Cooper accused of political games after tapping Court of Appeals replacement

Governor named John Arrowood within minutes of judges resignation and days after vetoing bill to shrink the court

Justice John Arrowood

RALEIGH — Judge John Arrowood was sworn onto the N.C. Court of Appeals Monday to fill the vacancy of Judge Douglas McCullough, who resigned effective Monday morning. McCullough served on the Court of Appeals for 14 years and faced mandatory retirement next month due to his age. Gov. Roy Cooper appointed Arrowood less than an hour after receiving notice of McCullough’s resignation. The appointment tips the balance on the state’s second-highest court and was an opportunity to fill a seat with a political ally while the state’s Republican-led legislature weighed plans to override Cooper’s Friday veto. Last week Cooper vetoed a bill to reduce the N.C. Court of Appeals by three judges, to 12 total. Insiders believe Arrowood, an openly gay judge, was a strategic choice after Cooper’s fallout with the LGBT community in the wake of the H.B. 2 repeal and his support for compromise bill, H.B. 142. Arrowood was previously appointed to the Court of Appeals in 2007 by then-N.C. Gov. Mike Easley, a Democrat. However, he was defeated for re-election in 2014.”After his nonstop rhetoric about ‘partisan politics having no place on the judges’ bench,’ Gov. Cooper needs to explain why he put his partisan allegiance above the voters by singlehandedly changing the party makeup of the Court of Appeals with a Democrat who was soundly rejected by them in 2014,” said Amy Auth, spokeswoman for Senate Leader Phil Berger (R-Rockingham).The measure Cooper vetoed, H.B. 239, directed that as seats become vacant on the bench they not be filled until the number of judges is reduced. Unless the state legislature votes to override the veto, the N.C. Court of Appeals will remain at 15 judges serving on three-judge panels.Arrowood graduated from Catawba College and received his law degree at UNC Chapel Hill School of Law. He clerked for Judge Gerald Arnold at the N.C. Court of Appeals and served under then-Attorney General Cooper on the N.C. Attorney General’s Advisory Commission on Statutes. “His experience as a judge on this court makes him uniquely qualified to hit the ground running and ensure that justice is swiftly delivered,” said Cooper of Arrowood on Monday.