Court of Appeals judge speaks to local Democrats

Published 12:00 am Sunday, February 28, 2016

By Geoffrey Hoy
Special to the Salisbury Post

Judge Linda Stephens of the North Carolina Court of Appeals spoke with the Rowan County Democrats Thursday night. She is running for re-election in November. She will be opposed by Republican, Phil Berger, Jr.

Stephens spoke about the need to maintain an impartial, independent judiciary, separate from political influence. She said she is committed to the task of “reasoning through cases without concern for where the reasoning leads. Lawyers are results oriented; judges must be concerned with only the process of applying the law.”

The Appeals Court hears cases appealed from trial courts and rules on matters of law and constitutionality.

Stephens said she was disappointed by the loss in North Carolina of the model system of judicial campaigns and elections on a non-partisan basis. Now judicial elections are governed by the same campaign financing laws that apply to political offices, which allows for increased contributions per donor up to $5,100 (up from $500), non-North Carolinians can now contribute, as well as PACs.

“Campaigning for judge by giving opinions in advance is wrong,” Stephens said. “It means one of two things: either you intend to vote a particular way regardless of the law and facts related to the case, or you don’t intend to, but you want to lead voters into thinking that you will so they will vote you.”

Appeals Court judges work in teams of three to hear cases. North Carolina has 15 appellate judges.

Stephens has written hundreds of opinions over the past 10 years on the bench. Most recently she wrote the majority opinion on the constitutionality of “career status” for teachers which is currently before the N.C. Supreme Court.

She stands on her record, she said, and has been endorsed by six former Supreme Court justices, including 4 chief justices. She has also been endorsed by five former Appeals judges and numerous people in the legal field, both Democrats and Republicans. She won her last election by 500,000 votes.

Stephens grew up in poverty in South Carolina, picked cotton even before starting first grade, was the first in her family to graduate high school (first in her class), attended the University of South Carolina and University of North Carolina Law School. She has received numerous awards and recognitions over the years of her legal service in both private practice and public service.

Geoffrey Hoy is chairman of the Rowan County Democratic Party.