Name as it appears on ballot: Robert H. (Bob) Edmunds
Campaign website: www.JusticeEdmunds.com
Phone number: (919) 230-1589
Years lived in the state: 60 years
Please tell us what in your record as a public official or private citizen demonstrates your ability to be effective, fair, and impartial on the bench? These might include career or community service―please be specific.
Before and during my eighteen years on the bench, I have been involved in many bar projects and other activities involving community service. As a member and former officer in the Greensboro Bar Association, and later as a judge and Justice, I have worked on Habitat for Humanity homes, served at Potters House, and participated in regular Sussman Street Park cleanups, etc. As a Justice, I have taught as an adjunct professor at Campbell University School of Law, been the 2015 program chair for the Appellate Judges Education Institute, and been named chair-elect of the Appellate Judges Conference of the American Bar Association, among other positions. I have frequently taught courses on appellate practice and ethics at Continuing Legal Education courses for attorneys and judges. I am a member of Rotary. Additional information is available at my web site.
What do you believe qualifies you to serve on the state’s highest court?
I have been an appellate judge or Justice for eighteen years. During that time, I have written or participated in opinions that protected the rights of consumers (e.g., Christie v. Hartley Construction, Inc., 367 N.C. 534 (2014), Evans v. Housing Authority, 359 N.C. 50 (2004), Walker v. Fleetwood Homes, 362 N.C. 63 (2007)); that assured public access to records (e.g., SEANC v. N.C. Dep’t of State Treasurer, 364 N.C. 205 (2010), Carter-Hubbard Publishing Co. V. WRMC Hospital Operating Corporation, 361 N.C. 233 (2007)); and that defended the rights of those criminally charged (e.g., State v. Haselden, 357 N.C. 1 (2003) (dissenting). These opinions, among others, demonstrate my abilities as a Justice.
How do you define yourself politically? How does that impact your judicial approach?
I am a registered Republican. Consistent with my oath of office, my political beliefs do not influence my work as a Justice.
What do you believe are the three most important qualities a judge must have to be an effective jurist? Which judges, past or present, do you most admire? Why?
First, judges and Justices must be independent. Second, judges and Justices must be fair. Third, judges and Justices must be willing to learn and to bring their experiences in areas other than judging to the bench. The judges I most admire include the district court judges I worked with when I first began practice. They often had to make agonizing decisions in cases that received extensive local publicity. I saw some make decisions that could have, and sometimes did, cost them re-election.
The INDY’s mission is to help build a more just community in the Triangle. How would your election help further that goal?
The Supreme Court, working with the Administrative Office of the Courts, is committed to fair courts and access to justice. Since becoming Chief Justice, Mark Martin has commissioned numerous commissions exploring various avenues in pursuit of these goals.
What do you think are the three most crucial issues facing the state’s judicial system at this moment? Explain how, if elected, you’d help remedy those issues.
Litigants who are appearing pro se are causing increasing congestion in the courts. These litigants may see meritorious cases lost because they are unfamiliar with the intricacies of law and procedure. Although I have seen a pro se plaintiff win in the Supreme Court, that case was exceptional. Second, ensuring access to justice for indigents remains a problem. I contribute personally to various legal aid organizations because of the importance of their work. Finally, the courts are behind in technology. The Chief Justice and the Administrative Office of the Courts are working with the General Assembly to improve internet access in all courthouses, digital filing, updated equipment, etc.
What do you think is the most important decision the N.C. Supreme Court has made in the past five years? Explain why you think so.
North Carolina Association of Educators v. State of North Carolina, 786 S.E.2d 255 (2016). The General Assembly, in an apparent effort to save money, stripped career status from teachers who had already earned it. The case, grounded on the Contracts Clause of the Constitution of the United States, ensured that the government could not take vested rights from its citizens.
In a sentence, what is your judicial philosophy?
Do no harm, respect the rule of law, understand the importance of the separation of powers, and acknowledge the importance of precedent.
What do you think the role of the court is in government? Judges are often accused of “legislating from the bench.” When is checking the power of the legislature and the governor appropriate?
The Supreme Court of North Carolina routinely exercises its responsibilities in enforcing the separation of powers. In State ex. rel. McCrory v. Berger, 368 N.C. 633 (2015), the Court found that the General Assembly had improperly intruded on the right of the governor to make appointments to executive boards. In Kirby v. N.C. Department of Transportation, 786 S.E.2d 919 (2016), the Court limited the General Assembly’s ability to tie up the rights of property owners in areas where highways were planned. In reviewing actions made by executive agencies, the Court gives some deference to the agency’s interpretation of applicable statutes, those interpretations are not bindings. Hensley v. N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources, 364 N.C. 285 (2010). The Court has shown that it acts as the umpire between the Executive and Legislative branches of government. As specifically noted in Hart v. State, 368 N.C. 122 (2015) and Wake Cares, Inc. v. Wake County Board of Education, 363 N.C. 165 (2009), the role of the Court is not to determine if an executive action or a legislative enactment is wise; the role of the Court is to determine whether it is legal and constitutional.
Do you believe that the current North Carolina Supreme Court is too partisan?
No. As of the date of the completion of this questionnaire, only three cases issued so far in 2016 were not unanimous. This statistic indicates that the Justices work together, whatever their party affiliation. Speaking from personal experience, I have not seen any of my colleagues make a decision based upon partisan or political considerations. Nor have I.
Who is the North Carolina Supreme Court Justice, current or former, you most respect?
I prefer not to pick among current members of the Court or living former Justices, all of whom I count as friends. Justice James Iredell is a favorite of those who served in the past.