeals judge since 2014. In 2020, she narrowly lost to Phil Berger Jr. in her run for NC Supreme Court. Unlike Dietz, Inman said that she’s written dissenting opinions, including ones later adopted by the Supreme Court.

In an interview with NC Policy Watch, Inman said that “systemic racism has permeated our society, including our criminal justice system throughout history and my lifetime, because many of our legal authorities, including the criminal law, were written at a time when people of all races were not treated equally under the law.”

Like Dietz, Inman also stated that “party affiliation is not and certainly should not be a monolithic predictor of how a judge or justice is going to decide cases.”

Supreme Court Associate Justice – Seat 5

Sam J. Ervin IV (D, i)

Sam Ervin IV has served as associate justice since 2015. Prior to that, he served as an appellate court judge and as the NC Utilities Commissioner. Like others running for office, Ervin mentioned how politics has become highly partisan and affects offices that shouldn’t be swayed by politics.

“A fair and impartial judiciary is critical to our system of government,” he said. “Unfortunately, we live in a hyper-partisan era in which some view the judiciary as simply another political body and in which partisan politics plays an increasingly important role in judicial elections.”

During a candidate forum on Oct. 26, Ervin sidestepped whether he favored originalism or living constitutionalism, or the idea that a constitution’s meaning can evolve over time.

“I’ve always felt like this ‘originalism-living constitution’ discussion involves a false dichotomy,” he said in an NC Policy Watch article. “Those are two academic theories. We have laws in this state that say how the constitution is supposed to be interpreted, and those are the rules that I follow.”

Trey Allen (R)

Ervin’s opponent, Trey Allen, on other hand, stated that “originalism would act as the boundary for judges.” Still, during the candidate forum, he admitted that it’s difficult in North Carolina because the state has adopted three constitutions: in 1776, after the Civil War in 1868 and again in 1971.

“I am running to restore public confidence in the judiciary’s impartiality,” he said in his NCADA answers. “If elected, I will be guided by the text and original understanding of the Constitution in cases that raise constitutional issues.”

Allen has served as General Counsel for the NC Administrative Office since January 2021. In that role, he leads an office of 10 attorneys. His legal career has spanned 22 years, mostly devoted to civil litigation. He spent time in the marine corps, most of that time as a judge advocate in Okinawa, Japan where he advised generals on military justice.

The NC Court of Appeals is the state’s intermediate appellate court and it reviews cases first decided in District and Superior Courts. Currently 15 judges sit on rotating panels of three. All judges serve eight-year terms.

Court of Appeals Judge – Seat 8

Julee Tate Flood (R)

Julee Tate Flood currently serves as a judicial law clerk attorney. According to the UNC School of Law, “judicial clerkships are one- to two-year paid, post-graduate positions with federal, state, and some local judges.” Typical responsibilities include analyzing cases, recommending dispositions, as well as drafting opinions and orders of the court. Clerks may also assist in trials, oral arguments and other courtroom procedures.

Flood states that she will bring this experience if she is elected.

In her answers she said her judicial philosophy is “rooted in textualism.”

“I follow the rule of law as written in federal and state constitutions, acts of the legislature, and

precedential cases,” she said.

She has taught at Elon Law, Duke University and at the University of Tennessee.

Carolyn Jennings Thompson (D)

Carolyn Jennings Thompson is a former District Court judge and Superior Court judge with more than 25 years of combined legal and judicial experience. She said she will uphold the laws and constitution consistently if elected.

Much of her past work included prosecuting petitions of abuse, neglect and nonsupport of children.

“In my role as a District Court judge, I successfully advocated changing our court dockets so that domestic violence cases could be heard separate from the general civil court,” she said.

Thompson is also a state-certified mediator for Superior Court cases. She went to Hampton University where she received her bachelor of arts degree and NC Central University School of Law for her juris doctor degree.

Court of Appeals Judge – Seat 9

Donna Stroud (R, i)

Donna Stroud was first elected to the Court of Appeals in 2006 and re-elected in 2014 without opposition. She has served as chief judge since January 2021.

As a longtime incumbent, Stroud pointed to her years of experience as crucial to the courts.

“Experienced leadership is crucial for the court at this time, as we work to improve internal court processes to adapt to changes in the ways our judges and staff work following the Covid-19

pandemic and as we work to improve electronic filing and document management processes both internally and for the public,” she said.

Working to improve the court is a passion for Stroud who said she has served as chair of the Chief Justice’s Rules Advisory Commission, on the Chief Justice’s Commission on Professionalism, the Family Court Advisory Commission, the Courts Commission and the NCBA Appellate Rules Committee.

Brad A. Salmon (D)

After graduating from Campbell Law School, Brad A. Salmon started a small-town law practice with his sister-in-law. There they focused primarily on criminal defense, but also on civil and administrative areas as well. Salmon said he was also one of two defense attorneys appointed to the District 11 A Veterans Treatment Court.

“The zealous advocacy of the rights of the accused are among the most important tenants [sic] of our free society,” he wrote.

In 2014, Salmon was elected to represent Lee and Harnett Counties in the NC General Assembly. During his tenure, he sponsored legislation advocating for veterans, protecting pollinators and expanding tuition assistance.

In 2021, he was appointed by Gov. Cooper to be a District Court Judge in District 11.

“Should I be able to serve on the Court of Appeals, I will bring the experiences of being a lawmaker, a lawyer, and a judge to the bench,” he said.

Court of Appeals Judge Seat 10

John M. Tyson (R, i)

John Tyson was elected in 2014 and currently serves on the NC Court of Appeals and as the Vice Chair of the NC Dispute Resolution Commission. Previously, he was appointed by

the Governor as Chairman of the North Carolina State Ethics Commission. He also served as a statewide elected Judge on the North Carolina Court of Appeals from 2001 until 2009 and as a Recall Judge from 2009-14.

In addition to his judicial career, Tyson has served as a school teacher, probation officer, sheriff’s deputy and as a senior level corporate real estate developer. He also served in state military service.

On his website, it notes that Tyson “maintains a conservative judicial philosophy that protects individual freedoms, self-defense, private property, parental and rights of the unborn, and the separation of powers where the legislature makes policy.”

Gale Murray Adams (D)

After graduating from UNC-Chapel Hill and NC Central University School of Law, Gale Adams joined the Navy as a judge advocate general. In that role she represented those who were charged with various criminal and military offenses. After her stint with the military, Adams served as an assistant district attorney. She then joined the Office of the Federal Public Defender. In 2012, she was elected to serve as a resident Superior Court judge for Cumberland County where she presides over civil and criminal hearings and jury trials.

“I understand those who appear before me are counting on me to follow the law, to listen and be fair, and to treat them with dignity and respect; they deserve no less,” she said. “Whether they won or lost, when plaintiffs, defendants, victims, or attorneys leave my courtroom, I want them to feel like they were heard and that my decisions were fair.”

Court of Appeals Judge Seat 11

Darren Jackson (D, i)

In his 25 years of practice, incumbent Darren Jackson litigated criminal and civil cases in all levels of court from small claims court to the NC Supreme Court. He was appointed to the Court of Appeals in December 2020 by Gov. Cooper and has written more than 90 opinions, including 11 dissents.

Jackson said he’s mindful of the court’s 90-day deadline.

Jackson previously served in the NC General Assembly as the District 39 House Rep. before being appointed by Gov. Cooper to the Court of Appeals. During his tenure, he introduced bills including ones that would have closed the Medicaid coverage gap, started a nonpartisan redistricting commission and adopted an equal rights amendment.

Michael J. Stading (R)

Michael J. Stading is a member of the Mecklenburg Chapter of the Sons of the American Revolution and the Charlotte chapter of the Federalist Society, a conservative and libertarian organization that advocates for original interpretation of the Constitution.

Stading was admitted to the state bar in 2006. Since then, he has served as an assistant district attorney in Mecklenburg County. In 2012 he became a board-certified specialist in NC criminal law. In 2019, Stading was sworn in as a special assistant US attorney to handle cases originating out of the Shaw Air Force base. He also provided legal services to the Fraternal Order of Police Lodge #9.

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