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Voters to decide on appellate court contests

RALEIGH — In 2008, just 72 percent of North Carolina voters who voted in the presidential race decided to continue down the ballot to make a decision in the state’s appellate court contests.

The drop-off wasn’t unusual.

Voters typically don’t know much about they judges whom they elect. Ethics rules that limit what judges can say during a campaign are good for the dispensation of justice, but not so great for informing voters. Nonpartisan races also mean that voters don’t have political party tags to go by.

The state does mail voter guides. The N.C. Center for Voter Education, www.ncvotered.com, also provides audio interviews for each candidate.

Still, no candidates are a bigger mystery to voters, explaining why some people choose not to vote in the races.

In 2010, North Carolina voters will decide five appellate court contests.

A single seat on the North Carolina Supreme Court will be decided, with two Court of Appeals judges vying for the seat being vacated by Justice Ed Brady.

Barbara Jackson, who has been on the Court of Appeals since 2005, faces Bob Hunter, who has served on the same court since 1998. Jackson is a former state Supreme Court law clerk and was general counsel to Labor Commissioner Cherie Berry. Hunter is a former state legislator and county attorney.

Three other Court of Appeals judges are attempting to keep their seats on the court.

Judge Ann Marie Calabria, who has been on the court since 2003, faces Wake County District Court Judge Jane Gray. Calabria previously served as a district court judge. Gray worked for 18 years in the state attorney general’s office and was general counsel for former House Speaker Jim Black for two years.

Rick Elmore has also been on the Court of Appeals since 2003. He faces a challenge from Steven Walker, the law clerk for Supreme Court Justice Ed Brady. Elmore was a practicing attorney for 20 years before his election. Walker’s sole legal experience is his current job.

Judge Martha Greer is another eight-year veteran of the Court of Appeals seeking re-election. She faces Dean Porier, an appeals referee for the N.C. Employment Securities Commission and adjunct law professor.

Thirteen candidates are vying to replace Court of Appeals Judge Jim Wynn in a contest that will be decided using instant runoff voting.

They are Raleigh lawyer and former State Bar president Cressie Thigpen, appointed by Gov. Beverly Perdue to fill the rest of Wynn’s term; former Court of Appeals Judge Doug McCullough; former legislator and state Labor Commissioner Harry Payne; Superior Court Judge Mark Klass, who lost in the May primary for another Court of Appeals seat; state Assistant Attorney General Anne Middleton; Greensboro lawyer Jewel Ann Farlow, who lost to Wynn in 2008; Greensboro lawyer John Bloss; Greensboro lawyer Stanley Hammer; Wake Forest lawyer Daniel Garner, who lost a race for a Superior Court judgeship in 2006; Wilmington lawyer and certified public accountant Wesley Casteen; Raleigh lawyer Chris Dillon, a vice president at CapStone Bank; Raleigh lawyer John Sullivan; and Raleigh lawyer Pamela Vesper.

Scott Mooneyham writes about North Carolina politics for the Capitol Press Association.

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