Republicans Richard Dietz and Trey Allen were elected to the two vacant NC Supreme Court seats against Democrats Lucy Inman and Sam J. Ervin IV, according to unofficial Election Day results.
According to WUNC, state Republican Party materials label Allen and Dietz as “conservative judges.”
Republicans now have a 5-2 majority in the state Supreme Court. Prior to this election, Democrats held a marginal 4-3 majority. Because two Democratic-held seats were up for re-election this year, the GOP only needed to win one seat to retake control of the state’s highest court.
Over the last two years, the North Carolina Supreme Court has debated legislative decisions regarding redistricting, voter ID and criminal justice issues.
Both incoming justices will serve an eight-year term and will be sworn into office in January.
The victory for the Republican party gives the GOP a majority for several years as the next two seats up for re-election are also held by Democrats.
Following the 2016 cycle, North Carolina transitioned to partisan state supreme court elections when the Republican-controlled General Assembly passed legislation that required candidate’s party affiliations be put on the ballot.
The state Supreme Court is likely to consider a number of high-profile cases in the coming term, including the Leandro education funding case that was issued last Friday, redistricting, gun control and possibly abortion access.
NC Supreme Court Seat 3
Republican Richard Dietz was elected to Seat 3 of the N.C. Supreme Court. Dietz finished with 1,950,323 votes, or 52.59% of the vote to Inman’s 47.41%.
Dietz and Inman are both current Court of Appeals judges.
Seat 3 is currently held by Democrat Associate Justice Robin Hudson. Justice Hudson has served on the Supreme Court since 2007 and is choosing to not run again because she would have to retire 13 months into her new term due to mandatory age limits.
Justice-elect Dietz was formerly a lawyer for Kilpatrick Townsend & Stockton LLP. As an appellate advocate, in 2014 he argued in front of the US Supreme Court a case regarding gun “straw purchases.”
Dietz claims to have never written a dissenting opinion since joining the Court of Appeals in 2014 and has consistently sided with the majority opinion.
He was previously appointed to the Court of Appeals by former Governor Pat McCrory to fill a vacancy in 2014.
NC Supreme Court Seat 5
Republican Trey Allen was elected to Seat 5 of the N.C. Supreme Court. Dietz finished with 1,941,991 votes, or 52.39% of the vote to Ervin’s 47.61%.
Allen, who is currently general counsel for the North Carolina Administrative Office of the Courts, competed with Democratic incumbent Justice Sam Ervin for the 5th seat.
At a panel discussion at the North Carolina Supreme Court candidate forum at Duke Law School on Oct. 26, Allen stated concerns about what he believes “is a growing public perception that the court is acting or has been acting more as a political body than as a legal body.”
He intends to make all judiciary decisions based on solely the facts of the law, without a political agenda.
According to WRAL, Ervin called and congratulated Allen Tuesday night.
“I told him I hoped he enjoys it as much as I did,” Ervin said. “I’ve had the privilege of having a great deal of support in my campaigns and got a great deal of support in this one.”
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Audrey Patterson is a Trinity first-year and a staff reporter of The Chronicle's 118th volume.