A three-judge panel has ruled that the “retention election” law that controls this year’s Supreme Court election is unconstitutional. The statute, N.C. Gen. Stat. § 7A-4.1, requires sitting Supreme Court justices who wish to remain on the Court to be subject to a retention election instead of facing a challenger. A lawsuit was filed, alleging that the statute violates the state constitution’s direction that justices “shall be elected by the qualified voters of the State.” Art. IV, Section 16.
The three-judge panel agreed yesterday, striking down the law as unconstitutional. The order has an immediate impact on Justice Edmunds’ pending retention bid.
A quick appeal to the Supreme Court is likely, where Justice Edmunds will probably recuse himself. I would expect the Court to expedite the appeal. If the order is affirmed, we may see another judicial race this November with a long list of candidates, reminiscent of the nineteen-person race for a single Court of Appeals seat we had in 2014.