Chief justice candidate Mark Martin campaigns in Watauga County
by Anna Oakes
A few dozen attorneys, judges, court officials and law enforcement leaders of varying political affiliations attended the luncheon, which also included remarks and introductions by senior resident Superior Court Judge Phil Ginn, interim District Attorney Bob Orr and local attorney Charlie Clement.
Martin is currently the senior associate justice of the N.C. Supreme Court, where he has served since 1998. At the time of his installation at age 35, he was the youngest Supreme Court justice in North Carolina history.
Martin previously served as a N.C. Court of Appeals and Superior Court judge and has a total of 22 years of experience as a judge. He has authored more than 400 opinions, according to his campaign materials.
If elected chief justice, Martin pledged to be an advocate for the judicial system in Raleigh, calling on state legislators to provide adequate funding to the courts to update technologies.
He noted that North Carolina was one of the first states to implement electronic filing of court documents at the statewide level, but that the state is now falling behind others in installing e-filing systems at the county level.
"Can we allow our courts not to be fully funded? Absolutely not," Martin said. "South Carolina's leading the way, and we better catch up."
Martin said the state's judicial districts should not be expected to absorb the costs of new technologies, such as credit card acceptance, without additional appropriations from the General Assembly.
"That's the kind of disrespect that has to stop," he said. "I know the administration of justice begins and ends at the county and district level. That's where the resources need to be applied."
Martin asked for the help of attendees in educating voters across the state about the statewide judicial races, which typically have less visibility than other campaigns for other offices.
Orr noted that Martin grew up in Cullowhee and that he understands Western North Carolina and college towns, adding that the 24th Judicial District needs "a champion down in Raleigh," who will advocate for more dollars for the district.
Martin, a Republican, said Thursday he has the support of all five former chief justices of North Carolina in what is officially a nonpartisan race -- including Democrats and Republicans.
Four of the seven seats on the N.C. Supreme Court are up for election in 2014. Opposing Martin for the chief justice's seat is Ola M. Lewis, a Superior Court judge.