Elon Law to host public debate on North Carolina's judicial selection system - October 29
On Thursday, October 29 at 7:30 p.m., Elon University School of Law will host a public debate to explore whether North Carolina should maintain its current system of judicial elections or move to a system of judicial selection. James G. Exum, Jr., former Chief Justice of the North Carolina Supreme Court, will argue for a move to judicial selection, and Wade E. Byrd, a North Carolina/Fayetteville attorney and past president of the North Carolina Academy of Trial Lawyers, will defend the system of judicial elections.
Recent decisions by the U.S. Supreme Court and a North Carolina Superior Court have focused more attention on the merit and design of North Carolina’s system of electing judges.
The Supreme Court in Caperton v. Massey Coal Co. concluded that a West Virginia judge should have recused himself due to bias or a conflict of interest where the CEO of a mining company contributed $3 million to the judge, a candidate for the West Virginia Supreme Court, when the mining company’s appeal of a $50 million punitive damage award was pending. The Caperton case highlights one of the primary concerns with a judicial election system, the potential for at least the appearance of bias or conflict of interest on the part of a judge.
North Carolina has attempted to remedy these concerns by providing for the public financing of judicial elections, allowing judicial candidates to forego campaign contributions in favor of receiving public funds, thus eliminating any appearance of bias in favor of a contributor. However, North Carolina’s system for funding this public option was recently dealt a blow by a decision from Wake County Superior Court Judge Howard Manning Jr., who concluded that North Carolina’s requirement that attorneys pay a $50 fee to fund this public financing option was, in part, unconstitutional.
The debate at Elon Law aims to examine these decisions and to sift through the pros and cons of judicial election systems and alternative judicial selection models.
Wade E. Byrd, the principal attorney of The Law Offices of Wade E. Byrd, P.A. in Fayetteville, N.C., has more than thirty years of legal experience, primarily as a trial lawyer. From 1973 to 1977, he was employed as the Assistant District Attorney in Cumberland County, serving as Senior Trial Assistant from 1975 to 1977. In 1977, Byrd joined the law firm of Berry, Caudle, & Byrd. That firm became known as Berry & Byrd in 1986, and then The Law Offices of Wade Byrd in 1996. Byrd has extensive litigation and trial experience, focusing his practice on serious medical malpractice, personal injury, and other complex tort litigation. Byrd’s law degree is from Wake Forest University and his undergraduate degree from Methodist College. The 2001 recipient of the Walter Clark Award from the North Carolina Academy of Trial Lawyers, Byrd is listed in "The Best Lawyers in America" and the "Bar Register of Preeminent Lawyers." He is a past president of the North Carolina Academy of Trial Lawyers and a Fellow at both the International Society of Barristers and the American College of Trial Lawyers.
James G. Exum Jr. is an attorney at Smith Moore Leatherwood LLP in Greensboro, N.C. and serves as Elon Law’s Distinguished Jurist in Residence. He served on the North Carolina Supreme Court from 1974 to 1994, and was Chief Justice from 1986 to 1994. He currently leads his firm's appellate practice group, where he has participated in more than forty appeals in state and federal appellate courts. Exum has a bachelor's degree from the University of North Carolina and a law degree from New York University. He began his career in Greensboro in 1961 with Smith Moore Smith Schell & Hunter. He was elected to the North Carolina House of Representatives in 1967 and that same year began service as Resident Superior Court Judge of Guilford County, holding that position until being elected to the state Supreme Court in 1974. During his service with the Supreme Court, Exum wrote 402 opinions for the court and 208 concurring or dissenting opinions. Exum is listed in "The Best Lawyers in America" and is a Fellow in the International Society of Lawyers and the American Academy of Appellate Lawyers.
- Welcoming remarks from George R. Johnson, Jr., Dean of Elon University School of Law
- Moderator's introduction of the issue and the debaters
- Introductory position statements of 10 minutes each, begun by Justice Exum
- Rebuttal statements of 5 minutes each, begun by Justice Exum
- A moderator's question and answer period of 15 minutes
- An audience question and answer period of 20 minutes
The debate is co-sponsored by Elon University School of Law and the News & Record of Greensboro. It will take place at Elon Law School, 201 North Greene Street, in Greensboro. This event is free and open to the public, although registration is required. Please RSVP by October 27 to reserve your seat, by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling 336-279-9275. Space is limited, so please reply as early as possible.