Will Justice Robin Hudson become the Tonya Harding of the state Supreme Court?
After 15 years on the North Carolina State Supreme Court, Associate Justice Robin Hudson, 69, is scheduled to conclude her impactful and pivotable service on North Carolina’s highest court at the end of 2022. Faced with mandatory retirement from the bench in early 2024, Hudson is not running for reelection. She may even retire in the late summer or early fall of next year so the Democratic nominee for her party can be appointed by Gov. Roy Cooper and run as an incumbent. If she chooses that route, Hudson has only about 9 months left on the bench.
She is now faced with a critical decision that will define her legacy as a jurist for her remaining time on earth and for the history books.
Hudson can choose to follow the sage advice of a bi-partisan group of three former North Carolina Supreme Court justices and refuse to join her Democratic colleagues in forcibly removing two GOP colleagues from a critical amendments case, or she can go down as the Tanya Harding of the North Carolina Judicial system, choosing to kneecap the GOP justices and the judicial branch itself on the way out the door.
Harding’s breakthrough year came in 1991 winning the U.S. Championships, and the U.S. Ladies’ Singles title with the event’s first 6.0 technical merit score since Janet Lynn‘s 1973 performance at the U.S. Championships.
At the September 1991 Skate America competition, Harding recorded three more firsts:
- The first woman to complete a triple Axel in the short program
- The first woman to successfully execute two triple Axels in a single competition
- The first ever to complete a triple Axel in combination (with the double toe loop)
In January 1994, Harding again won the U.S. Championships.
I bet you did not know that. I am certain you don’t care. You remember Harding for her role in kneecapping competitor Nancy Kerrigan during the 1994 U.S. figure skating championships.
In 2007, Presidential candidate Barack Obama was proud of the fact that he had resisted the urge to go negative against his rivals and used Harding as a stump speech punchline.
“Folks said there’s no way Obama has a chance unless he goes and kneecaps the person ahead of us, does a Tonya Harding,” he told one crowd in Iowa. “We decided that’s not the kind of campaign we wanted to run.”
Whatever points of disagreement one might have with written opinions from her 21 years on the bench, Hudson has an admirable record of service, and worthy accomplishments.
In Packingham v. North Carolina, the U.S. Supreme Court overturned a North Carolina statute that prohibited registered sex offenders from using social media websites, ruling it unconstitutional because it violates freedom of speech. The N.C. Supreme Court upheld the law, but Hudson disagreed.
Hudson’s dissent from the NC Supreme Court case was the basis for the unanimous U.S. Supreme Court decision.
Through various decisions upholding the Racial Justice Act, and limiting lawmakers’ ability to effectively repeal the measure, plus through other cases, Hudson has shown herself as a strong opponent of the death penalty. If you are pleased that North Carolina no longer preforms executions, you have Justice Robin Hudson to thank.
Hudson received a B.A. in philosophy and psychology from Yale University in 1973, and a J.D. from the University of North Carolina School of Law in 1976.
When Hudson was elected to the North Carolina Court of Appeals in 2001 she was the first woman to be elected to an appellate court in North Carolina without being appointed first.
From 2011-2014, Hudson was a part of the one and only N.C. Supreme Court female majority.
These important aspects of her service deserve study and reflection. That will never happen if she supports forcing two of her Republican Supreme Court members off a case to overturn the voter’s decision to amend the state constitution.
It is all she will ever be known for, along with the inevitable damage inflicted on the Supreme Court for decades to come.
She will in-fact become the Tonya Harding of the North Carolina legal community. Don’t like that analogy? Try Bill Buckner. He had a terrific MLB career spanning parts of four decades, but he is only known for blowing the 1986 World Series, and that was an accident, not a choice like Hudson would be making.
Benedict Arnold was revered by George Washington for the Capture of Fort Ticonderoga in 1775, but nobody remembers him for that, just for his treasonous defection from the Continental Army to the British side of the conflict in 1780. Arnold’s name becoming synonymous with treason and betrayal. Will Hudson’s name become a byword for destroying a critical government institution from within, while on the way out?
In announcing her re-election bid in 2014, Hudson was quoted in the Greensboro News and Record:
“I’ve focused on making the fair decision in every case, no matter how difficult it is. I never bring any personal or political bias into the courtroom.”
If she goes with the kneecapping plan, when students and scholars write about her, they will make this statement a punchline about her.
Hudson’s place in history, is hers and hers alone. Will Hudson’s name forever be linked to betraying the judicial system she dedicated so much of her life too? Will she willingly destroy her own legacy over a case that deals with income tax rates and voter I.D.? A case that that will never be the last word on these matters and will likely be irrelevant in the long run?
No matter how partisan and political you are, ask yourself if it was your name and its place in history, what would you do?