RALEIGH — N.C. Court of Appeals Judge John M. Tyson will be running to keep his seat in the upcoming 2022 election. Tyson was most recently elected to the N.C. Court of Appeals (COA) on Nov. 4, 2014.
The term duration for the state’s COA judges is eight years.
The 67-year-old Tyson tells North State Journal he is the “candidate with the most experience,” and that during his current term on the COA, he’s been a part of 2,523 appeals decisions with 99% of his decisions that went to the N.C. Supreme court being either been affirmed or left undisputed.
This is not Tyson’s first term on the COA, having served on that court from 2001 to 2009. He was reelected in 2000 but failed to win reelection in 2008. Tyson was appointed as a recall judge for the COA in 2009. Additionally, Tyson had also served as an emergency Superior Court judge and ran unsuccessfully for a Superior Court spot in the 12C Judicial District. He was one of four candidates running.
Tyson described the COA as an “error-correcting court” that is an important part of the judicial process.
“We are an appeal-of-right court. We don’t get to choose what we take; and because we’re the intermediary court, we’re not a policy court,” explained Tyson. “The policy court is the Supreme Court because they get to interpret laws and statutes. They are the final arbiter of the North Carolina State Constitution.”
Tyson went on to say that “as an error-correcting court, our focus is narrow.” He elaborated, noting that the three-judge panels convened to review a case do not re-weigh the evidence and are not supposed to.
“Basically, did the trial judge commit an error that was prejudicial to the appellant? It’s that simple,” said Tyson.
Of his own personal view on the court system, Tyson believes the jury system is the best protection of freedoms.
“Well, the jury system that we have is the greatest bulwark for freedom that we have because otherwise, what do you get? You get some unelected bureaucrat judge sitting there making life and death decisions,” Tyson said. “Whereas if you put the government to the test of having to prove your guilt to 12 people disinterested beyond a reasonable doubt, that’s a very high standard for them to meet. So, what protects the individual’s rights is a jury.”
The Cumberland County native has been married to his wife, Kirby, for 46 years. She is a commercial-real-estate broker in Fayetteville. Tyson said their first date was the prom in high school. They dated for five years before getting married and have been together ever since.
The couple has four children; three sons and a daughter.
“My youngest son, Henry, is a Campbell graduate. He was there when I was in law school at Campbell, so he’s a big Campbell fan,” Tyson said proudly. “And my daughter went to Wake Forest and met her husband there at Wake Forest; and then Jason, the oldest one, got his master’s at Wake Forest.”
When asked what he likes to do in his spare time, Tyson said he’s an avid reader and that he likes to restore antique automobiles.
“It’s always nice to fix something that’s broken and it didn’t run when you got it and all of a sudden you can take your skill and knowledge and make it run,” said Tyson.
Tyson also said teaching is something he really enjoys and that it is his version of golf.
“What I enjoy doing… I went to college to teach. I come from a family of teachers,” said Tyson. “My mother was one of nine, and four of her sisters were high school teachers.”
Tyson majored in English in college, and after he became certified to teach, he taught at New Hanover County High School. He’s currently a professor at Campbell University.
“I’ve been teaching at Campbell Law for 35 years,” said Tyson with a smile. “I’m teaching children of students. I’m teaching children of classmates.”
His education resume includes a bachelor’s degree from the University of North Carolina at Wilmington (1974) and a J.D. from Campbell University School of Law (1979).
Cracking a grin, Tyson and said that his wife told him, “When I start teaching grandchildren, it’s time to quit.”
Tyson also has two master’s degrees. An LL.M. (Masters of Laws) from the University of Virginia (2004) and an MBA from Duke University (1988).
In addition to teaching, he is also a life‑long member of First Presbyterian Church in Fayetteville and has been served as chairman of the board of deacons.
Tyson also possesses military experience, serving as colonel and staff judge advocate for the North Carolina State Defense Militia from 1987 to 1996. The judge is currently in inactive reserve status.
On the often-crucial topic of barbecue preference, Tyson is a vinegar-based fan but said there is “no bad barbecue.”
“Well, I was raised in eastern North Carolina, so vinegar!” Tyson said. “Now, that’s not to say that I don’t like Lexington-style barbecue, which has a red sauce. I like it too. And let me go ahead and go further. I like to go to South Carolina and eat mustard-base barbecue. There’s no bad barbecue.”