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Senate Select Committee wants to go back to Civil War-Era Judicial System

The Senate Select Committee on Judicial Reform and Redistricting focused their second meeting on the judicial selection process and possible reforms to NC’s judiciary. The Committee hosted three guest presenters during the December 6 meeting, Dean Brinkley and Professor Orth from the UNC School of Law and Alicia Bannon from the Brennan Center at NYU. The UNC Law professors explained North Carolina’s judicial history while Bannon explained different judicial selection processes and her recommendation for our state.

It was apparent the Senate Committee members wanted to give the General Assembly the power to appoint judges. The last time North Carolina’s legislators had that power was in the Civil War-era. The experts said this method undesirable because it can be a political and opaque process that leads to nepotism. However, senators liked the idea of going back to a process developed when only landowning white men could vote. Senator Hise proceeded to argue with his question that only the General Assembly should be given any power – perhaps the most honest statement of lawmakers’ real intent in their attempts at judicial reform:

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Don't Pack the NC Supreme Court

Summary

Following the election of Judge Mike Morgan to the North Carolina Supreme Court by an overwhelming margin on Nov. 8 2016, the balance of the court shifted from a 4-3 Republican majority to a 4-3 Democratic majority. Media began reporting days after the election that Republican leaders were rumored to be considering a scheme to add two Justices to the NC Supreme Court, during a “special session” called ostensibly to discuss recovery efforts from the flooding caused by Hurricane Matthew. Gov. McCrory would appoint two new justices before leaving office to fill the new seats until the next election of the General Assembly.Gov. McCrory has said he will call an extra session on Dec. 13th to discuss recovery efforts, but legislators can, by simple majority vote, suspend the rules and take up any matter they wish.

Republican leaders have repeatedly refused to denounce or deny rumors that they will use the special session to add Supreme Court Justices, saying it has not been “formally” discussed and they won’t comment on “rumors.” While legislative leaders deny a Supreme Court packing scheme is under consideration, Senate Leadership put forward a similar proposal in 2013.

Key Points

  • After a bitter and negative campaign, we need to come together and try to seek common ground, but Governor McCrory and the Republicans would instead try to force through controversial legislation that, like HB2, would only further divide North Carolina.
  • Adding two new justices to the Supreme Court is disrespectful to the will of the voters, who recently elected a new justice to the Supreme Court AND voted to replace Governor McCrory.
 
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Republicans tired of losing in courts seek to stack superior courts

Real Facts North Carolina today released a new analysis of judicial maps proposed on Monday. Using the gubernatorial election results from 2016 as a benchmark, the Real Facts report finds that under the proposed maps the number of Republican-held Superior Court seats could double, from 31 to 62 judgeships.

Fourteen times, laws enacted by this unconstitutional General Assembly have been found unconstitutional. Laws that have rigged the system and earned North Carolina headlines for all the wrong reasons. In Superior Court, judges have ruled against the GOP majority on judicial retention elections, local control, and the NCGA’s authority over the coal ash commission.

Now, in the last week of session, and without consulting either the Administrative Office of the Courts or the Conference of District Attorneys, Republicans seek the first statewide redraw of these districts in decades.

Statewide results in the gubernatorial race were nearly even between Democrats and Republicans, 48% to 48%. But in their judicial gerrymander, the GOP picks their voters to turn an even slate into a nearly 2 to 1 advantage.

You can find the report here (PDF).

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Republicans tired of losing in courts still seek to stack superior courts

RALEIGH—Real Facts North Carolina today released an updated analysis of new judicial maps proposed this week. Using the gubernatorial election results from 2016 as a benchmark, the Real Facts report finds that under proposed maps the number of republican held seats could nearly double going from 31 to 58 judgeships.

Statewide results in the gubernatorial race were nearly even between Democrats and Republicans, 48% to 48%. But in their judicial gerrymander, the GOP picks their voters to turn an even slate into a nearly 2 to 1 advantage.  

Fourteen times, laws enacted by this unconstitutional General Assembly have been found unconstitutional. Laws that have rigged the system and earned North Carolina headlines for all the wrong reasons.

Whether it’s restricting women’s access to health care, the worst voter suppression law in the country, or gerrymandering legislative districts by race these unconstitutional actions by the Republican led General Assembly have hurt citizens across the state. 

“North Carolina is a 50-50 state that gave their electors to Republican Donald Trump while electing Democrat Roy Cooper governor. Republicans, upset by their losing streak in courts where 14 of their laws have been overturned on a constitutional basis, now seek to use a partisan gerrymander to rig the courts.”

Download the report here (PDF).

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14 S P O O K Y things the Republican-led NCGA has done

It was (probably) midnight, and hiding under the cover of a racial gerrymander, the Republican-led General Assembly passed laws that hurt the people of North Carolina…

Thankfully, the good witches (and wizards) of the court struck down 14 of those such laws that as unconstitutional, restoring some order to the spooky state.

Not to be foiled again, Republicans began an attack on the courts, at the same time opposing a court-appointed special master who would remedy the racial gerrymander after refusing to submit names for consideration. 

At Real Facts we hope this scary tale will come to an end soon, but before it does, see if you can read all the way through these 14 frights: 

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ICYMI: Senate Select Committee on Judicial Redistricting

The Senate Select Committee on Judicial Redistricting had its first meeting on November 8 – where they were given presentations by HB 717 sponsor Representative Justin Burr, Brad Fowler of the Administrative Office of the Courts, and Judges Joe Buckner, Brad Letts, Joe Crosswhite, Michael Crowell, and Gerry Cohen.

Republican Senator Dan Bishop asked Burr outright if his new maps were part of “some evil partisan plot” or an intentional “racial gerrymander” after extending his sympathies to Burr in hopes that his feelings have not been hurt by the negativity surrounding HB 717.

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Republican’s evolving efforts to politicize the courts

Republicans have released various (and often conflicting) plans for reforming the judiciary. The House has passed a court stacking gerrymander that would flip courts to majority Republican – similar to their unconstitutional gerrymandering of their own districts.

Senate leaders have dangled a vague proposal that will give the legislature “a key role in appointments” of judges in an attempt to convince members of the legal community that this could be a form of their long-sought selection method of judicial appointment.

Alternatively, the Senate last week introduced a proposal that would invalidate the terms of duly elected judges and put all 403 judges and justices on the ballot in 2018 after a constitutional amendment during the primary election.  In a TV interview, Senate President Pro TemBerger’s chief advisor claimed that this is not a bargaining tool to garner support for an appointment process.

The details of Berger’s chosen method of selection have remained vague. In a statement to the News & Observer, he said that the process would be similar to the process that Cooper “once championed.”

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Rep. John Blust (R-Guilford) says complaints about unconstitutional racial gerrymandering ‘tedious’

Rep. John Blust is starting to find complying with the Constitution to be “tedious.”

During last week’s judicial redistricting meeting, he seemed confused as to why there were race complaints in the redistricting process:

“I just believe that if we were sitting here and there were no districts that it looked like an African-American would be very very likely to win, you’d have some of the same people objecting to the bill on that ground. It seems a little bit disconcerting to sit here and hear what sound like complaints that there’s districts, my gosh there’s districts where African-Americans are very likely to win and knowing that if you didn’t have those districts, the same people would be complaining that you didn’t have them. And just going through this in redistricting, hearing these complaints over and over, it gets a little bit tedious.”

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