newsobserver.com blogs

Under the Dome

Perdue appoints familiar Democratic names to nonpartisan Judicial Nominating Commission

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.

The full press release from the governor's office is below:

Gov. Bev Perdue today announced the members of the Judicial Nominating Commission.

Gov. Perdue established the Commission in Executive Order 86 to assist in filling judicial vacancies.

The 18-member commission will review applications when vacancies occur on the Supreme Court, the Court of Appeals or Superior Court. Members will select three nominees to fill the vacancy and the governor will appoint one of those nominees.

The following are the members of the Judicial Nominating Commission:

Earl “Moose” Butler of Fayetteville is the Sheriff of Cumberland County, a position he has held for seventeen years. He is a former member of the Governor’s Crime Commission and a past President of the North Carolina Sheriffs’ Association. He has been active in many civic organizations, including the National Sheriffs’ Association, the American Correctional Association, the North Carolina High School Athletic Officials Association, the North Carolina Probation Officers Association and the North Carolina State Employees Association.

Joe Cheshire of Raleigh is a partner at the Cheshire Parker Schneider & Bryan law firm. He has conducted jury trials in fourteen states, appeared in courts in 85 of North Carolina’s 100 counties and has litigated appeals in the United States Supreme Court, the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit, the North Carolina Supreme Court and the North Carolina Court of Appeals. He has also authored numerous articles on trial advocacy, evidence and legal ethics. He is a member of the International Society of Barristers and has received numerous awards, including the Old North State Award and the Thurgood Marshall Award.

Janice Cole of Hertford is an attorney in Perquimans County. She previously served as the United States Attorney for the Eastern District of North Carolina. In addition, she was a District Court judge in the First Judicial District. She is currently a member of the Perquimans County Board of Commissioners and has been involved in a number of community activities, including service as Co-Chair of the North Carolina Task Force Investigating Child Abuse and Neglect in Child Care Facilities and membership on the North Carolina Progress Board, the Governor’s Crime Commission, the North Carolina Child Care Commission and the Albemarle Mental Health Board of Directors.

Anthony di Santi of Blowing Rock is a partner at the Di Santi Watson Capua & Wilson law firm in Boone. He is a past president of the North Carolina State Bar and is board-certified in civil trial advocacy by the National Board of Trial Advocacy. He has also served as an Adjunct Professor at Appalachian State University, a Commissioner on the Blowing Rock Town Council and the President of the Blowing Rock Chamber of Commerce. He was awarded Silver Star and Purple Heart medals for his service in the U.S. Army.

Eugene Ellison of Asheville is an attorney in Buncombe County. His community activities include service on the Board of Directors for the Blue Ridge Area Authority, the Young Men’s Christian Academy Youth Outreach Program, the Big Brothers Big Sisters in Asheville and Pisgah Legal Services as well as membership on the Asheville Chamber of Commerce and the Asheville ABC Board. In addition, he is a former member of the Board of Governors for the North Carolina Association of Black Lawyers and the Board of Directors for the North Carolina Central University Law Alumni.

Robert Evans is the District Attorney of North Carolina’s Seventh Prosecutorial District, which encompasses Edgecombe, Nash and Wilson Counties. He previously served as a North Carolina District Court Judge. He serves on the Board of Trustees for North Carolina Wesleyan College and on the Board of Commissioners for Nash Health Care Systems. He is also a former President of the Rocky Mount Area Chamber of Commerce.

Harvey Gantt of Charlotte is an architect at the Gantt Huberman Architects firm and was named a Fellow by the American Institute of Architects. He served three terms as mayor of Charlotte and, prior to that, served multiple terms on the Charlotte City Council. He was appointed by President Bill Clinton as Chairman of the National Capital Planning Association. He has also been a member of the North Carolina Board of Architecture, the Visiting Committee of the Graduate School of Design at Harvard University and the Visiting Committee of the Department of Urban Studies and Planning at MIT. He is currently a member of the Board of Directors for the Foundation for the Carolinas, Charlotte Center City Partners, the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Housing Partnership and the YMCA of Greater Charlotte.

Judy Hunt of Blowing Rock is a co-owner of Kohler Enterprises Real Estate. She is a former member of the North Carolina House of Representatives, the North Carolina Utilities Commission, the Watauga County Board of Commissioners and the Town of Blowing Rock Planning and Zoning Board. In addition, she has served on the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners, the North Carolina Radiation Protection Commission, the North Carolina Energy Policy Council, the North Carolina Diabetes Council and the Appalachian State University College of Arts and Sciences Advancement Council.

Anne-Marie Knighton of Edenton is the Town Manager for the Town of Edenton. She served on the North Carolina State Board of Community Colleges, the Eastern Municipal Power Agency and the Chowan Hospital Directors Council. She received a Master’s Degree of Public Administration from American University.

Tom Lambeth of Winston-Salem is the former Executive Director of the Z. Smith Reynolds Foundation and currently serves as a Senior Fellow at the Foundation. He served three terms as a member of the Board of Trustees of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, including two years as Chairman. In addition, he has also served on numerous other boards and commissions, including the Ruth Z. Fleishman Foundation, the Southeastern Council of Foundations, the National Center for Family Philanthropy, the Public School Forum of North Carolina, the Hunt Institute for Educational Leadership and the North Carolina Teaching Fellows. He holds honorary degrees from Wake Forest University and Pfeiffer University. Among the awards he has received are the Distinguished Alumnus Award from the University of North Carolina, the McIver Award for Public Service and the North Carolina Community College System’s I.E. Ready Award.

Burley Mitchell of Raleigh is a member of the Womble Carlyle Sandridge & Rice law firm. He has served as Chief Justice of the North Carolina Supreme Court and as an Associate Justice on the Supreme Court. Prior to that, he was a judge on the North Carolina Court of Appeals, the Secretary for the Department of Crime Control and Public Safety and the District Attorney for the Tenth Judicial District. He has also served on numerous boards and commissions, including the Board of Governors for the University of North Carolina, the Board of Trustees for North Carolina State University, the North Carolina Progress Board, the North Carolina Courts Commission, the National Conference of Chief Justices’ Committee on Professionalism and the ABA Presidential Task Force on Corporate Responsibility, He has received the North Carolina Award for Public Service. In addition, he served in the U.S. Navy.

Clark Smith of Greensboro is a member of the Smith Moore Leatherwood law firm. He has held numerous positions of leadership in the North Carolina Bar Association and is an immediate past President. He also served as President of the North Carolina Association of Defense Attorneys. He has been named a Fellow both of the National Conference of Bar Presidents and of the American College of Trial Lawyers. In addition, he served as President of the Board of Directors of the Lexington Chamber of Commerce.

Troy Smith of New Bern is a partner in the Ward and Smith law firm. He is a past Chairman of the North Carolina Bar Association-State Bar Committee on Ethics, the North Carolina Bar Association Committee on Recodification of the General Statutes and the North Carolina Bar Association Real Property Committee as well as a past President of the Craven County Bar Association. He is also a former member of the North Carolina Bar Association Board of Governors. In addition, he is a Member of the American College of Real Estate Lawyers.

Eddie Speas of Raleigh, who will serve as the chairman of the Judicial Nominating Commission, is a member of the Poyner & Spruill law firm. He has forty years of experience in civil litigation and appellate practice in state and federal courts. He represented the State of North Carolina in a number of landmark cases during his tenure as Chief Deputy Attorney General and Senior Deputy Attorney General at the North Carolina Department of Justice. He has been a member of the North Carolina Bar Association, the Board of Visitors of the Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center and the North Carolina Education Lottery Commission. He is a Fellow of the American College of Trial Lawyers.

Jane Whilden of Asheville is a former member of the North Carolina House of Representatives. She has been active in numerous civic and charitable activities and served as Board President of the Big Brothers Big Sisters of Western North Carolina. She has also served on the Board of Visitors for the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Elliott Williamson of Lumberton is the owner of Century 21 Real Estate Center in Robeson County. He is a member of the National Association of Realtors and the Lumberton Area Chamber of Commerce. He also currently serves as the Vice-President of the Lumberton Association of Realtors.

James Woodward of Charlotte is the former Chancellor of the University of North Carolina at Charlotte and the Interim Chancellor of North Carolina State University. He is currently a professor of engineering at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. He has served on the Board of Directors for numerous organizations, including the North Carolina Education Lottery Commission and the Charlotte Mecklenburg Community Foundation. He has also served on the Board of Trustees for Johnson C. Smith University. He has received a number of honors, including an Honorary Doctor of Public Service degree from the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, an Honorary Doctor of Laws degree from the University of Alabama at Birmingham and the Public Leadership Award from the North Carolina Technology Association.

Robert Zaytoun of Raleigh is a principal in the Zaytoun Law Firm and has worked as a prosecutor, a criminal defense attorney and a specialist in personal injury litigation. He is active in many civic organizations, including service as Acting Chair of the North Carolina Health and Wellness Trust Fund and Vice Chairman of the nonprofit Farm Pilot Coordination Company. In addition, he currently serves as President of the American Board of Trial Advocates and is a member of numerous bar organizations. He is also a member of the Board of Trustees of the North Carolina Symphony.


Comments

Comment viewing options

Select your preferred way to display the comments and click "Save settings" to activate your changes.

Wording error

I believe there is a wording error which can be corrected by substituting "nonRepublican" everywhere you see the word "nonpartisan."  That way the story makes more sense.

"nonpartisan judicial nominating committee"

Could the N&O confirm the political registration of the 18 appointees whose "party affiliation was not a factor"?

Oh come on.

Really?  Eddie Speas?  Nonpartisan? 

Cars View All
Find a Car
Go
Jobs View All
Find a Job
Go
Homes View All
Find a Home
Go

Want to post a comment?

In order to join the conversation, you must be a member of dome.newsobserver.com. Click here to register or to log in.
Advertisements