Ethical Problems on NC's Supreme Court

A few weeks ago, Connie posted some information here at BlueNC that sent me off on a digging expedition, and I subsequently posted my meager findings on an NC Policy Watch diary that dealt with the same subject matter. Being that I'm not a lawyer and don't even play one on TV, I decided to wait and see if anyone smarter than me (big crowd) would take the ball and run with it. But since I haven't seen any movement yet, plus the fact that I have the patience of a toddler, I decided to blog about what I see as a major issue with our State's highest court.

Many reading this are aware of the NC Supreme Court's recent ruling allowing a convicted felon to legally possess a firearm:

The ruling authored by Justice Edward Thomas Brady held that Britt should be able to own guns and that the state unfairly took away his right to own a firearm with a 2004 law that barred felons from owning firearms. Britt was convicted in 1979 of selling Quaalude pills, but he didn't have any further tangles with the law.

Though the opinion focused just on Britt's case, both sides of the gun control issue saw the ruling as significant because the state's highest court found that Britt had a right to bear arms that trumped the state's ability to restrict him from owning any weapons.

Brady wrote that the law was too broad in including nonviolent felons like Britt, who had otherwise been law-abiding and had owned guns for 17 years after he successfully petitioned in 1987 to have his civil rights restored, including owning a gun.

"He is not among the class of citizens who pose a threat to public peace and safety," Brady wrote.

Before I continue, I know there are many reading this who feel strongly about this issue, and I'm not going to try to dissuade you from speaking your mind in the comments. But before you do, please take the time to read the entire opinion(pdf), including the dissent:

In a dissenting opinion, Justice Patricia Timmons-Goodson said she was alarmed that her fellow justices ignored state law by giving Britt an exemption. She said the ruling made North Carolina the first jurisdiction to uphold a convicted felon's right to own firearms over a state's power to regulate gun ownership.

"Today's decision opens the floodgates wide before an inevitable wave of individual challenges to not only the Felony Firearms Act, but our statutory provisions prohibiting firearm possession by incompetents and the mentally insane," Timmons-Goodson wrote.

Now let's talk about the ethics I mentioned in the title of this diary. Whenever an officer of the court finds him or her self in a situation where they have even a potential conflict of interest with a case, sound ethics demand they remove (recuse) themselves from the proceedings. But don't take my word for it, here's a few snippets from the NC Code of Judicial Conduct:

canon 2.A. "A judge should respect and comply with the law and should conduct himself at all times in a manner that promotes public confidence in the integrity and impartiality of the judiciary."

Canon 3.C. (Disqualification)(1)(a) "He knows that he, individually or as a fiduciary, or his spouse or minor child residing in his household, has a financial interest in the subject matter in controversy or in a party to the proceeding, or any other interest that could be substantially affected by the outcome of the proceeding"

I bring those rules up because, until today, I had suspected that Justice Brady, who wrote the Majority Opinion that not only granted a convicted felon the right to own a gun, but also eroded our elected officials' authority to protect the general public from harm, is also a gun dealer:

From the Brady Law Firm's website:

Phone (910) 323-5600
FAX (910) 323-5696

B. Dianne Brady
Mailing Address

The Brady Law Firm
325 Green Street
Fayetteville, NC 28301

And from a Fayetteville business directory:

Guns & Gunsmiths

North Carolina Arsenal
325 Green Street
Fayetteville, NC 28301-5027

Phone: 910-485-8000
Fax: 910-323-5696
View Map - North Carolina Arsenal

I used the word "suspected" above because info on the Internet about the North Carolina Arsenal is real thin. It shared the same street address as the Brady Law Firm, and even the same fax machine, but I thought it might be some multi-office location, or maybe the gun dealership was an old business that Justice Brady used to run. So I decided to drive down to my old stomping grounds in Fayette-Nam to check it out.

After walking around the Brady Law Firm building to make sure there was no other entrance, I entered the front door and encountered a receptionist at her desk. I told her I was looking for the North Carolina Arsenal, and she sort of rolled her eyes and replied, as best I can recall:

"That's a side-business operated by a judge, whose wife owns and operates this law firm. It's not a place you can just walk into like a store, you have to call on the phone."

Just to clarify, I said, "So I have to call the judge?", and she said, "Yes."

I probably could have gotten a little bit more info from her, but my main questions had been answered: a) The North Carolina Arsenal did exist and was still being "operated", b) Justice Brady was the one who personally operated it, and c) the folks who worked in the law office were aware of it.

Since he is apparently still an active gun dealer, Justice Brady should have recused himself from this case. Instead, he not only took part, he assumed a leadership role and spoke for not only his Supreme Court colleagues, but the entire State's judicial system as well.

In life, there are consequences. If you commit a felony, you lose some of your rights. If you are a judge who puts personal gain and ideology above ethics and rules, there should be consequences for you, too.



Who has the power to deal the Judge some real justice?

Truth and Consequences does not exist anymore on Court TV

Who has the power to deal the Judge some real justice?* loftT

The Voters! Forget anything else, since the Judical System is petty much corrupt by it's so-called Watchdogs. Excellent research! First Class! I am sure Judge Brady has read this and thinking does he want to be in a State-Wide knock down judical political race this coming election year?

Thanks :)

I have a feeling we may have some gunslingers around here tomorrow, so hide the whisky. ;)

Great citizen journalism

I sure hope the old-timey press picks up on this.
Good job Steve.

Thanks, Graig

I can't imagine why they wouldn't be interested, but we'll have to wait and see.

Dayum Steve as a citizen of the Old North State

this looks bad for Judge Brady. Where is the Main Stream Media on this? When is this state going to move past the "good ol' boy" system?

Good questions, Mo

I wish I had the answers...

Justice Brady's opinion

Before jumping to the conclusion that Justice Brady's decision poses some sort of ethical conflict several points should be considered. First, his personal and public position on firearms is well known by everyone watching judicial elections. Secondly, his side business of selling firearms also is well known and certainly nothing that was in any way concealed. Next, had the State which was defending the statute in question thought that he should recuse from the case, the State could have so requested but apparently chose to not do so. Finally, agree or disagree with his opinion in the case, Brady was joined by five other Justices including Chief Justice Parker and Justice Robin Hudson.

Justice Deny is simply inJustice

Next, had the State which was defending the statute in question thought that he should recuse from the case, the State could have so requested but apparently chose to not do so. Finally, agree or disagree with his opinion in the case, Brady was joined by five other Justices including Chief Justice Parker and Justice Robin Hudson* Scalawag

Has it occured to you, that maybe the State didn't want to touch this and incurred the wrath of the majority of the Supreme Court justices? Just recently the court issue a opinion on the State Lottery that was challenge by [Sponge Bob] former justice Bob Orr and Art Pope lawyer, where all of the justices refuse to reveal their vote on the Case fiquring that it might offend the pro-lottery and non-lottery special interests groups in the next or up coming judical elections. These are elected officials of the State and the Voters are entitled and have a constitutional right to know how they vote?

Justice Orr lost the case by the way, That decision is like Umpires issuing the score of a game without naming the players on who did what!

"Democracy cannot exist in a Judical System where justice is a secret political society!"

Brady opinion

As to the number of votes supporting Brady's opinion, the link from the original post only indicates Justice Timmons-Goodson dissenting. And there is nothing about any Justice not participating so I assume that it was a 6 - 1 vote. Also, it appears that Justice Brady is not running for reelection (see Dome).

From the Dome article I linked to above:

Advocates spent Monday poring over the 5-2 decision in Britt v. State of North Carolina.

I saw that other Dome piece I believe you're referring to:

Judge Barbara Jackson of the N.C. Court of Appeals said she will run for the state Supreme Court seat held by Justice Edward Thomas Brady.

Jackson and Brady are Republicans. Brady has not yet announced whether he will run for re-election, but Jackson's announcement suggests that he won't. It would be highly unusual for a sitting Court of Appeals judge to challenge a justice from the same party.

Which may at least partially explain why Brady didn't recuse himself. If he's decided to retire from the bench, he may have been less concerned about rules and more concerned about taking advantage of an opportunity to accomplish an ideological goal.

Back to the 5-2 decision. If Brady had recused himself (like he should have), and just one of those other 4 voted the other way, it would have been a 3-3 tie.


I didn't pursue this because of the gun issue, I did it because we ALL need to pay closer attention to conflicts of interest in the behavior of our elected officials, and publicly discuss it when we see it.

I don't relish the idea of tarnishing the reputation of people like Justice Brady. But the alternative, to ignore or dismiss unethical behavior, is even more repulsive to me.

In any case

In any case, is there an opinion poll somewhere that asks whether or not people believe that convicted felons should be allowed to own a gun?

Me? I'd vote no. Aside from all the other things brought up here, even if you are a person that supports gun ownership, do you believe that a convicted felon should be allowed to own a gun?

I know this is only part of the question, but you have to admit it is a good question.

Great job, Steve!

I think you're right - the gun issue is not the main issue here. Brady's apparent or perceived conflict of interest renders his opinion suspect. That he should have recused himself seems clear. What is not clear is why he thought that this would never be an issue. It defies common sense.

It would be a head-scratcher

if he was merely a district court judge. But a Supreme Court Justice? That's worth a WTF?

Good stuff Steve

It's a funny feeling driving out of your way to get information but very rewarding when you realize it wouldn't see the light of day otherwise. I say get the facts out there and let people make of them what they will.

I have to admit,

whenever I'm researching a piece and I start thinking I really need to make a trip somewhere to polish it off, it takes me like a nanosecond to talk myself into it. I love this state, and it usually takes me twice as long to get to my destination because I'm always stopping to take pictures. :)

If you folks don't mind,

I'm going to sticky this at the top for a day or so, to make sure this problem won't be overlooked any more than it already has.


just for the record a felony charge should be a act of violence
from what I understand there are over 1500 crimes in
north carolina that are felony charges hard to belive but
I guess if you look at our prisons there full of people that should not be their heres what happens when every law on the book
becomes a felony note when charged with a felony a non violent
the person looses all rights as a citizen the only right you still have is your rights to pay taxes into a state that truns you into a life long thug that is unfit for to work anywhere becouse no one hires convicted felons violent or not your still a felon so lets get the record straight I think if the state has charged anyone with a felony if they take all rights as a citizen away seems to me like
that person should not have to pay taxes untill their rights are restored all their rights not just a few of them all of them so if your charged with a non violent felony in North Carolina look out becouse you just became a life long thug your life has come to a end and the way this seems its almost like your life has no value to the State
becouse all your rights of slef protection are gone forever so is this a fair law this law it takes all the hopes away for anyone that
has a non violent felony on there record when North Carolina
and other states enforce laws that say that if a man is convicted felon for selling a bag of pot and treat him like a rapest robber or a murder someone needs to rethink the laws other words what I guess what im trying to say is Im sick and tired of paying peoples wages so that people like you law makers can ruin good peoples lifes forevery its totally sick rase our taxes build more prisons and make all laws felonys right down to haveing a beer or speeding
theirs a lot of good people out her that needs a home becouse they cannot get jobs Thanks to the law makers keep up the good work maybe one day I can find a good job so people like me can pay more taxes so that people like you will have a job also just so you bounch of Idiots on this site know about the health care you lovely dumbacrat obama is in favor of is if you dont have health care under his plan or another privite company your fine will be 3800.00 dollars a year maybe some of you people will be smart enough to wake up and smell the coffee

mark stewart

Needs periods.

They're on sale, right now:


And, as an extra bonus, for those who call in the next thirty minutes:

;;;;; and ,,,,,,,,,, and ()()() and even !!!!!! for the more adamant writers among us.


Punctuation, spelling, you name it. Now, after reading that diatribe of idiocy, I should expect nothing other than the person's obvious lack of education, I guess. It never ceases to amaze me how someone can not be aware of their own ignorance.


I woke up and sniffed for coffee this morning. But I guess it doesn't count if you know how to spell smell.

Could be....

Meets most of the usual criteria: Illiterate, bigoted, uninformed, rude and aggressive. But then what would I know? I'm just a dumbacrat.

Stan Bozarth