Senate Bill 698 Proposes Two-Year Terms For All North Carolina State Judges and Justices

By Molly Martinson

On October 17, 2017, North Carolina State Senator Rabon filed a bill in the State Senate to amend the North Carolina Constitution to limit terms of office for all state judges and justices to two years.

Currently, Article IV of the North Carolina Constitution provides that District Court judges are elected to four-year terms (N.C. Const. art. IV, sec. 10), whereas Superior Court judges, Court of Appeals judges, and Supreme Court justices are elected to eight-year terms (N.C. Const. art. IV, sec. 16).  Senate Bill 698 would amend the North Carolina Constitution to limit all such terms to two years.  Senate Bill 698 further provides that all terms of office for judges and justices both elected and appointed prior to July 1, 2018 shall expire on December 31, 2018.  Finally, the bill proposes that this constitutional amendment be put to a vote during the 2018 statewide primary election.

If passed, in addition to limiting all elected judicial terms to two years, any judicial vacancies occurring after the 2018 election would be filled by the Governor for the remainder of the term, which—given the text of the proposed amendment—would be no more than two years.

Several organizations and members of the North Carolina judiciary have issued statements in response to Senate Bill 698, including  Chief Justice Mark Martin, the North Carolina State Bar and the North Carolina Bar Association.