This year’s general election on Nov. 4 will include a massive contest for the North Carolina Court of Appeals. Nineteen candidates are running for a seat on the court. Among them is Charlotte’s John Arrowood, who served briefly on the court from 2007-2008 after being appointed by Gov. Mike Easley to fill a vacancy.
Arrowood is running to return tot he court. If he wins the election, he’ll be the first openly LGBT candidate to win statewide election in North Carolina and, for that matter, anywhere in the entire South.
Arrowood has a long record of community service, including within the LGBT community, where he has served on the board of the Victory Institute. He’s also served on the North Carolina Banking Commission, board of directors of the North Carolina Railroad Company, the North Carolina Arts Council and the boards of Charlotte’s Mint Museum and the Urban Minsitry Center. He’s also on the Vestry of St. Peter’s Episcopal Church.
He has been in private practice with the firm of James, McElroy and Diehl, PA in Charlotte.
Amid his race against 18 opponents, Arrowood says he’s been working diligently to differentiate himself.
“I believe my experience as a superior court judge and as a lawyer in private practice for 23 years, together with all my civic and other activities, makes me the best qualified,” he says.
Arrowood has been endorsed by the Victory Fund, the North Carolina Democratic Party, the Wake County Democratic Party, the North Carolina Association of Educators, the North Carolina AFL-CIO, Equality NC, the North Carolina chapter of the National Organization for Women and Durham People’s Alliance.
Our Q&A with Arrowood follows below. It has been edited for brevity and clarity.
Matt Comer: You obviously love the law. You went to law school and became an attorney, but what is it about specifically serving as a judge that attracts you and why do you think it is important?
John Arrowood: I think it is important that we in North Carolina have a judiciary of folks who have a record of being able to render fair and impartial judgments without favor to any party or to the state. I think it is important to have a background in civil law as well. I think it’s important that we have not just one type of path to the appellate courts, but a variety of paths. I think it’s important that all areas of the state be represented. I believe, as of right now, half of the judges sitting on the North Carolina Court of Appeals all live in Wake County. As of of the first of January, should I not be elected, there won’t be anyone from Mecklenburg County on the Court of Appeals. There may not be one on either of the appellate courts.
When you served briefly on the Court of Appeals, what’s a case or a couple of cases that stick out in your memory as being particularly important?
There are a couple of toxic mold cases that I thought were important, Cameron v. Burcell Properties and CURL v. American Multimedia Inc in 2007. I cite them if people want to look and see how I view things and how analyze the law. One was a major toxic mold case. It rendered a huge verdict for the plaintiffs, which we upheld much to the chagrin of the defense bar. The other was a toxic case where there were chemicals in the water. There were no damages from it and so the defendants won.
We have heard a lot of conservatives, especially, talk about judicial tyranny and the overreach of the judicial. But, we have three separate branches of government for a reason. I’d love for you to elaborate on why it is important for judges to weigh in and why it is important to have an independent third branch of government.
The legislative branch makes laws. The executive then carries out those laws. The judiciary acts as a traffic cop on both of those branches to make sure that the laws they enact and the way that those laws are enforced do not violate the constitutional rights of the minority. It is not judicial tyranny when a court says what the majority of folks wants to do violates a fundamental right of other folks who hold a minority view or who are minorities within the nation. The judicial branch is there to act as a stopgap and to keep them from overreaching on other constitutional measures. We have a U.S. Constitution that gives people certain inalienable rights. We also have a North Carolina Constitution that gives folks rights. As the state Supreme Court said in Corum v. the University of North Carolina in 1992: “It is the state judiciary that has the responsibility to protect the state constitutional rights of the citizens; this obligation to protect the fundamental rights of individuals is as old as the State. Our Constitution is more detailed and specific than the federal Constitution in the protection of the rights of its citizens.”
You served on the Court of Appeals for two years last decade. Why is it now that you personally want to throw your hat back in the ring?
I enjoyed the work. I think I am good at the work. I think I bring a set of skills and a set of life experiences to this job that is needed at the court. I believe I have a proven track record of being fair and impartial and of being hardworking and efficient. I believe the court needs that and I believe I can better bring that to the court than anybody else in this race. : :