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Court of Appeals judge resigns in reaction to bill shrinking bench; Cooper appoints new judge in wake of veto

John Arrowood

Judge Douglas McCullough

It looks like Republican lawmakers are going to have to wait a little longer for their plan to reduce the Court of Appeals to take effect, even if they choose to override the governor’s veto of House Bill 239 this week.

Judge Douglas McCullough, who is a registered Republican, resigned today from the state Court of Appeals. The judge was facing mandatory retirement in May because of his age.

Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper announced after McCullough resigned that he appointed Judge John Arrowood to fill McCullough’s vacancy.

Arrowood, who is openly gay, was working as an attorney at James, McElroy & Diehl in Charlotte. He is a North Carolina native who previously served on the Court of Appeals (2007 and 2008 after former Gov. Mike Easley appointed him) and as a Superior Court Judge.

After law school, Judge Arrowood served as a clerk for Judge Gerald Arnold at the state Court of Appeals, and he was a staff attorney and head of the central staff for the Court, according to Cooper’s office.

“I am deeply appreciative to Judge McCullough for his service to our state and our country,” Cooper said in a news release. “I’m proud to appoint Judge Arrowood to fill this vacancy on the Court of Appeals, a court where he has previously served with distinction. His experience as a judge on this court makes him uniquely qualified to hit the ground running and ensure that justice is swiftly delivered.”

You can read McCullough’s resignation letter here. Cooper held a press conference but only gave about 15 minutes notice beforehand.

John Arrowood was sworn in Monday morning to serve on the Court of Appeals. (Photo released by Gov. Roy Cooper’s Office)

Arrowood, who is a registered Democrat, was sworn in at 9:45 a.m.

Cooper, on Friday, vetoed HB 239, which would reduce the Court of Appeals by three judges.

The bill mandates that vacancies not be filled until the court reaches 12 judges. Since the bill was vetoed, McCullough’s resignation allowed for Cooper to make an appointment.

Judges on the Court of Appeals serve in three-judge panels. If McCullough were to retire as mandated by his age, the court of would have lost an entire panel in May, increasing its workload by an automatic 20 percent.

The next two judges who serve on the Court of Appeals to face mandatory retirement are Robert Hunter Jr. and Ann Marie Calabria in 2019, both registered Republicans.

Experts, advocates and legal stakeholders said that losing a panel on the Court of Appeals would almost certainly result in delays.

Cooper said at the press conference, according to a tweet, that McCullough resigned from the court because he did not agree with HB 239.

Republican General Assembly leaders have not yet released a response to the news of Arrowood’s appointment. Rep. Justin Burr, who sponsored HB 239, also has not released a response.

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