Interview: Paul Newby, Candidate for NC Chief Justice

This interview was originally published in our September-October 2020 magazine, which you can view here.

On October 24th 2020, Carolina Review Editor-in-Chief Bryson Piscitelli was honored to receive an exclusive interview with Paul Newby, an Associate Justice of the North Carolina Supreme Court running for Chief Justice. Newby is the lone Republican on the Court. On November 3rd 2020, Newby will face Democrat Chief Justice Cheri Beasley. 

BRYSON S PISCITELLI: Justice Newby, please introduce yourself. Who are you and why are you running to be Chief Justice of the North Carolina Supreme Court?

PAUL M NEWBY: I’m the Senior Associate Justice of the NC Supreme Court, being the longest serving member. I was first elected in 2004. I’m the only current Justice to have been elected twice by the People.

I’m the first lawyer in my family. In fact I met my first lawyer through my scout troop when I was on the path to getting my Eagle Scout. I went to UNC law school, where I met my wonderful wife. In 1985 I was asked to be an Assistant U.S. Attorney during the Reagan Administration.

I’ve been a lawyer for 40 years, and taught at Campbell Law School since 2008. I’m the only Justice to have five years experience as a transactional attorney representing small businesses and buyers and sellers of homes, and then for 20 years to be a litigator doing both civil and criminal. I’m co-author of the only book on the NC Constitution. I’ve received the N.C. Bar Association Constitutional Rights Award and the Citizen Lawyer Award. I’m running for Chief Justice to use my more than 40 years of experience in the justice system to fulfill the promise of equal justice for all.

PISCITELLI: What is at stake with this election?

NEWBY: Judicial philosophies matter. Currently I’m the only justice on the Court with the judicial philosophy of being a Constitutional conservative. A Constitutionalist believes our State and national Constitutions should be applied as intended by the drafters. Conservative simply means that I believe in judicial self-restraint. Courts ought not to be making policy; that’s the General Assembly’s job. I think courts simply apply the law as intended. After all, the law is for everybody, not just judges and lawyers.

The court is 1-6; I’m the only Republican with six Democrats. It could be 0-7. Having different perspectives leads to a greater development of whatever ideas are being discussed. People that understand separation of powers and believe that the judicial branch is there to decide cases, and not to enact policies, deserve to have their viewpoint represented.

PISCITELLI: If elected Chief Justice of the NC Supreme Court, what will be the top priority of your tenure?

NEWBY:Article I, Section 18 of the North Carolina Constitution says clearly that the courts are to be open and justice is to be done without favor, denial, or delay. Right now justice is being delayed; justice delayed is justice denied. We have to empower all the local stakeholders in the judicial branch across North Carolina to get the court system to operate fully.

I support equal justice for all. In my sixteen years on the Court I have fairly, consistently, and predictably applied the Law. The law needs to be predictable for lawyers to do their jobs.

PISCITELLI: How do you give back to the community of North Carolina as a public servant, or in your private life?

NEWBY:I take very seriously my role of being a mentor. I was the Scoutmaster of Boy Scout Troop 11 and still volunteer with Scouting. I mentor young lawyers through my internship program and by teaching at Campbell Law. I provide civic education to schools and community groups, often telling the story of my leading the undercover sting operation in 2003 which recovered NC’s original copy of the Bill of Rights—stolen in 1865 by a Union soldier. It is vital for older lawyers to invest in the generations of new lawyers. We must leave our justice system better than we found it.

PISCITELLI: What would you say to a young first-time voter, who doesn’t really know a lot about the judicial system, doesn’t really know who you are, and is trying to fill out that ballot and determine how they’re going to vote for the justices?

NEWBY:The question I have for those voters is: what do you expect from a judge? If you expect a judge to simply follow the law as its written, and allow the legislative branch to do its job, the executive branch to do its job; if you want a judge to stay in the judicial lane and simply, fairly, impartially decide the cases that come before them, then I’ve got a 16-year record of doing that.

Think about a 0-7 court with only one judicial philosophy. It is important to have some balance of judicial philosophies. That balance is very important for the Court to accurately and fairly consider issues that come before it.

Newby ran for Chief Justice of the NC Supreme Court against incumbent Democrat Cheri Beasley. As of 17 November 2020, WRAL and the NC GOP declared Newby the winner by less than 500 votes.

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