Full Legal Name: ROBERT CARL HUNTER
Name as it Appears on the Ballot: ROBERT C. "BOB" HUNTER
Office Sought/District: N.C. SUPREME COURT (ASSOCIATE JUSTICE)
Party: (THIS IS A NON-PARTISAN RACE)
Date of Birth: JANUARY 14,1944
Home Address: MARION, N.C.
Mailing Address (if different from home): PO BOX 26914, RALEIGH, N.C. 27611
Campaign Web Site: www.JudgeBobHunter.org
Occupation & Employer: JUDGE, N.C. COURT OF APPEALS, STATE OF NORTH CAROLINA
Years lived in North Carolina: ALL MY LIFE
Work Phone: 919-360-5949 (campaign)
1. What important issues might the NC Supreme Court decide in the next term? What is your position on those issues?
The NC Supreme Court will face a number of important issues in the next term, as it does every term. However, I cannot comment on issues that may come before me in a case, even on theoretical grounds. Doing so would violate what I consider to be intrinsic to an open judicial process. To talk about these issues shuts down the judicial process before it has begun. It indicates that a decision is made before it comes before you. Each case should be approached on its own merit, and informed by the facts, the history, and the arguments of the case brought before the court.
Instead, the judiciary must be concerned with making sure our courts protect our citizens and their constitutional rights, delivering fair and sensible legal opinions, ensuring that our judicial system is responsive and efficient, keeping our courts free from personal politics and partisan agendas, and ensuring our courts are open and accessible to everyone.
2) What qualifies you to serve?
I have been a sitting judge of the North Carolina Court of Appeals for the last 11 years where I have written over 1100 opinions and heard over 3500 cases. As a Supreme Court Justice, my experience in this regard will serve North Carolina well. Also, prior to being named to the Court of Appeals, I served in the General Assembly for 18 years. I have also at times served as a county attorney and assistant district attorney.
I have built a reputation as a Judge with a strong commitment to a fair and unbiased process. I feel this reputation is part of the reason that I carried 99 out of 100 counties in my last election to the NC Court of Appeals. I bring no personal or political agenda to the court, beyond a commitment to the United States and North Carolina constitutions and legal fairness.
3. How do you define yourself politically? How does that impact your judicial approach?
Politics has no place in the judiciary. I know that sounds idealistic, but as a Judge, I cannot approach any case with preconceived political prejudices. Every case must be judged on its own merits. A Supreme Court Justice must listen to and consider carefully all sides and decide cases according to the law and to the Constitutions of the United States and North Carolina regardless of their own political beliefs.
4. What have been your most important decisions in your current capacity?
I have sat in on over 3500 cases and written over 1100 opinions. To the parties involved, each of these cases were extremely important. If I had to single out one particular case, it would be the Dogwood case. There, my dissent was used by the NC Supreme Court to clarify that cases should not be dismissed for technical and minor violations of appellate rules; thus parties are able to have their cases heard on merit rather than dismissed on minor issues.
5. What do you feel was the U.S. Supreme Court's most important recent decision? Did you agree with the majority?
As an appellate judge on the North Carolina Court of Appeals, I am bound by the Constitutions of the United States and North Carolina, as well as decisions by the United States Supreme Court as interpreted by the North Carolina Supreme Court. Therefore, I feel it would be improper for me to comment.
6. Do you feel that North Carolina's current system of judicial elections serves the state well? Are there other forms of selecting judges you feel would function better or worse than the current one?
I believe the current system, as it was amended this decade, instituting both non-partisan and publically financed elections, is a good system. North Carolina led the way with these changes and can be proud of them, and others are looking to follow our lead. While no system can be perfect, our system is more progressive, more open and less influenced than nearly any other in the country. I am opposed to any system like the federal system that appoints judges for life. If we are going to elect judges, I continue to support judges being elected via non-partisan elections with public funding and strict restrictions on fundraising, as is the case in North Carolina. That is why I have always accepted the voluntary constraints of public funding in my own judicial races.
7. There have been a number of legislative actions regarding the death penalty, including the passage of the N.C. Racial Justice Act. How should the N.C. Supreme Court interpret and apply the Racial Justice Act? What are the implications of this law for the court?
The Supreme Court should interpret this act as it should interpret all legislative statutes. That is by interpreting the intent of the General Assembly consistent with the United States and North Carolina constitutions.
8. The establishment of the N.C. Innocence Commission and other actions have recently been taken to minimize the risk of incarcerating innocent people. Is the problem of innocents convicted of crimes as significant as these actions would seem to indicate? What, if anything, can you do as a judge to improve the system in this regard?
Appellate courts, like the NC Supreme Court, are designed primarily to correct procedural errors that occur at the trial level. The N.C. Innocence Commission was designed to review convictions based on issues of fact as determined by a jury where there is substantial evidence that the defendant was innocent. One conviction of an innocent person is unacceptable, and everyone in the judicial system must strive to ensure it does not happens.
9. Have you ever recused yourself from a case or, as a lawyer, faced a conflict of interest? Please describe the case.
Yes. Nearly every judge at one time or another, including myself, has exercised recusal. It happens rarely, but it does occur when a judge might have a close relationship with one of the parties in a case, or a lawyer representing one of the parties. There are standards to guide us as to when we should recuse ourselves.
10. What are your views on the public fallout after the court's ruling on a law that defines a life sentence as 80 years? What precedent has been set by this decision?
Elements of this ruling are still being reviewed by the Supreme Court, as such it would be improper for me to comment.