Interesting a loyal reader called last week wanting to discuss this very topic: the battle for a state Supreme Court justice seat between incumbent Republican Justice Paul Newby of Raleigh against Democratic Court of Appeals Judge Sam J. Ervin IV of Morganton.

CJ’s Barry Smith analyzes:

The outcome of this race will decide whether the partisan balance will shift toward the Democrats or remain with the Republicans on the officially nonpartisan Supreme Court.

Among other issues, the court will decide whether the legislative and congressional maps set last year by the Republican-led General Assembly are constitutional. If the justices say no, it may take a year or more to draw new maps and complete all the legal challenges to them. The justices may wind up drawing the final maps before the 2014 election, and whether the majority is Democratic or Republican could have a significant effect on the partisan makeup of the General Assembly and the state’s congressional delegation.

Both candidates told CJ “they felt it inappropriate to comment on issues that they could potentially face before the state’s highest court.”