North Carolina will have no judicial primary elections this year, if a 2-1 U.S. Appeals Court ruling stands. That ruling blocks a trial court’s decision and stops primaries for statewide judicial elections.
The ruling arrives just three days before candidates in statewide judicial races could have started filing for office.
Judges Paul Niemeyer and Stephanie Thacker agreed on Friday, Feb. 9, to stay the lower-court ruling. Judge Diana Gribbon Motz dissented. President George H.W. Bush appointed Niemeyer, while Barack Obama appointed Thacker and Bill Clinton appointed Motz.
The Republican-led General Assembly voted last fall to cancel all judicial primaries this year. But the Democratic Party sued, and U.S. District Judge Catherine Eagles agreed Jan. 31 to reinstate primaries for elections filling seats on the N.C. Supreme Court and Court of Appeals.
Eagles’ order had upheld lawmakers’ decision to cancel primaries in elections for District and Superior Court judges. She said the General Assembly had the right to cancel those primaries while considering potential changes to judicial election maps.
Meanwhile, state Supreme Court and Appeals Court candidates run for statewide seats unaffected by judicial maps. Eagles argued that state lawmakers offered no compelling government interest that would support cancellation of primaries in those contests.
With all judicial primaries now canceled, no candidates for judicial branch elections will be able to file for office Monday, Feb. 12, when the filing period opens for other N.C. races.
In a statement, State Board of Elections spokesman Patrick Gannon said filing for judicial races is scheduled June 18-29.