North Carolina Supreme Court Senior Associate Justice Paul Newby talks with Burlington Times-News editorial staff. (Photo Credit: Times-News)

From Burlington Times-News by Isaac Groves

Senior N.C. Supreme Court Associate Justice Paul Newby made at least two visits to Alamance County this week as part of the court’s civics outreach, though he will also be running next year for chief justice of the state court — a job the governor passed him over for last month.

“Recently a study indicated that more people could name the Three Stooges than the three branches of government,” Newby said. “Certainly a lot more folks know Judge Judy than they do the chief justice of the United States and certainly any of the justices on our court.”

Former Chief Justice Mark Martin emphasized civic education from the time he was appointed in 2014, Newby said, but made the program more formal to celebrate the 200th anniversary of the N.C. Supreme Court. Newby, who said he has always valued his role as an educator, and Associate Justice Samuel Ervin IV have taken that up.

Newby spoke to the Federalist Society at the Elon University School of Law on Monday, Feb. 25, according to the university’s News Services, and visited the Times-News on Friday, March 1.

Civic education, the way Newby talks about it, breaks down into the greater concepts on which our governments are based. and the mechanics of constitutional government, like the fact that we live under both state and federal governments.

“So we’ve got two constitutions, not one. That’s vital for folks to understand, the state constitution, federal constitution,” Newby said. “The state constitution is a limitation on ‘we the people’s’ political power. … All political power resides in ‘we the people,’ and we take some out, and we form a government. Well, are there certain things we don’t want that government to do? If so, it sets it out clearly in that state constitution.”

Explaining those larger concepts, Newby likes to use the example of going through the security line at the airport.

“How many of these folks realize they are trading off a liberty interest for the prospect of protecting their lives, and were the terrorist threat to go away, would they know that they have not the right, but the duty to tell the government to back down, no more invasive procedures to go through this line?” Newby asked. “My fear is folks don’t understand that.”

“What does it mean, life and liberty and the pursuit of happiness?” Newby asked. “Which is property rights and other aspects of that.”

People should also understand this state’s unique role in the creation of the federal government. North Carolina, Newby said, is the Bill of Rights state because it voted down the U.S. Constitution until it had one.

“We actually had a convention down here in Hillsborough in July of 1788,” Newby said. “This was a huge deal, and we voted it down because there was no Bill of Rights.”

As an aside, the state lost its original copy of the Bill of Rights in 1865 when a Union soldier took it at the end of the Civil War. There were several attempts by the Indiana family that had the document to sell it back to North Carolina over the years, but the state refused. saying it was stolen property. After they tried to sell it to Pennsylvania in 2003, Gov. Mike Easley asked Newby, then a U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of North Carolina, to set up a sting to seize the document from a lawyer who was trying to sell it to a rich private buyer who was actually an FBI agent.

It worked.

To read the full article, please visit

Court Categories: Supreme Court