courts

Republican Rep. Sarah Stevens admits plans to add justices to the NC Supreme Court

Despite repeated claims that they would never pack the court, Rep. Sarah Stevens dropped the pretense for a moment in a floor debate this week. 

Debating the merits of H239, Steven’s bill to shrink the Court of Appeals, she argued the main goal of the bill was to shift work to the state Supreme Court. Stevens alluded to the fact that the Chief Justice’s commission had considered expanding the Supreme Court shortly after the 2016 election. Stevens even stated that the General Assembly would be willing to come back to the issue a few years down the road once they see what the increased workload for the Supreme Court looks like.

In addition to shrinking the Court of Appeals, H239 increases the workload of the NC Supreme Court by allowing certain cases to bypass the appellate court. By increasing its workload this bill sets the stage for packing the Supreme Court. Stevens said so herself. 

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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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