RALEIGH — N.C. Supreme Court Chief Justice Cheri Beasley and Court of Appeals Judge Lucy Inman filmed campaign ads inside judicial chambers in August, even as emergency directives signed by Beasley restrict courthouse access.
In an email, North Carolina Judicial Branch communications director Sharon Gladwell confirmed that Beasley and Inman filmed campaign-related ads on the weekend of Aug. 22 and 23.
Gladwell said that the Supreme Court and Court of Appeals buildings remained open to the public and that the buildings remain open to justices and judges after business hours.
However, in Emergency Directive 4, which was signed by Beasley, the language states that “Attorneys and other persons who do not have business in a courthouse should not enter a courthouse, and those who do have business in a courthouse should not prolong their visit once their business has concluded.”
Both the Supreme Court and Court of Appeals have held remote arguments since late March.
Beasley’s orders have also amounted to a moratorium on jury trials in district and superior courts in another directive that has been extended numerous times.
“Beasley’s courtroom are open for her campaigns but closed to victims of violent crimes,” said NCGOP Press Secretary Tim Wigginton. “Using closed court rooms for her political purposes raises serious ethical concerns, and she should immediately explain why she chose to use her court room for her campaign, but kept courts closed for victims of violent crimes.”
Representatives from both campaigns of the judicial candidates confirmed the ads were filmed in August and said that all safety protocols were followed.
“We filmed the ad in August and all judicial code of conduct standards and COVID-19 guidelines were observed and practiced,” said Benjamin Woods from Beasley’s campaign.
Beasley is running against Associate Justice Paul Newby and Inman is running for the Supreme Court against fellow Court of Appeals Judge Phil Berger, Jr. Both Newby and Berger say they did not use the judicial chambers when filming ads this year.
Many states have brought jury trials back this summer and fall. South Carolina and Virginia reopened many of their local courts in September, Delaware and Maryland announced the resumption of jury trials the first week of October, and Georgia is set to resume jury trials in November.
The delay in trials was cited in a recent incident at the Wake County courthouse where a man shot into the air several times after a postponed court date.