With Special Superior Court Judge Lucy Inman winning her race for a seat on the Court of Appeals, we may see a fourth Business Court judge appointed, and soon.

Tucked away in the 2014 Budget Bill, a revision to N.C. Gen. Stat. § 7A-45.1 provides:

the four special superior court judgeships held as of April 1, 2014, by judges whose terms expire on April 29, 2015, October 20, 2015, and December 31, 2017, are abolished when any of the following first occurs:

(1) Retirement of the incumbent judge.

(2) Resignation of the incumbent judge.

(3) Removal from office of the incumbent judge.

(4) Death of the incumbent judge.

(5) Expiration of the term of the incumbent judge.

Lucy Inman is the current “judge[] whose term[] expire[s] on April 29, 2015.” Upon her “[r]esignation” around December 31, 2014, her “special superior court judgeship[]” will be “abolished.”

At that time, “a new special superior court judgeship shall be created and filled through the procedure for nomination and confirmation provided for in subsection (a10) of this section.”

Here is how that seat will be filled, for a five-year term: (a) Governor McCrory must first consult with Chief Justice Mark Martin to ensure his prospective nominee has the mettle to be designated a Business Court judge; (b) Chief Justice Martin must then designate the nominee as a Business Court judge; (c) Governor McCrory must submit his nominee to the General Assembly “for confirmation by ratified joint resolution”; and finally (d) Governor McCrory must appoint the confirmed nominee to the judgeship.

There are a number of other wrinkles that could complicate the process. For example, there is a whole set of procedures that address the possibility that Governor McCrory never selects a nominee, or the possibility that a nominee is withdrawn from consideration or fails to get through the process. In addition, there is the possibility that Judge McGuire, currently filling the balance of Judge Bell’s term ending May 2018,*** is appointed to fill Judge Inman’s special superior court judgeship. If I understand the statute correctly, though, that would simply create another “advise and consent” opening for Judge McGuire’s current judgeship.

How do you read the statute? Are we about to have a fourth Business Court judge, or is there some other possible shuffling of seats and candidates that would sidestep that possibility for now?

–Matt Leerberg

*** Correction.  Original post identified Judge McGuire as having filled Judge Jolly’s special judgeship.  In fact, Judge McGuire filled Judge Bell’s special judgeship.