SPECIAL TO THE WILMINGTON JOURNAL
RALEIGH, N.C. – Anita Earls, one of the nation’s leading civil rights attorneys, announced her candidacy for Associate Justice of the North Carolina Supreme Court at a press conference Wednesday at the North Carolina Democratic Party Headquarters in Raleigh. Anita was joined by friends, family, and supporters, including state Sens. Angela Bryant and Floyd McKissick, Wake County Commissioner Jessica Holmes, Durham City Council member DeDreana Freeman, and redistricting co-counselor Edwin Speas.
Anita gave the following statement in announcing her candidacy:
“I am excited to announce today my candidacy for the North Carolina Supreme Court.
For thirty years my legal career has been about advocating for hard-working individuals, families and communities across North Carolina who otherwise would not have a voice. I passionately believe in the importance of the right to vote, and that an independent judiciary is crucial to the balance of powers necessary to maintain democratic government of, by and for the people. An independent court means that the rules are the same for every North Carolinian, not just insiders or those with great wealth and power. An independent court means that everyone is held accountable to the rule of law not to the whims of politicians.
In these times, I am seeing how those values are under attack, and I admire the determination of ordinary people who take great risks to stand up for their rights. I have traveled around the state urging people to continue to believe that they can make a difference by engaging in our democracy.
Yet too often this political process feels like a powerful few rigging the system against a powerless many. In light of recent attacks on the independence of North Carolina’s judiciary, and on the right of all citizens to cast a ballot that is counted equally, it is clear to me that I have to not just talk the talk, but also must have the courage to walk the walk. I understand the difference between being an advocate and being a jurist, and I want the opportunity to use my experience to help ensure equal justice for all North Carolinians in a new role.
I am the daughter of a nurse and a medical technician: humble, hardworking, ordinary people with extraordinary courage to build a family together at a time when their mixed-race marriage was illegal in many states. The world seemed rigged against them but they persevered. As a woman of color, and now a grandmother, my ultimate goal is to find the common ground among competing interests, and to ensure the consistent rule of law that best serves everyone.
While in private practice, I represented everyday, hardworking people across the state in family law cases, criminal cases, police misconduct cases, employment cases,, and consumer law matters. These were people in distress or at risk in one way or another who needed the courts to protect their rights and resolve their conflicts.
My work vindicating civil rights has also taken me to federal courts and the US Department of Justice. For over two years I was one of five members of the North Carolina State Board of Elections, where we held Democratic and Republican politicians accountable when they violated the law. The central focus throughout my career has been ensuring that everyone has an equal opportunity to participate, so that politicians can’t ignore or marginalize any voter in our state — no matter how powerful the politician or powerless the voter.
But the qualification I hope voters will most evaluate is whether I can fairly and faithfully apply the law equally to everyone whose case comes before the Court. I believe my record demonstrates that I have an unflinching dedication to the principle of equality before the law. I ask for your support in November 2018 and I thank all of you who came here to stand with me today.
Following the press conference, former North Carolina Governor Jim Hunt released the following statement endorsing Anita: “Anita’s service to North Carolina is undeniable. She has been at the forefront of the fight for fair maps and voting rights in our state, and she has dedicated her life to achieving fairness, equality, and justice. I look forward to supporting Anita as she seeks to represent all North Carolinians from the bench of North Carolina’s Supreme Court.” — Former Gov. Hunt
North Carolina Representative G.K. Butterfield (NC-01) also released a statement endorsing Anita: “Anita Earls has the intellect and integrity we need on the North Carolina State Supreme Court. She understands the importance of an independent judiciary and will be a justice that will only make decisions based on the facts and the law.
“As a former N. C. State Supreme Court Justice, I know Anita has the character and work ethic to serve with distinction. Anita will make us proud. I call on every North Carolinian to join me in fighting every day to elect Anita Earls to the N.C. State Supreme Court.”
North Carolina Democratic Party African-American Caucus Chair Linda Wilkins-Daniels released a statement endorsing Anita: “Anita has spent her life fighting for the rights of African-Americans across North Carolina, beating back racial gerrymanders and racist voter ID laws to ensure that every North Carolinian – regardless of color or background – has equal rights and opportunity. I am proud to support her candidacy for the North Carolina Supreme Court and look forward to her continuing to fight for equality and justice across our state.”
Anita Earls has worked passionately for 30 years protecting civil rights, fighting for communities, and advocating fair political processes. Earls founded and is currently the Executive Director of the Southern Coalition for Social Justice, a North Carolina based civil rights nonprofit that partners with communities of color and economically disadvantaged communities in the south to defend and advance their political, social and economic rights.
Anita Earls has also served on the Equal Access to Justice Commission and the North Carolina Board of Elections. She has taught at Duke University, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and the University of Maryland. She litigated North Carolina’s landmark case against racial gerrymandering in legislative districts, Covington v. N.C., was lead counsel for the League of Women Voters in the trial last month against the partisan gerrymandering of North Carolina’s congressional districts, and led the challenge in state court to uphold the right to vote in North Carolina’s constitution even for people without a photo ID.