I was a kid when I saw “Miracle on 34th Street.” Kindly Kris Kringle gets fired as Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade Santa because he claims he really is St. Nick. At his sanity trial, Kris won’t renounce his claim, so his lawyer has to prove he’s right. The judge realizes he won’t get reelected if he says Santa doesn’t exist, so he rules that Kris is Santa! It made me want to become a lawyer. So, I did.
That’s when I learned that trials decided by politics do not have happy endings. In North Carolina we elect our judges, who must raise money and campaign. In 1996, to minimize political influence, North Carolina made judges’ races nonpartisan and publicly funded.
In 2013, Republicans controlled the governorship, house, and senate for the first time since 1870. They promptly made judicial elections partisan once again and eliminated public funding, forcing judges to raise money from private donors. Where does the money come from, and what do they promise to get it?
Democratic judicial candidates are funded by individual donations too small to influence decisions. Republican candidates are heavily funded by dark money political action committees (PACs) whose donors include Koch Industries, tobacco companies, and Big Pharma. It’s clear when you look at their ads.
Unburdened by the agenda of Charles Koch and his fellow travelers, Democrat Sam Ervin says cases should be decided “on the law and facts, not on a judge’s partisan politics or ideological beliefs.”
Democrat Lucy Inman agrees, saying “Politics has no place in the courtroom. I’ll follow the law and rule independently.”
Republican Trey Allen emphasizes his ties to the Republican party and his conservative political ideology.
You might be a conservative Republican, but what if Koch sues to build in your neighborhood? Would you want a judge Koch’s money helped elect?
Elect judges Sam Ervin, Lucy Inman, Gale Adams, Darren Jackson, Brad Salmon and Carolyn Thompson. Because justice should depend on merit, not money.
Vince Amoroso, a trial attorney for 40 years, was Chief Enforcement Attorney for the SEC's Boston office, then a commercial litigator in private practice. He served his hometown of Boxborough, MA, as chairman of the Board of Selectmen before retiring to Brunswick County in 2020.