North Carolina Department of Justice
North Carolina Department of Justice
North Carolina Department of Justice
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September 16, 2009 

The Honorable Jim Gulley
Representative, 103rd District
North Carolina General Assembly
1313 Legislative Building
16 W. Jones St.
Raleigh, NC 27601-1096

Re: Advisory Opinion - North Carolina Constitution Art. IV, Sec. 22

Dear Representative Gulley:

You have requested the opinion of this Office concerning Article IV, Section 22 of the North Carolina Constitution concerning the qualifications to serve as a judge in North Carolina. The foregoing provision reads:

Sec. 22. Qualification of Justices and Judges. Only persons duly authorized to practice law in the courts of this State shall be eligible for election or appointment as a Justice of the Supreme Court, Judge of the Court of Appeals, Judge of the Superior Court, or Judge of District Court. This section shall not apply to persons elected to or serving in such capacities on or before January 1, 1981.

The language of the first sentence of Sec. 22 is unambiguous. No person is eligible for election or appointment as a justice or judge unless that person is duly authorized to practice law in the courts of this State. That is the only qualification mandated by Sec. 22. The second sentence exempts from this requirement those persons elected to or serving in such capacities on or before January 1, 1981.

This Office has previously opined that the second sentence of Sec. 22 is a complete "grandfather" clause, exempting any person elected to or serving as a judge or justice on or before January 1, 1981 (see attached). The exemption applies during any such person’s life time and forever exempts them from Sec. 22. If a person was not elected to or serving as a judge or justice on or before January 1, 1981, that person must be duly authorized to practice law in the courts of this State to be eligible for election or appointment as a Justice of the Supreme Court, Judge of the Court of Appeals, Judge of the Superior Court, or Judge of District Court.

We hope that this opinion is responsive to your request. Should you have further questions regarding this issue, please do not hesitate to contact us.

Sincerely,  

Ann Reed
Senior Deputy Attorney General 

Grady L. Balentine, Jr.
Special Deputy Attorney General