It took a couple of months longer than we forecasted, but the Governor has announced his nomination of Mike Robinson to join our flagship Business Court, increasing to four the number of active judges who will hear these important cases. As we explained last November, Judge Lucy Inman’s victory in her Court of Appeals race led to her special superior court judgeship being abolished, effective January 1, 2015. Under the 2014 Budget Bill, this led to the creation of a new special superior court judgeship earmarked for the Business Court.
The statute provides for this new seat to be filled for a five-year term as follows: (1) 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; (2) Chief Justice Martin must then designate the nominee as a Business Court judge; (3) Governor McCrory must submit his nominee to the General Assembly “for confirmation by ratified joint resolution”; and finally (4) Governor McCrory must appoint the confirmed nominee to the judgeship.
It is not clear to me, based on the news reports, whether the Governor’s nomination represents Step 1 or Step 3, above. In any event, the wording of the press release (nominate vs. appoint) highlights the General Assembly’s increased input into the process of selecting a Business Court judge, under the revised statute.
We do not yet know where Judge Robinson will hold court, but I have heard from many folks that there is a desire to provide closer access to the business court for parties and attorneys in the far west and far east of the state.
Finally, stay tuned for the Governor to announce a possible fifth Business Court judgeship, which the statute suggests will be created on October 20, 2015, when Judge Gary Trawick’s term expires.
I remain hopeful that Chief Justice Martin’s request for additional judicial branch funding will prove successful and that this fourth (and fifth) Business Court seat will be adequately funded.