Full Legal Name: Barbara Jackson
Name as it Appears on the Ballot: Barbara Jackson
Seat Sought: Associate Justice, Supreme Court, Brady Seat
Partisan Affiliation: Republican
Date of Birth: 12/25/1961
Home Address: 2412 Wentworth St. Raleigh, NC 27612
Mailing Address (if different from home): PO Box 31503 Raleigh, NC 27622
Campaign Web Site: www.judgebarbarajackson.com
Occupation & Employer: Judge, North Carolina Court of Appeals
Bachelor's Degree Year & Institution: B.A., UNC-CH 1984
JD Year & School: J.D. UNC-CH 1990
Other Degrees: Legal Assistant's Program, Meredith College 1986
Years lived in North Carolina: 44
Home Phone: (919)803-6465
1. What important issues might the NC Supreme Court decide in the next term? What is your position on those issues?
Of course, capital defendants have a direct right of appeal to the NC Supreme Court and these cases always present issues of great import. In addition, Goldston v. State of North Carolina, a September 2009 Court of Appeals decision in which I concurred, also has been appealed to the Supreme Court.
Goldston concerned a taxpayer challenge to the Governor's and the General Assembly's authority to transfer taxes collected for use by the North Carolina Highway Trust Fund. The Court of Appeals determined that, although the General Assembly had the power to make such transfers, the Governor did not. Then Governor Easley had argued that he had the power to make such transfers in order to balance the budget pursuant to his constitutional obligation to "effectuate the necessary economies." Instead of permitting a transfer of money, the Court stated that this provision required that the Governor reduce expenditures, rather than transfer money absent explicit authorization from the General Assembly. As I stated, I concurred in the majority opinion in this case and as it currently is pending before the Supreme Court, I think it would be improper for me to comment further.
2. What qualifies you to serve?
Almost twenty years ago, I began my legal career clerking for (then Associate) Justice Burley B. Mitchell, Jr. of the Supreme Court of North Carolina. To return to our State's highest court as a Justice is the best way I can continue to serve the public in the legal profession. I believe that the opportunity to offer a fair and balanced perspective motivated by a passion for the law is the highest calling for an attorney. It has been, and will continue to be my goal to render consistent justice to the citizens and the attorneys of the State of North Carolina.
I am almost a North Carolina native, having moved here at age three. I graduated from the Wake County public schools and received both my undergraduate and law degrees from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
After my clerkship at the Supreme Court, I spent just over a year in the office of Governor Jim Martin.
Prior to joining the Court of Appeals in 2004, I practiced law for over fourteen years in a wide variety of legal and professional settings. I practiced in North Carolina state and federal courts, and have even petitioned the United States Supreme Court for a writ of certiorari. In addition to these traditional legal forums, I had the opportunity to practice extensively before municipal Boards of Adjustment—quasi-judicial bodies—and elected city councils, county commissioners, town boards of aldermen. Also, I conducted both residential and commercial real estate closings.
My practice areas included state constitutional law and matters of executive clemency, among others, while in the Governor's Office; special education and disability law while with the Governor's Advocacy Council for Persons with Disabilities; local government and municipal law, real property and employment law while in private practice; and the Occupational Safety and Health Act, the Wage and Hour Act; and the NC State Personnel Act in my position as General Counsel to the NC Department of Labor.
My commitment to public service is strong as demonstrated by my record of employment. My background contains the breadth of experience necessary to serve as an effective Justice on the Supreme Court of North Carolina and I have a proven record of demonstrating the necessary judicial temperament. For these reasons, I am asking the citizens of North Carolina to support my candidacy for the Supreme Court.
3. How do you define yourself politically? How does that impact your judicial approach?
Obviously, it is a matter of public record that I am a registered Republican. However, my office is nonpartisan and I sincerely believe that my decisions have been nonpartisan, always choosing to follow the law, rather than a partisan agenda. I have always sought to follow my judicial philosophy, which is grounded in the fact that North Carolina's Constitution contains a mandatory separation of powers clause. I believe that it is the duty of the judicial branch to judge fairly and impartially, and within the limitations provided by the constitution and laws of the state. Judges should judge, not legislate. During my five years on the Court of Appeals, I have done my best to stand by this philosophy, and I pledge to continue to do so if elected to the Supreme Court.
4. What have been your most important decisions in your current capacity?
As I prepared my answer to this question, I reviewed the opinions I had authored and in which I had participated over the past five years on the Court. Each judge hears approximately three hundred opinions, of which she is responsible for authoring one third. I would like to direct you to three of the decisions that I authored that I believe represent some of my best work. The first is a decision interpreting North Carolina's Public Records Act. In Womack Newspapers, Inc. v. Town of Kitty Hawk, 181 N.C. App. 1, 639 S.E.2d 96 (2007), a newspaper filed and an action seeking access to and copies of the detailed billing records of the Kitty Hawk Town Attorney, as well as certain other documentation associated with the Town's oceanfront condemnations. The Court of Appeals ruled in favor of the newspaper, holding that the records were public, even though they were held by the Town's contract attorney—a private law firm. The Court's decision concluded that to allow privately retained attorney's to shield otherwise public records would create a substantial loophole in the Act.
In the Matter of J.G., 186 N.C. App. 496, 652 S..E.2d 266 (2007). This case involved a juvenile who was in the custody of DSS. DSS was the payee on his social security benefits and was choosing to reimburse itself rather than make payments on a Habitat home the juvenile's father had left to him. The home was valued at $80,000 and had an outstanding mortgage of approximately $27,000. We affirmed the trial court's order that DSS was required to make the payments on the house.
The third item I would direct your attention to is the dissenting opinion in Thornton v. Cherry Hospital, 183 N.C. App. 177, 644 S.E.2d 369 (2007). In this case, a patient involuntarily committed to one of the State's psychiatric hospital's had brought a Tort Claims action before the Industrial Commission alleging that the health care providers breached the standard of care. He appealed the denial of his claim. My dissent was based, in part, upon the majority's determination that he had been contributorily negligent in provoking an attack by his fellow patients. Our standard for contributory negligence is that of a "reasonable person." As I noted in the dissent, "while plaintiff admits his role in provoking the attack, it defies logic to hold that an individual who has been involuntarily committed due to mental illness can be considered a "reasonable person." Plaintiff was involuntarily committed because he was a danger to himself and because he was incapable of acting as a reasonable person. Thus, I believe that to hold plaintiff to the standard of a "reasonable person" or an "ordinarily prudent person" is improper, and his actions should not bar his claim of negligence." Although this dissent was not adopted by the Supreme Court, I still believe that it was important to my campaign to serve on that Court in that it demonstrates my knowledge of mental health issues, an important asset I would bring to the Supreme Court and that I believe is necessary at this time.
I hope these three opinions give you some insight into the person and the judge that I am and the justice that I aspire to be.
5. What do you feel was the U.S. Supreme Court's most important recent decision? Did you agree with the majority?
It is difficult to single out one decision by the Supreme Court that is most important, however, because of its relevance to I do, I would cite to Caperton v. Massey. In that case, West Virginia Supreme Court Justice Brent Benjamin refused to recuse himself from the appeal of a $50 million jury verdict involving a business whose owner had contributed $3 million to Justice Benjamin's campaign. That amount represented over one-half of the total amount spent on the campaign. Writing for the majority, Justice Kennedy stated that, "We conclude that there is a serious risk of actual bias - based on objective and reasonable perceptions - when a person with a personal stake in a particular case had a significant and disproportionate influence in placing the judge on the case by raising funds or directing the judge's election campaign when the case was pending or imminent. The inquiry centers on the contribution's relative size in comparison to the total amount of money contributed to the campaign, the total amount spent in the election, and the apparent effect such contribution had on the outcome of the election."
"Justice Benjamin did undertake an extensive search for actual bias. But, as we have indicated, that is just one step in the judicial process; objective standards may also require recusal whether or not actual bias exists or can be proved...The failure to consider objective standards requiring recusal is not consistent with the imperatives of due process."
I agree with the Court's decision in this case.
6. Do you feel that North Carolina's current system of judicial elections serves the state well? Are there other forms of selecting judges you feel would function better or worse than the current one?
I was elected to the Court of Appeals in 2004 by defeating a judge who had been appointed by the Governor. Although I would not be a judge had I not been elected in our current system of judicial elections, I do not believe it is the best system of selecting judges. As I campaigned during 2004 and as I have observed my colleagues during their own campaigns during the intervening years, it is clear that too few members of the electorate know who we judges are and how to evaluate our abilities in office. Many votes that I have spoken with have expressed this sentiment to me during this time.
There are many different systems adopted by other states that offer good models that North Carolina could choose to follow. From my own perspective, I believe a system that involves some type of commission review, appointment by the Governor and ability for the voters to retain or reject after a reasonable period of time could prove successful. In any event, however, this clearly is a decision for the people through their elected representatives in the General Assembly and likely would require amending the Constitution.
7. There have been a number of legislative actions regarding the death penalty, including the passage of the N.C. Racial Justice Act. How should the N.C. Supreme Court interpret and apply the Racial Justice Act? What are the implications of this law for the court?
As I am running for a seat on the N.C. Supreme Court, I do not believe that it would be appropriate for me to state how the Court should interpret and apply the Racial Justice Act. That will be a matter of first impression and great import for that Court. Certainly, I am aware that Republican Party of Minnesota v. White, 536 U.S. 765 (2002), has been interpreted to allow judicial candidates to answer specific questions about disputed legal issues pursuant to the First Amendment of our Constitution. However, my reading and understanding of Canon 2 of the North Carolina Code of Judicial Conduct also imposes an obligation upon me to conduct myself "in a manner that promotes public confidence in the integrity and impartiality of the judiciary." It is my understanding that agreeing with or disagreeing with a specific case or taking a position upon a specific issue would require me to recuse or disqualify myself from hearing cases addressing these issues in the future. I do not believe that would serve either me or The Independent's reading public well.
As to the implications of the law, that is an open question. I foresee two possible scenarios. First, if the State continues to prosecute capital cases with the same frequency as it has in the past, I would anticipate more appeals of these cases based upon this new law. The second scenario I could foresee is that the law could act as a deterrent to the State's capital prosecutions. Only time will tell which outcome is correct.
8. The establishment of the N.C. Innocence Commission and other actions have recently been taken to minimize the risk of incarcerating innocent people. Is the problem of innocents convicted of crimes as significant as these actions would seem to indicate? What, if anything, can you do as a judge to improve the system in this regard?
I applaud former Chief Justice Lake's decision to establish the Innocence Commission and Chief Justice Parker's decision to continue its work. I firmly believe that our system of justice in this country with the right to trial by jury, the right to counsel, and the right of appeal is the best system available; however it is not perfect and the Innocence Commission provides a unique check and balance as an added safeguard within the system.
One way that we judges can do our part to ensure the best available justice for criminal defendants is to carefully examine the available evidence in each case presented to us and to apply the law fairly and impartially in each of those cases. I seek to do this with every case that comes before me on appeal and hope that this is reflected in my work.
9. Have you ever recused yourself from a case or, as a lawyer, faced a conflict of interest? Please describe the case.
I have recused myself from a number of cases since joining the Court of Appeals. Although I keep a "conflicts list" of attorneys, firms and businesses whose cases I will recuse myself from, I do not keep a list of those cases from which I have recused myself in the past. Generally, the list includes my closest personal friends within the legal profession and businesses listed on my Ethics Report.
Just as I do now as a judge, when I was a practicing attorney, when confronted with a conflict of interest, I advised my client and moved forward accordingly. If necessary, I withdrew from the matter. If my client was comfortable with my continued service and it was permitted by the Rules of Professional Conduct, I continued to represent the client. Always, I would err on the side of caution in choosing whether or not to continue to represent a client when even the appearance of impropriety existed.
10. What are your views on the public fallout after the court's ruling on a law that defines a life sentence as 80 years? What precedent has been set by this decision?
Since Bayard v. Singleton, 1 N.C. 5 (1787)—which predates the Marbury v. Madison decision by the United States Supreme Court—it has been the duty of the courts to perform the task of judicial review. Our State's mandatory separation of powers clause accords this power to the judicial, not the executive branch. As there are still cases pending regarding this issue, I believe the precedent set by this decision remains unclear at this time beyond the Court's clear affirmation of the Court of Appeals' decision that, during a limited time in the late 1970s, a life sentence as defined by the General Assembly, was a term of 80 years.