On Thursday, February 29, 2024, The News & Observer reported that Judge Hunter Murphy is facing a challenge from Chris Freeman in the Republican primary for the North Carolina Court of Appeals. Judge Murphy, who was first elected to the Appeals Court in 2016, received a rare censure from the state Supreme Court in 2020 for failing to properly address a pattern of sexual harassment carried out by his former assistant.

The investigation found that Murphy’s executive assistant had engaged in inappropriate behavior toward female clerks, including lewd comments and threatening outbursts. Though Murphy was made aware of the issues on at least two occasions, the Supreme Court ruled he did not adequately address the problem and minimized the seriousness of the harassment when speaking with investigators. As a result, Murphy became the only Appeals Court judge to receive a public reprimand in North Carolina since 2007.

The article notes that challenger Chris Freeman, a sitting district court judge, has emphasized boosting his own credentials on the campaign trail rather than focusing his messaging on Murphy’s censure. Freeman has framed himself as a “clean candidate” who let’s voters “form their own thoughts.” Meanwhile, Freeman has gained the endorsements of several conservative groups and Republican officials like Dan Bishop. He has also highlighted ties to influential politicians like state Senate leader Phil Berger through his past work and support for Freeman’s current campaign.

Despite the controversy surrounding his tenure, Murphy stated he takes responsibility for his past failures but has since implemented new policies for promptly addressing workplace issues. He further noted a recent autism diagnosis may have impacted his ability to properly recognize social cues involved in the harassment complaints. As the first incumbent judge facing a primary challenge, Murphy expressed confidence in his support among party members.



Source: The News & Observer