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The Daily Tar Heel

Q&A: Allison Riggs speaks about civil rights experience, keeping seat on N.C. Supreme Court

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Photo courtesy of Allison Riggs.

The Daily Tar Heel's Sarah Lewisohn spoke with N.C. Supreme Court Associate Justice Allison Riggs to hear about her experience and aspirations for the court. Her opponent in the Democratic primary is Lora Christine Cubbage.

This interview has been edited for brevity and clarity.

The Daily Tar Heel: Why are you passionate about justice?

Allison Riggs: I grew up in West Virginia. When I was growing up, mining was essentially the major employment industry in the state. It's an industry that is very complicated and nuanced, and so I got to see from a young age the importance of protecting workers and the ways in which economic justice was necessary to reach and achieve the American dream.

I spent a lot of time when I was in Florida working at a restoration of civil rights clinic. Florida, at the time, permanently deprived people who'd had a felony conviction of their civil rights. It really impeded the ability of returning citizens who'd served their time to be fully reintegrated into civil society. My passion for understanding how the justice system at large could be holding people back rather than giving them access to equity and fairness was just solidified down there.

And then, obviously, the work that I did based out of North Carolina. I got to work hand in hand with community-based organizations that were working to create structural change from the ground up and got to have an even better sense and develop a greater passion for change and advancement for the justice system that was grassroots fueled.

DTH: Why are you running to keep your seat?

AR: I'm running to keep my seat because I know how important it is to have people who care about justice and equity, metaphorically pushing from the inside of the courtroom out to throw open the doors to the courthouse so that every person who is hurt, who is in need of relief from our judicial system can get it.

I feel in this moment that I have a perspective and an experience, particularly as the youngest woman to have ever served on the N.C. Supreme Court and as someone who has worked with employees and done a lot of youth organizing over my career, that young people are really going to be critical in this moment.

DTH: If elected, what goals would you hope to accomplish?

AR: The supreme court isn't flipping control in this election. I am employing a plan, working with Justice Anita Earls and many others to help win back our courts in the 2028 election, but we're going to have to defend my seat in 2024 and Justice Earls’ seat in 2026 before we can do that. In the meantime, I want to use my voice, my pen, to speak out for justice, to call out wrongs. I want to demand transparency and accountability from the inside and give people the tools they need to hold courts accountable.

I want to be out there talking about my work, educating the public and helping people engage with the judiciary.

DTH: Why are you the best candidate for this race?

AR: I know that I can be a lawyer's judge — that is, because I spent so much time in that seat in front of that podium, I can be respectful, compassionate and kind to everyone, no matter what side of the "V." they're on.

I spent the last two years of private practice working on a case where we were talking about why state courts matter, Moore v. Harper. Obviously the federal constitution supersedes and is the ultimate authority of law in this state, but state courts do matter. So the two years I spent working on that case and engaging the public with that, I think, sets me apart.

@DTHCityState | city@dailytarheel.com

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