In the latest shift in the tug-of-war over judicial elections in North Carolina, a divided panel of the Fourth Circuit last week issued an order all but ensuring that there will be no primary election for judges in North Carolina in 2018.

The saga began last fall, when the General Assembly passed Senate Bill 656, canceling the 2018 judicial primaries.  Governor Cooper vetoed the bill, but the veto was overridden shortly thereafter.  The result: no judicial primaries in 2018.

The North Carolina Democratic Party filed suit in the United States District Court for the Middle District of North Carolina, challenging Senate Bill 656 on First Amendment grounds and seeking a preliminary injunction reinstating judicial primaries.  On 31 January 2018, Judge Catherine Eagles partially granted an injunction, reinstating the statewide (that is, appellate) judicial primaries.  The result:  the appellate judicial primaries were back on.

The Fourth Circuit’s order issued last week stayed the injunction.  So, to summarize, appellate primaries are on, off, on, and now off.  Stay tuned.

–Matt Leerberg