Carolina Democracy

Fair & Impartial Courts (aka We Got Justice Ervin!)

September 26, 2022 JD Wooten Episode 38
Fair & Impartial Courts (aka We Got Justice Ervin!)
Carolina Democracy
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Carolina Democracy
Fair & Impartial Courts (aka We Got Justice Ervin!)
Sep 26, 2022 Episode 38
JD Wooten

Welcome back to Carolina Democracy! Today, we're joined by Justice Sam J. Ervin IV of the North Carolina Supreme Court, running for re-election to his seat. Plus, a few thoughts on partisan judicial elections and some other recent political updates from around North Carolina.

Learn More About Justice Sam J. Ervin IV:

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Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

Welcome back to Carolina Democracy! Today, we're joined by Justice Sam J. Ervin IV of the North Carolina Supreme Court, running for re-election to his seat. Plus, a few thoughts on partisan judicial elections and some other recent political updates from around North Carolina.

Learn More About Justice Sam J. Ervin IV:

Other Resources: 

Carolina Forward:

Contact Us:

Follow Us:

Support the Show.

Justice Ervin: It's up to the voters what kind of court system we want to have? And my concern is that we are at a crossroads in this state in terms of what kind of court system do we want? And I think there is a real risk that our courts may go in a direction that appears more political on face. [music transition]

JD Wooten: Hey everyone, welcome back to Carolina Democracy. I’m JD Wooten, and today we’re joined by Justice Sam J. Ervin IV of the North Carolina Supreme Court, and he’s running for re-election to his seat this year. We had a great conversation and we covered a wide range of things from his earliest memories of politics, for which he had a great answer, to how his family’s legacy of public service shaped his life, his own entry to public service as a member of the state utilities commission, and of course his work as an appellate judge on both the North Carolina Court of Appeals and the North Carolina Supreme Court. I’ll keep my intro comments brief so we can get right to it. 

But first, a few quick reminders for November election deadlines. If you want to vote by mail, the online absentee ballot portal is open and ballots have already started going out. One-stop early voting runs from October 20th until 3pm on Saturday, November 5th, and election day is Tuesday, November 8th.

And another reminder – we have two seats on the North Carolina Supreme Court up for election this year. We’ll hear from Justice Ervin in a moment, and we heard from Judge Lucy Inman of the North Carolina Court of Appeals a few months ago. She’s running for a seat that will be open with the retirement of Justice Robin Hudson. We desperately need to make sure that both are elected this November to keep the Supreme Court from becoming just another partisan political branch, doing the bidding of a particular party. North Carolina voters don’t want partisan judges, and electing judges who take their non-partisan duties to heart is the best protection against the courts becoming just another partisan political institution.

We also had some good news for democracy out of Congress this week with the House’s passage of a bill to reform the Electoral Count Act, clarifying many aspects of the Electoral Count process, including the solely ceremonial function of the Vice President. The Senate previously passed a similar measure with bipartisan support, so hopefully this bill will become law once the Senate and House versions are reconciled and put to a final vote. I do think it’s notable, however, that despite bipartisan support in the Senate, the only Republican members of the House to vote for the bill are either retiring or lost their primaries this year. If Democrats lose the House this November, the following two years might be rough for democracy in the U.S. House. So let’s not forget our important congressional races in North Carolina like a Democratic pick up opportunity with Jeff Jackson running in the new district in the Charlotte area, and an opportunity to flip an open seat in the Triangle with Wiley Nickel, running against a hardline MAGA candidate endorsed by Trump. We’ve got great Democratic candidates elsewhere in the state, but most of those races are much safer.

Back to state judicial races. One of the attacks I keep hearing over and over is that our Democratic members of the judiciary are making the courts more partisan, or that they’re somehow just ruling to benefit Democrats. This couldn’t be further from the truth and is nothing more than Orwellian double-speak – Republicans made judicial elections partisan when they took control of the General Assembly, and some Republican members of the judiciary are actively pushing a partisan agenda. One thing is abundantly clear -- Democrats are not the ones making the courts more partisan, plain and simple. And if you listen to what the judicial candidates who happen to be Democrats are saying, it’s clear they aren’t really comfortable being partisan candidates. They agree with the vast majority of North Carolinians that the courts should not be partisan and judges should not be partisan candidates. 

Anyways, I’m sure you already know and understand that when you hear right-wing talking points during campaign season, assume they’re about as far from the truth as possible. That certainly seems to be the case with judicial races and the issues facing our courts today. It’s also the case with just about every other right-wing campaign message you’ll likely hear in the coming weeks. Another almost comic example, if it wasn’t so disappointing, is a mail campaign by the MAGA Republican challenging State House Rep. Ricky Hurtado over in Alamance. Ricky spent some time last spring volunteering and doing trash removal from the Haw River, and a picture from that day in which he was clearly wearing a Ricky Hurtado campaign T-Shirt was photoshopped to take off his campaign logo add the slogan Defund the Police. I mean, come on. That’s literally a doctored photo to tell a lie. 

And speaking of MAGA Republicans, the MAGA nominee for U.S. Senate here in North Carolina recently refused to commit to accepting the outcome of the November elections, whatever the outcome turns out to be. This is of course on top of him voting against certifying the election after Joe Biden won. Accepting the outcome of an election is one of the most fundamental tenants of American democracy. It sucks to say hey, thanks to everyone who supported us, but we lost. I would know, I’ve done it. But when you’ve run a good race and left everything on the field, you can at least do so feeling the satisfaction of having tried. But it’s also critical for any losing campaign to do one final act to support democracy – accept the loss. Just as President Biden warned weeks ago, MAGA Republicans pose an existential threat to democracy, and there’s no doubt Ted Budd is one of them. We have to elect Cheri Beasley to the U.S. Senate to help preserve our democracy.

Sorry, got side tracked again. Shifting back to state judicial races, as you’ll hear in our interview, Justice Ervin has framed his campaign a choice for voters: do they want a system where judges are fair and impartial or a court system that's nothing more than just another partisan political institution. Here’s an introductory promo the Ervin campaign put out, and I think it’s worth a quick listen before hearing our interview:

Justice Ervin: Over the years people have asked me about my judicial philosophy and as is a case with most things, I have a tendency to overthink stuff like that. But actually it's pretty simple. I was born into a legal family, there's no doubt about it. My great-grandfather, my grandfather, my father, and my brother are all lawyers. In fact, all of us, except my great-grandfather, were or are judges at some level. Although my dad and my granddad had a lot to do with my judicial philosophy, my mother had an enormous influence on it as well, especially when it came to my sense of fairness. The law and current events were regular subjects at the family dinner table. I remember spirited debates about segregation, education, Vietnam, and women's rights. A lot of times, granddad and my mother disagreed, and she was ready, willing, and able to tell him. Betty Ervin, who died last September at 93, was a groundbreaking example of the way that women have influenced our society in my own life. Aside from raising four children and teaching social studies, my mother served on the Morganton City School Board, where she participated in and fully supported the decision to desegregate the local schools in the 1960s. Like my mother, I believe that everyone deserves the same chances in life. She went out of her way to help young people who needed a helping hand and made it possible for a number of them to obtain further education or to otherwise succeed in life. 

So my judicial philosophy comes from who I am and what I've learned about the role that law should play in our lives from those who've had the most impact on me in practice. It's pretty simple. I start every case the same way with a blank sheet of paper. I draw a line down the middle appellant on one side, appellee on the other. Then I read, I take notes, and I listen. By the time that I've made a decision, the pad looks like this, nothing but the law and the facts. No one else can read it because my handwriting is horrible. Sorry, mom. But to me, this is what fairness looks like. Everyone deserves to start out with a blank sheet of paper, especially when it comes to having their day in court. I decided to run for reelection because I believe that you deserve the Supreme court where every case is decided based solely on the law and the facts, not on a judge's partisan politics or ideological beliefs. Our courts are to crossroads this election. You will have to choose between the system where judges are fair and impartial or a court system that's nothing more than just another partisan political institution. Which path will you choose? I hope that you'll help me protect fair in an impartial court in November's election.

JD Wooten: Great work from the Ervin team. I think that really sets up our interview nicely. And finally, for anyone who hasn’t put it together yet, yes, Justice Ervin is the grandson of U.S. Senator Sam Ervin who chaired the Watergate hearings. If you were thinking wait a minute, I know the name Sam Ervin, but I thought it was from my history books, you’re not wrong. As you heard in that promo and as we discuss during the interview, his family has quite the legacy of public service in North Carolina. But for the most part, we focused on Justice Ervin’s service. So without further ado, here’s my interview with Justice Sam J. Ervin IV.

[music transition]

JD Wooten: With me today is Justice Sam J. Ervin IV of the North Carolina Supreme Court, and he's up for reelection this year. Welcome Justice Ervin, it's quite the honor to be speaking with you today. 

Justice Ervin: Well, thanks for having me, JD. I appreciate you sitting down and talking with me for a few minutes.

JD Wooten: You bet, your honor. So I'd like to start in the same place I do with all of my first time guests. What's your earliest memory of politics or being aware of politics? 

Justice Ervin: My earliest memory of it, I think, is when my father ran for the legislature in 1964. That was back before you had the one person, one vote decisions, and he ran in a single county district in Burke County and won. And I remember, I think it was '64. It might have been '66 when he ran for reelection. Going uptown in Morganton to the place that the returns came in at that time and then stopping by the church that a friend of ours was the pastor at on the way home after he had decided that he was had won. But that's my first real recollection of any kind of political involvement was watching my dad get elected or reelected to the state legislature in either '64 or '66. 

JD Wooten: That is now a new first for, for a guest on this podcast. We've had a lot of people say their earliest memory was something to do with voting or going to vote. But no one talking about their parent being the one on the ballot. 

Justice Ervin: We have something of the history of that in my family, I'm afraid. 

JD Wooten: Indeed. And we'll get to that in just a moment, but turning to your background, growing up, you attended public schools in Burke County. And I'm curious if your experiences in public schools growing up influence your thinking about the role and importance of public education North Carolina today? 

Justice Ervin: Well, I'm, I'm very proud to be a graduate of the public schools in Burke County. I actually started out in the City of Morganton system before consolidation. We consolidated when I was I think in, in what was then junior high school. It might have been early high school, but, you know, I had some great teachers all throughout my career in the public schools and received the educational foundation that I had to succeed later at Davidson and Harvard. And my mother was a public school teacher, all of my siblings were public school products, my children have all been public school products and, and we'd been, you know, well served by the public schools in Burke County for a number of generations in my family.

JD Wooten: I think all of my immediate family feels the same way in, in our education across North Carolina for several generations. So, you've already alluded to some of this on the elected office side, but also on the career side, you come from a long line of distinguished attorneys. That's probably an understatement given some of that public service that we'll talk about in a moment, but we can get to that in a moment. I am really curious though, as an attorney myself, when did you first decide that you wanted to follow in that family tradition and go to law school?

Justice Ervin: Well, I don't know exactly when I decided to. My father was both a practicing attorney and then later a superior court judge during my childhood. And I remember going to court with him in the summers just to watch and see what happens. And so I knew what both the upside and the downside of practicing law looked like. I also remember people calling in the middle of the night, needing advice, things like that, or later officers coming by to have search warrants signed. And so I knew, you know, knew that something about the stresses that were involved in it. I went to college thinking that certainly that was, was one of the options that I had for, for a professional career. My parents were very concerned that I not just go to law school cause everybody in the had thought about a number of different alternatives before deciding that I thought I would be happiest and could be of, of best use to my, you know, fellow citizens if I stuck with the family business, rather than branching off into a couple of the other things that I had thought about at one point. 

JD Wooten: So after law school, you served in private practice and you handled a wide variety of civil, criminal, and administrative matters. Do any particular cases or experiences in private practice still shape your thinking on law today?

Justice Ervin: Well, any, you know, a number of things, you know, occur to you when you are, when you are representing people in a small town in private practice. One of them is just the importance of the individual client. I mean, you are in a practice like that typically representing distinct individuals. They are there not most of the time cause they want to be, but rather cause they have to be. And so you learn to deal with the, the real problems that people have and to see the effects that the, what the court system does can have on their lives. And so I represented people, was mostly a courtroom lawyer, although I did some office type work too, but you, you learn to deal with people in, in some of the most stressful situations in their lives. And the best thing you can do sometime is just to be there and listen. And I think I learned the importance of listening to people, particularly when they have problems and have nowhere else to turn. The sheer experience of dealing with different varieties of people with different kinds of problems will tell you a lot about the human condition and the lives that many of our fellow North Carolinians live. And so I learned a lot about many different parts of our society from representing people from many different parts of that society. But that's really what I learned from it, as much as anything, is the importance of paying attention to what people were saying, trying to deal with the problems that they have, and recognizing each person's individuality.

JD Wooten: So after nearly two decades of private practice, Governor Hunt nominated you to the North Carolina Utilities Commission. Could you tell our listeners a little about that role and what the Commission does?

Justice Ervin: Well, the, the Commission itself, it was a fascinating place to work. What it does now and mostly did then was regulate privately owned entities that are, that are defined legally as public utilities. And that typically includes private electric companies, private natural gas companies, private water and sewer companies, home movers, interestingly enough. And at the time I went to the commission and at the time I practiced before it, it included the old landline telephone business as well, which has had been regulated like electric companies and natural gas companies up until the enactment of the deregulation legislation in 1996. And so that's what it did. And the purpose of it was to, you know, under the law, we give electric utilities or gas, utilities, or water and sewer utilities, a monopoly service territory. And they're the only lawful provider in that service territory and basic economics will tell you that what tends to happen when you have someone in that position is that the rates become, I think the expression is super competitive. And the service quality may leave something to be desired. And so all states have created a body that is responsible for ensuring that rates are not excessive and that the service quality remains adequate. And that's what the utilities commission's responsible for doing. When I was there and presumably is still the case from what I can see from my work as an appellate judge it functions in many ways like a court, it, it holds hearings, witnesses come in and testify. You receive briefs, you receive legal arguments, their statutes that govern what authority the commission has. Its decisions can be appealed to the appellate courts. And so in many ways it was being on the commission was like being a trial court judge without a jury. And so I learned lots of things from that, including how to handle the courtroom, how to deal with discovery and evidentiary matters that are similar to the things that the trial court judges do with some of their time.

JD Wooten: It sounds like certainly a, a quasi-judicial board that was I'm sure a great experience to be that transition from the private practice before your traditional appellate work? 

Justice Ervin: Well, it was I'm, I'm, I'm very grateful to Governor Hunt and later Governor Easley, who reappointed me to a, a second term for giving me the chance to do that. It, it I'd always wanted to go into public service. Had always thought that I needed to demonstrate that I could be successful in the private world before trying to move into public service. And, and I'm grateful to Governor Hunt, and later Governor Easley, for giving me the chance to do that. 

JD Wooten: Well, your honor, I think that's probably a great point to transition then into that public service part of your career. So while respecting that today, we're focused on your campaign for reelection to the North Carolina Supreme Court. I do want to ask about how your family's legacy of public service impacted your decision to go into public service yourself. So, as I understand, and I think you mentioned earlier, your mother was on the Morganton City School Board, and was part of the decision to desegregate. Your father was a federal judge and on the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit. And of course your grandfather served in numerous elected offices, including the U.S. Senate. And that's just for little background for any of our listeners who may not be familiar. I think also your father and grandfather were Army, is that correct? 

Justice Ervin: They were both in the military. My grandfather won the Distinguished Service Cross in World War I. Both dad and granddad served in the state legislature. Both of them were Superior Court Judges. Granddad was on the State Supreme Court. He also finished out a term that was started by his brother in the House and then served 20 years in the Senate. Dad was in the state legislature was a Superior Court Judge and a Fourth Circuit Judge. Mother's only public office was as a member of Morganton City School Board. But I mean, I grew up in an environment where there were a lot of people in the family who had gone into various branches of public service. I think the expectation within my family was that we, we were, we had been very blessed by the, the opportunity to live in the place like Morganton and to be a part of the community. And that we had a, we had an obligation to do what we could to make that community a better place. And I've certainly always wanted to go into public service at some point. Although I also felt like, you know, I didn't want to be just another Ervin. I wanted to establish some kind of, I mean, to demonstrate that I had the capability of being successful in some other realm before trying to move into public service. I wanted to, to, to be there because of my own merits and qualifications rather than just because of who I was kin to. And so I waited probably longer than both my dad and my granddad did before moving into moving into public service. But it was always something that I had wanted to do. I mean, it is something that almost all of us have done at some point or other in our lives. And it's important to us. 

JD Wooten: So in 2008, then you decided to run for the North Carolina Court of Appeals. What led you to deciding to run for the Court of appeals and, you know, around that time? 

Justice Ervin: Well, I mean, it was that that particular one was kind of a spur of the moment decision. I enjoyed being on the Utilities Commission. It's not something that somebody typically makes a career out of. And while I very much enjoyed the work at the Utilities Commission, I always considered myself something of a generalist in the legal field. And that's the kind of practice I'd had when I was in private practice and thought that, you know, I had some abilities in that area. Wanted to be an appellate court judge. I'd watched my father do it and thought that was something that I would enjoy doing and that I had the background to do. And as you know, judges in this state are elected. I had made some effort to get appointed a couple of times before without success. And finally decided that I, the best way for me to get there was to do something that I had long resisted doing, which was filing for office myself. I remember filing like a day or so before the end of the filing period and then driving to, I think it was Salisbury to go conduct a utility hearing, thinking to myself, what have you just done? But I wound up being involved, starting from filing in February, wound up with a statewide primary in May, and then a general election in November. And so I spent the first of several years, I've spent trying to do two full-time jobs at the same time being on the Utilities Commission and being a political candidate and was fortunate enough to persuade the voters that to, to entrust me with being on the Court of Appeals. My political involvement had essentially ended when I went on the Utilities Commission and had to reintroduce myself to people around the, the state and you know, I enjoyed seeing people, but I've not never been very good at going out and telling audiences how wonderful I was. And that's what you wind up doing when you're running in that kinda race. 

JD Wooten: Well, yes, sir. So then in 2014 after you'd been on the Court of Appeals for several years, you ended up being elected to the North Carolina Supreme Court. So North Carolina for our listeners has two levels of the appellate courts, the Court of Appeals in the Supreme Court. So you're now our first candidate who has served on both those courts. Could you share a little with our listeners about maybe the differences you've experienced in serving on those two courts? 

Justice Ervin: The function of the Court of Appeals, which is the court that hears most appeals in the system, the job of the Court of Appeals is to make sure that the existing law is applied uniformly statewide. So that if a legal matter is heard in Cherokee County on the one end of the state or Dare County on the other end of the state, the same rules are applied in essentially the same way in both of those trials. The Court of Appeals is bound by its own decisions. It can't say, oh, our predecessors got this wrong and we're gonna do something different. It's also bound by the decisions of the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court on the other hand is there to deal with what I think of as the most difficult legal cases in the court system. If we do our job right, and if the statutes that govern what kind of cases come to us automatically function as they're supposed to, we should wind up with the most difficult legal questions in the state, cases in which their Court of Appeals panels that disagree. Cases that the legal issue that's before us hasn't been heard before. Cases that involve issues of substantial public importance, that kind of thing. And so the average judge at the Court of Appeals will write about a hundred opinions a year and each panel will decide somewhere between three and 400. Our court, if you're looking only at fully briefed in argued cases, will hear around a hundred. But in those cases, each take much more work and are much more difficult legally to figure out what to do with than, than the average case at the Court of Appeal. That is not to say that the average case at the Court of Appeals is not important. It is. It's very important. And most parties, the road ends at the Court of Appeals. It's important that they do their job well. But the Supreme Court is there to deal with the issues that need resolution to provide clarity to the law and to make sure that the lower courts function as they're supposed to. And so that's, that's, that's a lot of generalities, but that's in essence, what I think of is the difference between the two courts.

JD Wooten: I think that was a great explanation, Your Honor. I think our listeners will, will hopefully appreciate all of that. So if I'm not mistaken this year marks your first partisan election campaign since judicial races were nonpartisan for so long. How has that impacted the way you campaign for reelection, if at all? 

Justice Ervin: You know, I've, I've run three times before I've ruined twice for the Supreme Court before. In 2012, I was unsuccessful. In 2014, as you pointed out was successful. All three of those, those two raises plus to raise my race for the Court of Appeals were nonpartisan. The General Assembly gets to decide what the rules are within constitutional limits for the elections in the state. And they decided a number of years ago that we needed to move back to partisan elections. And so I'm, for the first time in my career as a political candidate, the nominee of a political party. And it's not a change I would've made if I had had the power to do anything about it. It is not entirely comfortable for me to be a, you know, to be on a partisan ticket, because I have spent most of my career trying to explain to people that that judges should not have partisan agendas and that you should look at judicial office differently than you look at legislative or executive branch offices. Those folks, those are both proactive branches of government. Their job is to diagnose the problems that we see in society. See if they can come up with a solution that would involve governmental action and see if you can implement that solution. Whereas we are reactive in nature. We sit back and hear are the cases that come to us that are brought to us by other people. And their job is to try to do what is best in the view of the office holders as a matter of public policy. Our job is to try to figure out what the law is and how does it apply to this set of facts? It's perfectly appropriate to have partisan elections, at least in my view, for the legislature and for executive branch offices, because those are explicitly public policy oriented branches of government. The, the courts are not supposed to be that. And I've tried very hard to do what I think I'm supposed to in deciding cases. And so as I, I wind up as a candidate for reelection this year explaining why I don't think that the courts ought to be a partisan political institution, that instead, I mean, when I, when I start working on a case, I get a legal pad out and I draw a line down the middle and I start taking notes on both sides of the page to try to balance out. So it starts out with a blank slate and then I'm looking for, are the facts? What are the law? Not what I think the law ought to be, but what, what it is in fact. And that's a very big difference. And I'm not at all sure that, that it lends itself to partisan elections. I would not have gone to partisan elections if it was up to me, but it's not up to me. And so my only choice at this point is either to throw in the towel and say I'm not going participate or to participate in the system because I think it's important that people speak out for what they think the courts ought to be. And that's what I'm trying to do. My concern is what signal does it send to the citizens of the state to say that you should look at judicial candidates as if they were running on a partisan ticket, just like everybody else. The courts have always tried to say, we are not making partisan decisions. But when you have partisan elections, you are telling the voters these are the candidates of this party, these are the candidates of this party, with a strong suggestion that you ought to look at candidates because of their party affiliation. And, and that seems to me to send an erroneous signal to the voters as to what courts actually do. I think it is going to impair public confidence in the courts over the long term, and I think that's unfortunate. 

JD Wooten: Certainly Your Honor. So for most guests, at this point, I would ask about their political platform, however, as you've already discussed and for, you know, for good reason, because judicial candidates cannot discuss issues and especially cases which might come before them in the future. So instead, what I'd like to ask is about your judicial philosophy and for our listeners, there's a great video on your website about your judicial philosophy. So rather than asking you to repeat that necessarily, I thought maybe I could ask it this way. What are some of your guiding principles that you use to think through issues when facing you in appellate cases?

Justice Ervin: Well, and I've already alluded to this to some extent already, the law of North Carolina says how judges are supposed to look at legal issues. If you go to a law school, you can hear our professors and others talk about various overarching kinds of legal theories that are available for you to use if you want to. But it's always seemed to me that what we are doing in essence is taking a particular legal principle, whether it's a statutory provision, whether it's a constitutional provision, to a lesser extent than it was the case a hundred years ago, but is still of some importance, a common law principle, and try to figure out how that principle applies to a specific set of facts. And so what that usually requires you to do at some point is to say, what does this mean? And the North Carolina courts have always been pretty clear about how you go about doing that. What you do is you, first of all as somebody once said, when all else fails, read the statute or read the constitution and you look at the language of the provision that you're talking about and ask yourself the question, is this clear and unambiguous? If the answer to that question is yes, your work is it an end. All you do is just apply that statute as it is written, or that constitutional provision as it is written to the facts of the case. But if you've got words that you're not sure what they mean, that are subject to more than one interpretation, there are a number of things you are supposed to do in order to try to figure out what those words mean as applied to a particular set of facts. First is look at them in context. Secondly, look at what are other provisions of the document that you're trying to construe that may bear some relation to this provision have to say. A third thing that's very important is you are rarely writing on a legal blank slate. And so it's likely that the constitutional provision or the statute or common law principle that you're looking at has been the subject to prior judicial decisions. So you try to make your, make your decision consistent with decisions made by courts looking at that provision in the past. You look at the purpose for which that provision was adopted. What was the evil that was intended to be addressed? And you can look certainly at the history of the provision, what were the circumstances that led to its enactment? You look at all of those things and your job is not to try to figure out what you would've written had you written it yourself, but rather what did the people that wrote it mean? And so that is the process that's set out in North Carolina law. It is not an academic theory. And, and that's the philosophy that I use and have used ever since I first started trying to make judicial or quasi-judicial decisions almost quarter century ago.

JD Wooten: We've covered a lot of ground. Is there anything that we've missed that you'd like our listeners to know?

Justice Ervin: Well, I hope your listeners will understand that, you know, we elect judges because the State Constitution requires it. And if you look at why that approach was adopted in the State Constitution's drafting, it is intended to give the voters an opportunity to ensure that the Courts are not beholden to any of the other branches of government. The Courts are an independent, equally important branch of government separately selected by the voters. It's up to the voters what kind of court system we want to have? And my concern is that we are at a crossroads in this state in terms of what kind of court system do we want? You know, I talked a little bit about the return to partisan elections. We didn't talk about it, but we're also seeing large sums of money spending these races. We're seeing increasingly politicized news coverage of the Courts. We're seeing more and more interest on the part of partisan actors in judicial elections. And I think there is a real risk that our Courts may go in a direction that appears more political on face. We can do that, or we can stick with a court system that tries to do what I've attempted to describe in some of my earlier answers, that is not involved in an attempt to implement up some kind of political agenda, that looks at each case individually, that isn't afraid to call cases like it sees them. That choice is always one ultimately for the voters. And I think that this year in particular, given various things that we've seen in our society, it's more important than ever that we have a court system that treats everybody as equal under the law, that nobody is above the law, that gives everybody a fair hearing, and at the end of the day makes decisions that are based on the dispassionate, traditional look at how you interpret legal materials. That's the choice that the voters have. And, and, and I want to emphasize as strongly as I can, that that is the voter's choice. And it's up to the voters, what choice they make.

JD Wooten: Certainly Your Honor. So now perhaps the most important question of the day, where can people go to learn more about you and your campaign? 

Justice Ervin: Well, I have a website that's And I have a Facebook page that's I try to get out and about as much as I can keeping up with my judicial duties. And those are the, you know, principal ways other than opportunities like this, where I have to communicate with voters. And I appreciate you giving me this chance to do this. Those are some of the ways that you can find out about what we're up to. If you really like legal material, all of the court's decisions are put up on the internet You can look under the Supreme Court tab and then find the opinions that the court puts out every several weeks. And you can see for yourself what kind of work that we do. That's not for everybody, but if you're really interested, that's the, maybe the best way to find out what we're really about.

JD Wooten: As I'm sure you could guess, I do try and keep our listeners apprised of some of what you're doing, so they may be familiar with what you're talking about already, but I appreciate that. Well, Your Honor, thank you so much for joining us today. It's been an absolute pleasure. 

Justice Ervin: JD thank you so much for having me, I appreciate the questions and the chance to to talk about these things for a few minutes. Enjoyed it very much.

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JD Wooten: Thanks again to Justice Ervin for joining us today, and to everyone for listening. Reminder, the Carolina Democracy Podcast is not affiliated with or authorized by any candidate, candidate’s committee, or other political committee or organization, and does not endorse any candidates. If you have questions or comments, send me an email at And again, please subscribe wherever you get your podcasts and share this episode with a friend. Together, we can achieve a better North Carolina for everyone!

Interview with Justice Sam J. Ervin IV
Closing Notes