Judge: N.C. Chief justice 'bought'

Mecklenburg District Judge Bill Belk waded deeper into controversy this week, saying the chief justice of the N.C. Supreme Court had been "bought" by Charlotte lawyers.

Belk, who already faces a misconduct hearing before the N.C. Judicial Standards Commission, made the comment Sunday night to Charlotte's Black Political Caucus, according to several members who attended.

He also told the caucus that one reason he continues to serve on a corporate board -- despite rules against judges' holding such positions -- is for the health insurance.

"It was a little bit unsettling to me," said Franklin McCain, a former caucus chairman. "Here was a sitting judge engaging in partisan politics in public."

The Charlotte Observer spoke to more than a dozen caucus members who attended the meeting Sunday. Most spoke on the condition of anonymity because they didn't want to criticize a judge or discuss caucus matters publicly.

Belk told the group that N.C. Chief Justice Sarah Parker was "bought" by Charlotte lawyers including Bill Diehl, according to several caucus members. Belk said the chief justice, a Democrat, bypassed more experienced Democrats in December when she appointed Republican Lisa Bell as Mecklenburg's chief district judge.

Belk did not return calls.

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