Judicial Independence Revisited: Judicial Elections and Missouri Plan Challenges

BY Scott W. Gaylord

In Public Funding of Judicial Campaigns: The North Carolina Experience and the Activism of the Supreme Court, Professor Paul Carrington provides a thorough overview of the history of judicial selection in North Carolina as well as the alleged problems with judicial elections. In particular, Professor Carrington argues that recent Supreme Court decisions affecting the speech rights of judicial candidates and their supporters have created a “national crisis” and have rendered North Carolina’s election of judges “unworkable.” As a result, Professor Carrington contends that North Carolina should amend its constitution to adopt a merit-based selection system based on the Missouri Plan.

Fortunately, North Carolina has not experienced a crisis of judicial independence or integrity. While there may be no perfect way to select judges, judicial elections in North Carolina have ensured that the judiciary remains independent of the other branches of government and that judges remain directly accountable to the people. The merit-based proposal championed by Professor Carrington and the State Bar Association removes that accountability, giving an unelected nominating committee of legal elites the authority to determine who will serve as judges in North Carolina. As a result, voters should be cautious before amending a provision of the North Carolina Constitution that has served them well for more than 140 years.

DOWNLOAD PDF | 90 N.C. L. Rev. Addendum 61 (2012)