Nine months ago, Gov. Bev Perdue issued an executive order to form a Judicial Nominating Commission to reduce partisan influences in the appointment of judges.
But the list of committee members released Wednesday includes a number of big name Democrats -- including two lawyers who counseled Perdue. The nonpartisan commission will review applicants to vacancies on the state Supreme Court, the Court of Appeals or Superior Court and submit three nominations to the governor to make the final choice.
Attorney Eddie Speas will serve as chairman of the 18-member board. He served for two years as Perdue's general counsel -- a fact that the governor's office left out of biography that accompanied the announcement. (By contrast, Speas tenure with Perdue is prominent on the biography provided by his law firm, Poyner Spruill.)
The governor's office similarly didn't note that another appointee, Joseph Cheshire, a prominent Durham lawyer, represented Perdue as criminal scrutiny mounted about her 2008 campaign.
Among the other prominent Democratic names: Janice Cole, a former District Court judge and U.S. attorney; Harvey Gantt, former Charlotte mayor and President Bill Clinton appointee to the National Capital Planning Association; Tom Lambeth, former Democratic Party operative and executive director of the Z. Smith Reynolds Foundation; and Burley Mitchell, a Democrat and former chief justice of the N.C. Supreme Court.
Perdue spokesman Ben Niolet said "party affiliation was not a factor" in the appointments. "The members were chosen because they were the most qualified," he added. For the full list of names from the governor's office, see below.