RALEIGH — One of the N.C. Court of Appeals judges recently elected in 2020 is running for the N.C. Supreme Court in 2022.
Judge April Wood sat down with North State Journal to discuss her decision to run, why it’s important and talked a bit about her family, hobbies and where she comes down in the age-old North Carolina barbecue debate.
Next year, two seats on the N.C. Supreme Court and four on the N.C. Court of Appeals will be on the ballot, with the chance for Republicans to take majority control on each court.
On running for the state Supreme Court after just starting at the Court of Appeals, Wood said that “we need to have experienced conservative judges at the North Carolina Supreme Court.”
“One of the reasons why I’m running is because it’s an opportunity to have a conservative majority on the Supreme Court,” said Wood. “Next year there are two seats that will be on the [Supreme Court] ballot and also, because of those seven judges, only one has experience as a trial court judge. And I believe that is something that is significantly lacking.”
Wood said that having judges at the Supreme Court level who have experience understanding what happens in the trial courts is important because “everything comes through the trial courts.”
“And the other reason that I’m running is because with my almost 20 years of experience as a judge in both the trial courts and the Court of Appeals, I’m by far the most experienced and the strongest candidate running for the Supreme Court to be able to win a seat and give us a constitutional conservative majority,” Wood said.
Prior to joining the N.C. Court of Appeals, Wood served as a District Court judge in District 22B. First elected to that position in 2002, she was successfully reelected multiple times, including running unopposed in 2010 and 2014.
Before becoming a judge, Wood had her own private practice in Thomasville, after passing the state bar in 1997. She received her undergraduate degree from Pensacola Christian College and her J.D. from the Regent University School of Law.
In 2020, Wood was on the slate of Republican candidates that won all five of the available seats on the N.C. Court of Appeals. She took office in January of 2021 to begin an eight-year term. If Wood succeeds in her bid for a spot on the state’s top court, Gov. Roy Cooper will have the opportunity to pick her replacement.
When asked if she’s been questioned about leaving a void for Cooper to fill, Wood cited other instances where a vacancy was filled by an appointment, including N.C. Court of Appeals Judge Richard Dietz, who is also running for the N.C. Supreme Court in 2022.
“Some people have asked questions about it, I don’t know if I’d necessarily say criticized, but they’ve asked questions,” said Wood.
Wood said the situation is “not an anomaly” and that “this is not something that’s out of the ordinary.”
“Phil Berger when he ran, Gov. Cooper appointed Darren Jackson, who was the minority leader of the N.C. House,” said Wood. He’s running for an eight-year term now, but he’s got to run for election.”
“The reality is, though, at the Court of Appeals, we can make decisions and we can have a majority opinion and the Supreme Court can still take that case up — even if it’s 3-0 at the Court of Appeals — they can take the case up and overrule us,” Wood said, “So, there is no higher court, regarding North Carolina law, than the North Carolina Supreme Court, and it is vital to have experience…that experience and knowledge at the North Carolina Supreme Court. And once I explain that to people, they’re like, ‘Oh, I understand. Okay, that’s great; yeah, you should run.’”
Wood believes judges should follow, interpret and apply the law as written and not be activists on the bench.
Wood hasn’t always lived in the Tarheel state, as she spent a lot of time in other places around the world while her father was serving in the United States Marines Corps. She has good memories of living in Okinawa, Japan, and Adak, Alaska. Wood now resides in Lexington with her husband, Jeffrey Berg, and their three children ages 15, 19, and 21. Her oldest is waiting to head to law school next year. Berg is also an attorney.
Wood said that she likes to spend a lot of time with her family grilling out and it is relaxing to work in the backyard. Her family is also interested in visiting and hiking in national parks.
“Anything that involves a historical site, whether it’s a president’s house or a battlefield — Civil War or Revolutionary War — we make an effort to be able to visit those sites and learn a lot about their history,” said Wood.
Additionally, Wood says she likes to swim “whenever I get the opportunity.”
On the topic of barbecue, Wood stands by her hometown of Lexington.
“I live in Lexington, North Carolina. So, I love Lexington Barbecue,” Wood said proudly.