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NC Supreme Court Associate Justice Seat 02

The Supreme Court of North Carolina is the state’s highest court, and there is no further appeal from its decisions on matters of state law. It is made up of the Chief Justice, who also serves as head of the Judicial Branch, and six associate justices. Each justice serves an eight-year term. The Supreme Court has no jury and makes no determinations of fact, but it considers whether error occurred at trial or in judicial interpretation of the law.

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    Phil Berger, Jr.
    (Rep)

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    Lucy Inman
    (Dem)

Biographical Information

What unique personal and professional experiences have prepared you for this judgeship?

You are running for a partisan judicial position. What role should the platform of your political party play in your work as a judge on the court?

What do you perceive as the greatest obstacles to justice and do you think there is a role you should play to address these obstacles?

Age (optional) 48
email address phil@philbergerjr.org
Twitter @philbergerjr
Position/philosophy statement I am a conservative judge who upholds the Constitution, believes in the Rule of Law, and will stand firm against activist judges.
- I am the only former elected District Attorney on the Court of Appeals, and if elected, I will be the only former elected District Attorney on the North Carolina Supreme Court. I think we need that type of experience on our Supreme Court now more than ever.

- Termination of parental rights cases are now appealed directly to the North Carolina Supreme Court. If elected, I will be the only justice on the Court who has represented parents, the Department of Social Services, and the Guardian ad litem in abuse, neglect, and dependency proceedings at the trial level. I think we need that type of experience on our Supreme Court.

- My wife Jodie and I have two teenage boys who are very competitive. Refereeing disputes between them has been pretty good preparation for my career as a judge.

I do not know what the Republican Party platform states about judges or the courts. In my more than 20 years as an attorney, prosecutor, and judge, it has never been an issue in any case, controversy, or courtroom that I have been in.

What is important, however, is judicial philosophy.

Do you want activist judges who make the law up as they go, or judges who follow the law as written? I believe we need judges who are constrained by the law so that we have consistency and predictability in our courtrooms.

Do you believe in equal justice under the law, or that judges should apply the law based on arbitrary factors and their own personal beliefs? Justice flows from courtrooms in which everyone is treated equally under the law.

Do you believe that courts should hold true to precedent, or that activist judges should change the law because they personally disagree with it? Again, I believe we need consistency and predictability.
The primary role of any government is the protection of the people and their property. To fulfill this fundamental mission, government at all levels requires public and robust debate, effective enforcement of the law, and a fully functioning judicial system. The failure of government to function at a basic level is detrimental to justice.

The current debate over defunding law enforcement agencies are legislative matters to be decided by legislative bodies.  But, these decisions will certainly impact the administration of justice. Adequately funded law enforcement is a condition precedent to a properly functioning judicial system that protects the innocent, punishes the guilty, and maintains the respect and confidence of the public.

The recruitment, retention, and training of qualified law enforcement officers is critical to the criminal justice system. We need quality men and women to serve as police officers and sheriffs’ deputies. The requirements and regulations imposed on law enforcement are strict, and the responsibility and trust society places in the law enforcement community to protect liberty, preserve constitutional rights, and solve crime demands strict adherence to the law and procedure.  

An exodus of true public servants will lead to less-qualified, less-knowledgeable officers with fewer resources, which could lead to the arrest of innocent citizens, criminals not being held accountable for breaking the law, and victims of crime left without justice. 
Age (optional) 59
Contact Phone (919) 803-2223
Twitter @judgelucyinman
Position/philosophy statement I am running for the North Carolina Supreme Court to keep our justice system fair, impartial, and free of partisan politics and ideology.
I was raised by parents who valued hard work, respect for people of all races, faiths, and walks of life, and the dignity of every human being. I have carried these values with me throughout my life and my career.

Working as a newspaper reporter early in my career, I investigated and chronicled the worst occurrences in life -- criminal and civil wrongs, hurt, and injustice. I learned that in court, humanity meets government on a daily basis. Decisions by judges and juries change the lives of children and adults. The work I saw in our courts inspired me to participate in our justice system.

My first job after law school was working as a law clerk to North Carolina Supreme Court Chief Justice Jim Exum. He taught me that careful reasoning and writing is crucial at the state’s highest court, because every decision adds to the fabric of the law that affects cases to come for generations. Chief Justice Exum also taught me, by example, that judges can disagree sharply and still treat one another with respect and personal kindness.

During 18 years practicing law, I represented business owners, employers and employees, individuals and families, and victims of sexual abuse, medical negligence, wrongful death, and catastrophic injury. For the past decade, I have brought these experiences to my job as a judge, firmly committed to the principle that every person in every courtroom deserves to be treated fairly and with respect.
In a word, none. In 30 years of representing clients and presiding in trial and appellate courts, I have never heard a party, lawyer, or judge comment on the political affiliation of anyone involved in any case. Party platforms advocate for policies, to be enacted in law by the legislative branch and to be implemented by executive branch authorities. The role of the courts is to review challenged acts of the other two branches of government for errors in law and to make sure those acts do not violate the ultimate authorities, the United States Constitution and the North Carolina Constitution. In six years of service on the Court of Appeals, I have joined with judges not of my political party to fairly and impartially decide cases within the parameters of the facts of each case and the law. I also have disagreed with judges of my own political party from time to time. In North Carolina, a judge’s identity includes political party affiliation because in 2016, our legislature voted to require judicial candidates to declare the party affiliation by which they are registered to vote, providing an exception for unaffiliated candidates who fulfill petition requirements. I was elected in a nonpartisan election in 2014, a system more congruent with the role of a judge.
Fundamental inequities in our society have prevented us from reaching the goal of equal justice for all. Systemic racism, the ignorance and bias of lawmakers, judges, and other authorities, and inertia are stubborn obstacles to justice. Racial, ethnic, and gender bias are ingrained in institutions including schools, law enforcement, banking, courts, and in statutory and case law. Effective tools currently in place include requiring a verbatim transcript of all criminal and juvenile proceedings, so that appellate judges can review the record and consider claims of bias and discrimination. Implicit bias training for legislators, judges, and all state employees in positions of authority would also be helpful. Diversity among elected officials and others in authority will help the government bodies they serve better understand and identify bias and will increase the public’s confidence in our government’s capacity to treat people fairly.

Judges cannot pursue policies --- that's what makes the judicial branch different from the legislative and executive branches. In the course of rendering judicial opinions, I can and do point out inequities that contribute to or result from the cases the court decides. In the course of reviewing appeals and hearing oral arguments, I strive to identify biases and inequities, to ask questions about them, and to discuss them with my colleagues.