After graduating with honors from Vassar College, Justice Edmunds attended law school at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. While there, he successfully competed for a position as an Associate Justice on the Holderness Moot Court bench and was later admitted to the Order of the Barristers. He received his J.D. degree and passed the North Carolina bar examination in 1975.
Following his honorable discharge from the United States Navy in 1977, Justice Edmunds took and passed the Virginia Bar examination.
Justice Edmunds' first legal position was as an Assistant District Attorney in the Eighteenth Prosecutorial District (Guilford County). He began as a prosecutor in traffic court. After approximately one year, he was promoted and began trying cases in Superior Court. His initial assignment there was to handle misdemeanor appeals, and he tried well over one hundred such cases to verdict before juries. Thereafter, he was assigned a regular felony caseload. When the District Attorney for the Eighteenth Judicial District created a unit to focus on the swift prosecution of career offenders, Justice Edmunds was one of two prosecutors assigned to the team.
In 1982, Justice Edmunds was hired as an Assistant United States Attorney for the Middle District of North Carolina and assigned to investigate and try criminal cases. While in that position, Justice Edmunds successfully prosecuted numerous bank robberies, drug trafficking cases, various types of fraud, firearm violations, gray market smuggling of automobiles, and a host of other matters. If a losing defendant appealed his or her conviction to the United States Fourth Circuit of Appeals, Justice Edmunds briefed and argued the case on behalf of the United States.
In 1986, President Ronald Reagan named Justice Edmunds as the United States Attorney for the Middle District of North Carolina. In that role, Justice Edmunds was the chief federal law enforcement official for the central portion of the state and was responsible for managing and supervising the attorneys who represented the federal government in that part of North Carolina. As United States Attorney, he carried a caseload and personally tried such complex matters as international heroin smuggling and public corruption. He also successfully argued numerous cases before the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals.
The Attorney General of the United States appointed Justice Edmunds to be chair of the Attorney General's Advisory Subcommittee on Guideline Sentencing. In this role, Justice Edmunds helped formulate federal policy on sentencing issues and several times testified as the representative of the Attorney General before the United States Sentencing Guideline Commission. He has also testified before the Judiciary Committee of the United States House of Representatives on the federal sentencing guidelines. In addition, Justice Edmunds was a member of the United States Attorney General's Advisory Subcommittee on Controlled Substances. Criminal assets forfeited to the United States were routinely shared with state and local law enforcement agencies.
Justice Edmunds was chair of the Middle District's Law Enforcement Coordinating Committee. This committee was responsible for assuring that intelligence was shared among state and federal agencies and that joint state and federal investigations and prosecutions of significant criminal matters were carried out efficiently and effectively.
During Justice Edmunds' tenure as United States Attorney, his office instituted the annual Law Enforcement Run for Victims. This event drew law enforcement personnel from across the state to participate in a 5K run. Proceeds from the event were donated to organizations that provided services for victims of crime.
While serving as United States Attorney, Justice Edmunds received numerous awards and other recognitions from the United States Department of Justice, the North Carolina Department of Justice, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the United States Secret Service, the Drug Enforcement Administration, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, the United States Department of Treasury, the United States Customs Service, the Internal Revenue Service, and the International Association of Credit Card Investigators.
In 1993, Justice Edmunds joined the Greensboro firm of Stern & Klepfer, LLP, as a partner. Though he maintained a general practice, most of his work involved state and federal criminal defense. In 1993, Justice Edmunds' skill and experience qualified him to take the examination for board certification as an expert in state and federal criminal law. After successfully passing the test, Justice Edmunds was certified as a specialist in that field by the North Carolina State Bar. In 1994, after completing a second qualifying process, Justice Edmunds was certified as a specialist in criminal appellate practice by the North Carolina State Bar. Justice Edmunds is the only board certified specialist to have been elected to the North Carolina Supreme Court.
While practicing with Stern & Klepfer, LLP, Justice Edmunds received the highest rating from Martindale-Hubbell Law Directory. During this time, he wrote and published several articles for the Federal Sentencing Reporter, a publication of the Vera Institute of Justice.
In 1998, Justice Edmunds was elected to the North Carolina Court of Appeals. In 2000, he was elected to the North Carolina Supreme Court. Mindful of his responsibilities as a member of the state's highest court, Justice Edmunds sought additional education. After attending classes in Charlottesville during the summers of 2002 and 2003 and completing a thesis, he was awarded a LL.M. (Master of Laws in the Judicial Process) by the University of Virginia School of Law.
Justice Edmunds frequently participates in Continuing Legal Education and Continuing Judicial Education programs both as a teacher and as a student to maintain his status as a board certified specialist