Wow. That was a surprise. Donald Trump has been elected to serve as the nation’s 45th president, defying the outcome nearly all the experts predicted, in what The Washington Post called a “shocking ending” to a “traumatic campaign.”
President-elect Trump carried North Carolina by 3.8 percentage points over Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton. That’s an impressive margin for a state that Republican nominee Mitt Romney carried by 2.2 percent over President Obama in 2012, and which Obama won by less than a percentage point in 2008.
What impact will a Trump presidency have on the legal issues discussed in this blog? For starters, President Trump will select the justice who fills the seat on the United States Supreme Court that was vacated last spring by the sudden death of Justice Antonin Scalia. You may recall that President Obama nominated Merrick Garland, the Chief Judge of the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals to fill the vacancy some 237 days ago (someone apparently is counting). The Republican-controlled Senate has refused to hold a confirmation hearing for Judge Garland. Given that a Republican was just elected president and the Republicans retained control of the Senate, it appears that everyone can stop counting now as Garland has zero chance of having his nomination approved.
Trump’s presidency will, of course, impact criminal justice in a myriad of other ways. He will appoint a new attorney general. Time will tell if the nation’s new top prosecutor decides to further investigate Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server as Trump promised in the second presidential debate.
The results of statewide and local races in North Carolina also have the potential to affect the administration of justice. Somewhat surprisingly, while Trump’s victory coincided with the re-election of Senator Richard Burr, a Republican, it did not result in Republican victories for many other down-ballot candidates.
NC Governor. Democratic challenger Roy Cooper leads incumbent Governor Pat McCrory, a Republican, in the race for governor by fewer than 5,000 votes, according to unofficial election results. Cooper has claimed victory, but McCrory has not yet conceded defeat.
Lieutenant Governor. Dan Forest, a Republican, was elected to a second-term as Lieutenant Governor
Attorney General. Unofficial results show Democrat Josh Stein narrowly defeating Republican N.C. Senator Buck Newton in the race to be North Carolina’s next attorney general. Newton has said he will not concede until all votes are counted.
North Carolina Supreme Court. Challenger Mike Morgan defeated current Justice Bob Edmunds in the only race for a seat on the state’s highest appellate court. Edmunds has served two terms on the North Carolina Supreme Court, and currently is the court’s senior associate justice. Though the position is nonpartisan, Morgan was endorsed by President Barack Obama.
North Carolina Court of Appeals. Though court of appeals’ races likewise are (at least nominally) nonpartisan, with the two highest vote-getters in an open primary election appearing on the ballot in the general election, legislation enacted in 2015 required that a candidate’s party affiliation be listed on the ballot. For each of the five court of appeals judgeships on the 2016 ballot, voters chose between a candidate-judge listed as a Republican and a candidate-judge listed as a Democrat. Here are the results:
Judge Richard Dietz, who has served two years on the court of appeals after being appointed to the court by Governor McCrory, was elected to an eight-year term, defeating current Wake County District Court Judge Vince Rozier.
Hunter Murphy was elected to fill the judgeship vacated by the retirement of former Judge Martha Geer. Because Geer retired after the primary election, three candidates appeared on the ballot: Murphy, Margaret Eagles (a current Wake County district court judge), and Donald Buie.
Judge Bob Hunter, a former justice on the North Carolina Supreme Court, who was appointed to the court of appeals last year by Governor McCrory, was elected to an eight-year term, defeating former Superior Court Judge Abe Jones.
Phil Berger, Jr., formerly the District Attorney for Rockingham County, defeated Judge Linda Stephens who was seeking re-election after serving for more than ten years on the court.
Judge Valerie Zachary, who was appointed to the court of appeals last year by Governor McCrory, retained her judgeship, defeating Mecklenburg County District Court Judge Rickye McKoy-Mitchell.
Eight new superior court judges were elected yesterday to eight-year terms that begin in January 2016. They are:
Becky Holt, District 10C
Angela Puckett, District 17B
Lori Hamilton, District 22B
Jeff Foster, District 3A
Josh Willey, District 3B
Kent Harrell, District 5B
Imelda Pate, District 8A
Will Bland, District 8B
Twelve new district court judges will be sworn in for four-year terms beginning in January 2016. They are:
Wendy Hazelton, District 3A
Michael Surles, District 4
Curtis Stackhouse, District 8
Caroline Burnette, District 9
John Hoyte (J.) Stultz III, District 9A
Frank Wood, District 11
Tiffany Whitfield, District 12
C. Ashley Gore, District 13
Shamieka Rhinehart, District 14
Samantha Cabe, District 15B
Sherri Murrell, District 15B
Tonia Cutchin, District 18
Bill Davis, District 18
Marc Cummings, District 18
Lora Cubbage, District 18
Carrie F. Vickery, District 21
Aretha Black, District 26
Regardless of whether the candidates you voted for were elected, we can all celebrate today the incredible workings of our democracy. Millions of North Carolinians cast their ballots, and the results reflect the will of the majority. The transfer of power between individuals at every level of government will be peaceful and orderly. For that, all Americans, regardless of party, can be grateful.