How many maps does it take to hit the sweet spot when it comes to judicial redistricting?

Your guess is as good as anyone’s. Rep. Justin Burr (R-Stanly, Montgomery) unveiled another round of judicial and prosecutorial maps this week, and, like the others, he didn’t include any substantive information about the impact on judges and the people they serve.

This is the seventh version of House Bill 717 that lawmakers have entertained as a possible plan for redistricting judges and prosecutors. It’s the third set of maps that NC Policy Watch has taken on to analyze incumbency data.

There have been three different committees formed since the first time Burr made his maps public – one in the House, one in the Senate and one joint committee.

Members from each group have asked Burr, legislative staff and other key map players multiple times for incumbency information so that they could accurately assess the effect of changing judicial boundaries. So far, no one in an official General Assembly capacity has provided lawmakers with that information.

There has been a focus recently on judicial selection, so for this article, NC Policy Watch only analyzed the district and superior court maps, dubbed “Option A.” (Don’t worry, a committee chair said this week, there isn’t yet an “Option B.”)

All of the information contained in the maps is public – judges must be registered to vote through the State Board of Elections and Ethics Enforcement to run for office.

As before, the team at NC Policy Watch is putting out this data to assure that lawmakers (and the public at-large) have access to full and complete information as the consideration of the latest proposal moves forward. Here are some of the key findings:

District Court:

There are 56 current district court judges double-bunked in eight judicial districts encompassing 14 counties in the “Option A” proposal. That’s 21 percent of all district court judges.

For most of the districts in “Option A,” judges must live where they run for election.

“Double-bunking” for the purposes of this article means that there are a smaller number of seats in a judicial district than there are current sitting judges. That means incumbent judges in those areas would either be forced to run against another incumbent in an election or face losing their seat if their term expires after the seats are filled.

For example, in Buncombe County district 39B, there are two seats allotted and three current sitting judges. Two of those judges are up for reelection this year, Julie Kepple and Ward Scott, and one is up for reelection in 2020, Andrea Dray.

If Kepple and Scott are reelected this year, there won’t be another seat for Dray to run for reelection in 2020.

An example of incumbent judges who would be forced to run against each other in “Option A” can be found in Durham district 18A. There are two allotted seats there and three current judges up for reelection this year, James Hill, Doretta Walker and Frederick Battaglia Jr.

There are one percent fewer double-bunkings in the “Option A” map than there were in the last map introduced by Burr in November. There is, however, an added complication in the new map: “residency districts.”

HB717 as amended for “Option A” includes 12 district court districts with language that splits up seats by county lines and staggers the terms for which a particular candidate could run for election in that area.

For example, there are nine seats allotted for district 4 in “Option A,” which encompasses Sampson, Duplin, Jones and Onslow counties. Instead of judicial candidates from anywhere in that district running for those seats, the bill would require five seats to be filled with judges who live in Onslow County and four to be filled with judges from Sampson, Duplin or Jones counties.

The bill also sets out staggered terms for those seats, so for this year’s election, there are two seats open for judges who live in Onslow County and one seat open for a judge from Sampson, Duplin or Jones counties.

There are currently nine sitting judges in what would be “Option A” district 4, two of whom are up for reelection this year — Paul Hardison and Sarah Seaton.

Hardison and Seaton both live in Onslow county, so they could both run for reelection with no problem. Because none of the other seven judges are up for reelection this year, HB717 creates a vacancy for a new candidate who lives in Sampson, Duplin or Jones counties.

The residency district doesn’t create a double-bunking scenario this year, but because of the way the terms and residency requirements are staggered, it could be a problem for incumbent judges later if their term expires after all allotted seats are filled.

Of the 64 district court judges who are double-bunked, 47 are registered Democrats and nine are registered Republicans.

There are a small percentage fewer district court judges double-bunked in “Option A” than the last HB717 map Burr introduced in November.

There are also fewer Black or African-American judges double-bunked in this map, but the number is still high considering representation is already an issue on the bench. There are 30 percent of Black or African American judges double-bunked in “Option A,” compared to 43 percent in the last map from Burr.

[Note: the analysis in this story includes information about double-bunked African-American judges because some lawmakers and advocates contend that the changes contained in HB717 amount to racial gerrymandering. Readers can access further analysis about racial and partisan gerrymandering in “Option A” in a recent report prepared by the Southern Coalition for Social Justice.] Superior Court:

There are 18 current superior court judges double-bunked in seven judicial districts encompassing nine counties in the “Option A” proposal. That’s 19 percent of all superior court judges.

All of the same information from district court districts regarding residency and double-bunkings for the purposes of this article applies to the superior court districts.

Three of the districts in “Option A” would require incumbent judges to run against each other in an election – district 15B, Cumberland County, and district 18A, Durham County, in elections this year and district 19, Orange County, in an election in 2022.

The other four districts have candidates who would face losing their seats because their terms expire after elections that would fill the allotted seats.

For example, in district 12C, there is only one seat in the “Option A” proposal and two current sitting judges, Jay Hockenbury, whose term expires this year and Phyllis Gorham, whose term expires in 2024.

If Hockenbury were to run for reelection this year and win the only allotted seat in the “Option A” plan, it would mean Gorham’s seat would be eliminated in 2024.

As in the district court map, HB717 also provides for residency districts.

HB717 as amended for “Option A” includes seven superior court districts with language that splits up allotted judicial seats by county lines and staggers the terms for which a particular candidate could run for election in that area.

For example, there are three allotted seats in district 5 in “Option A,” which encompasses Wayne, Greene and Lenoir counties, but HB717 requires that one judge be from each county. That means if there are three judges in Greene County who want to run for election in district 5, they either have to move their residences or forgo running altogether.

Unlike the district court residency districts, there are not any double-bunkings in the superior court residency districts.

Of the 18 superior court judges who are double-bunked, 14 are registered Democrats, one are registered Republican and three are registered as unaffiliated voters.

There are four percent fewer superior court judges double-bunked in “Option A” than the last HB717 map Burr introduced in November.

There are also fewer Black or African-American judges double-bunked in this map – 11 percent (two of 18 total judges) than the last map, which measured in at 18 percent.

District Court Double Bunkings - Option A - Jan 2018

There are 53 African American judges out of 269 total judges, according to Jan. 25 AOC info. There are 17 African American judges double-bunked in these proposed maps.
This information is based on the North Carolina voter registration database
DistrictCounty(s)NameRaceGenderPartyTerm Expiration
8Vance, Warren, Halifax, Northampton, Hertford, BertieAdam KeithUndesignatedUndesignatedDemocrat2020
8Vance, Warren, Halifax, Northampton, Hertford, BertieBenjamin HunterWhiteMaleDemocrat2018
8Vance, Warren, Halifax, Northampton, Hertford, BertieCaroline Slater BurnetteWhiteFemaleDemocrat2020
8Vance, Warren, Halifax, Northampton, Hertford, BertieTeresa Raquel Robinson FreemanBlackFemaleDemocrat2020
8Vance, Warren, Halifax, Northampton, Hertford, BertieW. Turner Stephenson IIIWhiteMaleDemocrat2020
8Vance, Warren, Halifax, Northampton, Hertford, BertieBrenda Green BranchBlackFemaleDemocrat2020
8Vance, Warren, Halifax, Northampton, Hertford, BertieVershenia Balance MoodyBlackFemaleDemocrat2018
12CNew HanoverRobin Wicks RobinsonWhiteFemaleDemocrat2020
12CNew HanoverJ. H. Corpening IIWhiteMaleDemocrat2020
12CNew HanoverMelinda Haynie CrouchWhiteFemaleDemocrat2018
12CNew HanoverJeffery Evan NoeckerWhiteMaleDemocrat2020
12CNew HanoverRichard Russel DavisWhiteMaleDemocrat2020
16 (residency district)Hoke, MooreJayrene R. ManessWhiteFemaleRepublican 2018
16 (residency district)Hoke, MooreDon W. Creed Jr.WhiteMaleRepublican 2020
16 (residency district)Hoke, MooreStephen Anthony BibeyWhiteMaleRepublican2018
16 (residency district)Hoke, MooreMichael A. StoneWhiteMaleRepublican2020
16 (residency district)Hoke, MooreRegina M. JoeBlackFemaleDemocrat2018
10CWakeJefferson Glenn GriffinWhiteMaleRepublican2020
10CWakeAnna E. WorleyHispanicFemaleDemocrat2020
10CWakeRobert Blackwell RaderWhiteMaleDemocrat2020
10CWakeDaniel NagleWhiteMaleRepublican2020
10FWakeLouis MeyerWhiteMaleDemocrat2018
10FWakeLori ChristianAfrican-AmericanFemaleDemocrat2020
10FWakeEric ChasseWhiteMaleDemocrat2020
10FWakeMonica BousmanWhiteFemaleDemocrat2020
18ADurhamJames T. HillWhiteMaleRepublican2018
18ADurhamDoretta L. WalkerAfrican-AmericanFemaleDemocrat2018
18ADurhamFrederick S. Battaglia JrWhiteMaleDemocrat2018
22DGuilfordK. Michelle FletcherWhiteFemaleDemocrat2020
22DGuilfordWilliam DavisWhiteMaleDemocrat2020
22DGuilfordJonathan KreiderWhiteMaleRepublican2018
22DGuilfordSusan R. BurchWhiteFemaleDemocrat2020
22EGuilfordAvery Michelle CrumpAfrican-AmericanFemaleDemocrat2020
22EGuilfordMark Timothy CummingsAfrican-AmericanMaleDemocrat2020
22EGuilfordAngela Cheryl FosterAfrican-AmericanFemaleDemocrat2020
22EGuilfordLora C. CubbageAfrican-AmericanFemaleDemocrat2020
26AMecklenburgRickye McKoye-MitchellAfrican-AmericanFemaleDemocrat2018
26AMecklenburgGary Lenell HendersonAfrican-AmericanMaleDemocrat2020
26AMecklenburgDonald Cureton Jr.African-AmericanMaleDemocrat2018
26AMecklenburgTy HandsAfrican-AmericanFemaleDemocrat2020
26AMecklenburgTracy Hanna HewettWhiteFemaleDemocrat2018
26AMecklenburgRegan Anthony MillerAfrican-AmericanMaleDemocrat2018
26AMecklenburgRonald L. ChapmanWhiteMaleDemocrat2020
26AMecklenburgPaige B. McTheniaWhiteFemaleDemocrat2018
26AMecklenburgChristy T. MannWhiteFemaleDemocrat2020
26AMecklenburgBecky TinWhiteFemaleDemocrat2018
26AMecklenburgDavid H. StricklandWhiteMaleRepublican2020
26AMecklenburgElizabeth T. TroschWhiteFemaleDemocrat2020
26AMecklenburgLouis Trosch Jr., WhiteMaleDemocrat2020
39ABuncombeSusan Marie Dotson-SmithWhiteFemaleDemocrat2018
39ABuncombePatricia YoungWhiteFemaleDemocrat2018
39ABuncombeJames Calvin HillAfrican-AmericanMaleDemocrat2020
39ABuncombeEdwin ClontzWhiteMaleDemocrat2018
39BBuncombeAndrea DrayWhiteFemaleDemocrat2020
39BBuncombeJulie KeppleWhiteFemaleDemocrat2018
39BBuncombeWard ScottWhiteMaleDemocrat2018

Superior Court Double Bunkings - Option A - Jan 2018

DistrictCounty(s)NameRaceGenderPartyTerm Expiration
12CNew HanoverPhyllis GorhamAfrican-AmericanFemaleDemocrat2024
12CNew HanoverJay HockenburyWhiteMaleRepublican2018
14Scotland, RobesonJames BellAmerican Indian or Alaskan Native MaleDemocrat2020
14Scotland, RobesonRobert FloydWhiteMaleDemocrat2020
14Scotland, RobesonRichard BrownWhiteMaleDemocrat2024
15BCumberlandMary Ann TallyWhiteFemaleDemocrat2018
15BCumberlandClaire HillWhiteFemaleUnaffiliated2018
15BCumberlandJames Ammons Jr.WhiteMaleUnaffiliated2018
18ADurhamJames Hardin Jr.WhiteMaleDemocrat2018
18ADurhamMichael O’FoghludhaWhiteMaleDemocrat2018
19OrangeCarl FoxAfrican-AmericanMaleDemocrat2022
19OrangeR. Allen BaddourWhiteMaleDemocrat2022
21Rockingham, CaswellStanley AllenWhiteMaleDemocrat2022
21Rockingham, CaswellEdwin WilsonWhiteMaleDemocrat2022
21Rockingham, CaswellWilliam O. Smith IIIWhiteMaleDemocrat2018
22BGuilfordR. Stuart AlbrightWhiteMaleDemocrat2022
22BGuilfordLindsay DavisWhiteMaleDemocrat2018
22BGuilfordSusan BrayWhiteFemaleUnaffiliated2020
There are 18 African American judges out of 95 total judges, according to Jan. 25 AOC info. There are two African American judges double-bunked in these proposed maps.
This information is based on the North Carolina voter registration database

Editor’s note: This story has been updated from the original post.

About the author

Melissa Boughton, Courts and Law Reporter, joined N.C. Policy Watch in September 2016. She covers local, state and federal courts and writes about key decisions that impact the lives of North Carolinians. Before joining the project, Melissa worked the crime and courts beats at The Post and Courier in Charleston, S.C.; The Winchester Star in Winchester, Va.; and The Kerrville Daily Times in Kerrville, TX. While reporting in Charleston, she covered the Emanuel church shootings and the police killing of Walter Scott. She was part of the team that was named a finalist for the 2016 Pulitzer Prize in breaking news reporting for coverage of Scott’s death.

melissa@ncpolicywatch.com
919-861-1454