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Professor Suzanne Reynolds Delivers Keynote Address at Conference on Red State v. Blue State: The Judicial Role in an Era of Partisanship

Professor Suzanne Reynolds delivered the keynote address in a national conference at the University of Missouri-Kansas City Law School on “Red State v. Blue State:  The Judicial Role in an Era of Partisanship.”  Held in UMKC’s Thompson Courtroom on September 12, the conference explored the effect of attempts to polarize sensitive issues, especially in family law, and the impact of those attempts on judges.  Professor June Carbone, one of the nation’s best known family law scholars, organized the conference, which included scholars from the west and east coasts and jurists from Missouri.  Joining Professor Reynolds from North Carolina, Dean David Levi and Professor Mitu Gulati, both of Duke University School of Law, presented their research comparing the performances of elected and appointed judges.

Introducing Professor Reynolds, June Carbone described Reynolds as a family law professor always ahead of her time.  Carbone cited Reynolds’ early work comparing property division and alimony and said that Reynolds’ study blazed a trial in empirical research to measure the values reflected in family law appellate opinions.   Carbone referred also to Reynolds’ nationally-acclaimed domestic violence project and then praised her for running for a seat on the North Carolina Supreme Court.  “I opened the Wake Forest alumni magazine and saw that Suzanne was running for the bench.  While the rest of us were wringing our hands about the need for better judges, Suzanne simply did something about it by running herself.”

Reynolds titled her keynote, “A Family Law Professor Seeks the Bench:  May I Confound Your Data.”  In the keynote, Reynolds related her experiences as a candidate in an election for a seat on the North Carolina Supreme Court to the themes of the conference: elections and the attempts to polarize sensitive issues, elections and judicial independence, and the public financing of judicial elections.   Three panels followed the keynote, “Values Polarization and the Judicial Role,” “Judging and Politics,” and “Judicial Independence in a Time of Partisanship.”  The voters in North Carolina will make their decisions in Reynolds’ race in the early voting in North Carolina from October 16 to November 1 and in the general election on November 4.