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(Raleigh News Observer) – The UNC-Chapel Hill administrator who helped orchestrate the university’s settlement with the Sons of Confederate Veterans over the Silent Sam statue appears poised to become a Superior Court judge under a bill lawmakers passed Wednesday.
In the bill, which includes dozens of board and judge appointments across the state, House Speaker Tim Moore tapped Clayton Somers, Moore’s former chief of staff, to become a special Superior Court judge with a term expiring in 2031.
Though most Superior Court judges are elected by voters, special Superior Court judges have typically been appointed by the governor. The state budget bill, passed last month, included a provision to allow the appointment of 10 additional special Superior Court judge positions, with the General Assembly making those appointments. The positions, including Somers’, are effective beginning Jan. 1, 2024.
The budget also made a change that will allow special Superior Court judges to serve on panels that review the validity of laws passed by the General Assembly when those laws are challenged in court. Those panels are appointed by North Carolina’s chief justice, currently Paul Newby, a Republican.
Somers served as Moore’s chief of staff from 2015 to 2017 before becoming secretary of the university and vice chancellor of public affairs at UNC. Former UNC Chancellor Carol Folt created that role in 2017, saying at the time that it would improve the university’s relations with state and federal government.
Somers moved to an administrative position in the university’s athletics department last year. UNC spokesperson Chloe McCotter confirmed Thursday that Somers is still employed in that role. The position was newly created when he filled it. The vice chancellor role Somers left to fill the athletics position no longer exists.
The Silent Sam deal
In his role as vice chancellor, Somers was part of the group that brokered a controversial deal between the UNC System and the North Carolina chapter of the Sons of Confederate Veterans over Silent Sam, the Confederate monument that stood on the UNC campus for more than 100 years before protesters tore it down in…