Elections » Candidate Questionnaires

John C. Martin

Candidate for N.C. Court of Appeals, Martin seat

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Name as it Appears on the Ballot: John C. Martin

Date of Birth: November 9, 1943

Campaign Web Site: www.judgejohnmartin.com

Occupation & Employer: Chief Judge, N.C. Court of Appeals, State of North Carolina

Years lived in North Carolina: 64+


1. What in your record as a judge, lawyer and/or public official, or other relevant positions, demonstrates your ability to be effective on the bench? This might include career or community service; be specific about its relevance to this office. When speaking about your legal experience, please be specific about the nature of positions held, and whether you were hired, appointed or elected.

I have served as a judge in North Carolina for nearly twenty-six years, seven as an appointed and then elected Superior Court judge, and nineteen as an elected member of the North Carolina Court of Appeals. I believe that access to justice means access to fair, impartial, and neutral courts and judges, who are free from direct or indirect influence from anyone, or any group, or from other branches of government. For the past nearly five years, it has been my great honor to serve as the chief judge of the Court of Appeals. During that time, the Court has completely eliminated the backlog of cases which had previously existed and has substantially reduced the time required for cases to progress through the appellate process, especially those cases involving abused and neglected children. In addition, I have served for nearly eight years as Chairman of the North Carolina Judicial Standards Commission, and drafted and secured passage of legislation to expand the Commission and implement improved procedures for investigation of complaints of judicial misconduct. I have also been active in the field of judicial education in North Carolina and am currently serving on the North Carolina Judicial College Advisory Board (a part of the UNC-CH School of Government) and participate in providing judicial ethics and professionalism training for trial and appellate judges as well as law students and attorneys.

2. If you have experience as a judge, please cite at least one majority opinion, and one minority opinion, which you feel best demonstrate your understanding, and interpretation, of the law. If you have experience as a lawyer, please cite at least one case that you argued that demonstrates this understanding. (Please be specific; provide docket numbers, and—if necessary—include documents.) If you have other legal experience, please point to an article, opinion or other piece of writing that best demonstrates the same. Please indicate why you have chosen this particular opinion, case and/or piece of writing.

As an appellate judge, I have authored well over 2000 majority opinions, concurring opinions, or dissenting opinions. It would be an impossible task to select any one, or one hundred, of those opinions as demonstrative of my understanding and interpretation of law; I would hope that each of them has demonstrated my understanding of the law, and I believe that a study of any randomly selected representative sample of those opinions would evidence my ability and judicial philosophy, which is to work hard; apply the law fairly, impartially, and uniformly; and perform my judicial duties with courtesy, honesty, and integrity. I also believe that my endorsement by The North Carolina Academy of Trial Lawyers, The North Carolina Association of Defense Attorneys, The North Carolina Association of Women Attorneys, The North Carolina Association of Educators, The North Carolina AFL-CIO, and the North Carolina Chapter of the Fraternal Order of Police is evidence of my fair and balanced application of the law.

3. Have you ever recused yourself from a case or, as a lawyer, faced a conflict of interest? Please explain.

Yes. The North Carolina Code of Judicial Conduct, promulgated by the North Carolina Supreme Court, requires that "a judge should disqualify himself/herself in a proceeding in which the judge's impartiality may reasonably be questioned." Early in my judicial career, I recused myself from considering cases in which my former law firm was involved. In addition, in one or two instances, I have disqualified myself from considering cases which involved public corporations in which either my wife or myself owned any significant amount of stock. Finally, there are occasions when judges are named as defendants in lawsuits brought by dissatisfied litigants. In the single instance where I have been named as a defendant in such a suit, I have disqualified myself from considering subsequent appeals brought to the Court by the person who brought the suit.

4. In the case of N.C. v. Frank Delano Washington, which came before the N.C. Court of Appeals, all charges against Washington were dropped because, the appellate court determined, Washington's right to a speedy trial was denied. What is your interpretation of a defendant's right to a speedy trial, and what are the implications of releasing a convicted felon, in an effort to preserve that right? Please provide your opinion of the case, and the role you see judges playing in preserving constitutional rights, versus preserving public safety.

The North Carolina Code of Judicial Conduct requires that a judge "comply with the law and conduct himself/herself at all times in a manner that promotes public confidence in the integrity and impartiality of the judiciary." The Code also provides: "A judge should abstain from public comment about the merits of a pending proceeding in any state or federal court dealing with a case or controversy arising in North Carolina or addressing North Carolina law . . . ." The question seeks direct comment on a case decided by a panel of the Court of Appeals, and the issues presented therein, which may be reviewed by the North Carolina Supreme Court. Therefore, I must respectfully decline to comment.

5. This year, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled, in a 5-4 decision, that enemy combatants held in the United States Naval Base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba have a right to file habeas corpus petitions under the federal court system. What is your opinion of Boumediene v. Bush? More generally, what is your opinion of granting constitutional rights to enemy combatants captured in the "War on Terror"?

The North Carolina Code of Judicial Conduct requires that a judge "comply with the law and conduct himself/herself at all times in a manner that promotes public confidence in the integrity and impartiality of the judiciary." The Code also provides: "A judge should abstain from public comment about the merits of a pending proceeding in any state or federal court dealing with a case or controversy arising in North Carolina or addressing North Carolina law . . . ." The question seeks comment about a federal case involving federal law; if such a case involving federal law were to arise in North Carolina, the courts of this State would be bound to follow the decision of the United States Supreme Court, irrespective of the individual opinion of any individual judge.

6. One of the most controversial issues in this election year is illegal immigration. Recently, several N.C. counties—including Alamance, Johnston and Wake—have employed the 287(g) program, which streamlines local law enforcement and federal immigration enforcement. What is your opinion of these counties' handling of this program? Critics say that sheriff's departments in these counties are arresting non-citizens for petty offenses in order to enter them into federal deportation hearings, while local law enforcement agencies insist they are following the rule of law. As someone who, if elected, will interpret the law, what is your legal assessment of these arguments? More generally, can there be discretion in deciding when to apply the rule of law?

Because the precise issue framed by the question is likely to arise in North Carolina and be presented to North Carolina courts, it would be inappropriate for me, or any judge, to make a public statement or express an opinion without hearing the merits of the particular case and studying the law with respect thereto. Indeed, if I did so, I would then be required to disqualify myself from considering the case because my impartiality might "reasonably be questioned."

7. In Kimbrough v. U.S., the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the mandatory minimum sentencing laws for the possession of crack cocaine were unconstitutional. What is your opinion of this ruling, and on mandatory minimum sentencing laws in general? Should judges have more or less flexibility in the sentencing phase than currently allowed under North Carolina law? Finally, do you feel that state judges can ever apply discretion in interpreting cases differently than federal guidelines mandate? Please provide examples.

It is the function of the General Assembly to establish the policy of the State, and it has done so with the enactment of sentencing guidelines in North Carolina's Structured Sentencing Act. N.C. Gen. Stat., Chapt. 15A, Article 81B. Any change in that policy must be addressed by the General Assembly rather than the courts. Sentencing guidelines enacted by the General Assembly do allow judges in North Carolina to exercise some limited flexibility in sentencing persons convicted of criminal offenses.

8. Does the North Carolina Constitution afford more rights than the federal Constitution, or the same?

The North Carolina Constitution does provide broader fundamental liberty guarantees than the federal consitution. For example, the Declaration of Rights contained in Article I of the North Carolina Constitution contains a longer list of rights than the Bill of Rights in the federal constitution, the rights are generally described more specifically and in greater detail, and are stated in terms of the rights secured to the people rather than in terms of government acts which are prohibited.

9. Do you think that drug courts and mental-health courts have a place in the North Carolina judicial system? What is your opinion on "alternative sentencing" and restorative justice? Have you ever issued judgments, or advocated for judgments, that emphasize a mutual resolution between victims and defendants, and/or judgments that emphasize treatment over punishment? Please be specific.

Although, as an appellate judge, I have no first-hand experience with drug courts, I am told by district court judges that drug courts are somewhat successful in rehabilitation efforts and in diverting some individuals from the criminal courts and prisons. If that is true, they appear to have a place in the justice system and to warrant additional resources.

As an appellate court, the North Carolina Court of Appeals does not render the kinds of judgments to which the second part of your question refers. The Court does operate a voluntary appellate mediation program in certain kinds of civil cases which attempts to bring opposing parties to a mutual resolution of their dispute.

10. What is your interpretation of the purpose of bail?

The General Assembly has established the policy of the State with respect to the purpose of bail and has required that any defendant charged with a noncapital offense must have the conditions of pretrial release determined by a judicial official, under criteria primarily designed to reasonably assure the appearance of the accused person at trial. Under that policy, as contained in N.C. Gen. Stat. 15A-533 and 534, the safety of the community is not a factor which the court may consider in setting the conditions of secured bond, except in limited circumstances. Any change in that policy must be addressed by the General Assembly rather than the courts.

11. Do you favor or oppose applying a plain error review to all alleged errors in capital cases? Do you favor or oppose mandating appellate review in post-conviction capital cases to help avoid arbitrariness in review of post-conviction capital cases by superior court judges? Please explain.

Plain error review is a common law rule adopted by the North Carolina Supreme Court, and its application to non-capital cases reviewed by the Court of Appeals is limited to those instances prescribed by the Supreme Court. Its application to capital cases is solely a question for the Supreme Court.

Any requirement for mandatory appellate review of capital post-conviction proceedings would be a policy decision for the General Assembly.

12. Do you favor or oppose public financing of judicial races? In particular, how do you view Canon 7 of the N.C. Judicial Code of Conduct regarding the personal solicitation of campaign contributions, taking positions on issues and endorsing candidates for other offices? What changes would you make to the current system? Please explain.

I favor public financing of judicial campaigns and declared my intent to participate until the need to expend funds to campaign was obviated by my not having an opponent, at which time I withdrew from public financing. In my personal opinion, I do not think it is a good practice for judicial candidates to personally solicit campaign contributions, especially from attorneys and others likely to have matters before the Court and I did not do so. However, it is the sole province of the North Carolina Supreme Court to prescribe the minimum standards of permissible judicial conduct by the N.C. Code of Judicial Conduct; as a member and chair of the Judicial Standards Commission, it is my duty to apply the Code as promulgated by that Court.

The elimination of judicial selection by popular contested elections, and the institution of a merit-based selection and retention election system, would eliminate the need for many of the provisions of Canon 7 which regulate judicial campaign conduct.

13. The Independent's mission is to help build a just community in the Triangle. How would your election to office help further that goal?

As North Carolina continues to grow, our judicial system will face new challenges in terms of the number of cases, the complexity of those cases, and the changing demographics of our population. Just as highways, schools, and physical facilities are required to sustain orderly growth, our court system is an essential part of the infrastructure necessary for our State to continue to protect its citizens and provide an orderly method for them to resolve their disputes according to law. It is essential that the General Assembly provide North Carolina's Judicial Branch of government with the necessary support, including sufficient personnel and increasingly sophisticated technology, to keep pace with the ever changing and increasing demands which confront our courts. I am seeking another term in order to continue my efforts to improve the performance of the Court of Appeals and the quality of the important decisions entrusted to it. Even though I am seeking re-election without opposition, I would be honored to receive your vote.

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