New book chronicles pivotal era in court's history.


Byline: David Donovan

A Warren Court of Our Own: The Exum Court and the Expansion of Individual Rights in North Carolina. Mark A. Davis. Carolina Academic Press. 208 pages.

Much has been written about the most influential chief justices and epochs of the U.S. Supreme Court, but a rather great deal less has been written about the most significant periods in the history of the North Carolina Supreme Courtwhich is a pity, since many cases are decided solely on the basis of state law, and so its rulings are just as consequential, if not more so, for people in the state as those of its more closely followed federal counterpart.

So a newly published book by Mark Davishimself a justice on the North Carolina Supreme Court since his investiture in Aprilis a welcome addition to scholarship. Davis ably chronicles an especially eventful period in the court's history, the years from 1986 to 1994 when the court was led by Chief Justice Jim Exum (who penned the book's foreword). The analysis is also fittingly timed, coming as it does as the court concludes the celebration of its 200th anniversary.

As the title suggests, Davis analogizes this period in the court's history to the U.S. Supreme Court's well-known evolution under Chief Justice Earl Warren in the 1950s and 1960s. Both courts expanded the scope of individuals' rights in relation to the state and charted an unusually progressive course. But, as Davis notes, in some areas the North Carolina court actually went further, fashioning remedies out of the North Carolina constitution above and beyond the ways that federal courts were interpreting the analogous provisions of the U.S. constitution.

Interestingly, this momentous period in the court's history came about as a bit of a fluke. Owing to a variety of coincidences, five of the court's seven seats were up for election in 1986. Democrats ran the table, for reasons that probably had more to do with what was happening at the top of the ticket (it was a midterm election at a time when a Republican occupied the White House) than any particular hunger on the part of the electorate for a...

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