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Judicial Vacancy Constitutional Amendment (S814) next step in Republican court packing scheme

Rep. Darren Jackson called out Republicans on their Supreme Court packing scheme on the House floor Thursday morning. No Republicans challenged his statement. 

 

In December 2016 then-Governor Pat McCrory confirmed the legislature planned to “pack” the NC Supreme Court by claiming he worked to “deter efforts to expand” the court. (Winston Salem Journal, 11/11/16; WRAL, 11/10/16)

  • McCrory: “I also successfully worked to deter any efforts to expand the composition of our Supreme Court” (McCrory Press Release via NC Policy Watch, 12/19/16)

Since December of 2016, Republicans have made several attempts at legislative selection of judges, culminating in this amendment which Sen. Newton said was an attempt to “drive our state toward” judicial selection.

  • During Senate Judiciary Committee meeting on S814, Sen Newtown admitted the amendment is a first step towards a judicial selection process. (Real Facts NC Video, 6/22/18; AP, 6/27/18)
  • Phil Berger “signaled” in October 2017 he favored ending judicial elections and giving the general assembly the power to appoint judges. (New York Times, 10/18/17)
  • Republicans filed and passed a number of measures to curtail the judicial branch during the 2017-18 session including cutting three seats on the Court of Appeals and eliminating 2018 judicial primaries. (Winston-Salem Journal, 10/6/17; S656, veto overridden, 10/17/17; News & Observer, 8/22/17; H239 veto overridden, 4/26/17; News & Observer, 3/9/2017, HB240, ref. to Sen. Rules and Ops. Com., 3/14/2017; WRAL, 4/26/2017; HB 335, Ref. to Sen. Rules and Ops. Com., 4/27/2017)

Republicans have been “stung” by court rulings, and so aim to change the judges by manipulating the election process. S814 would allow the legislature to appoint members of the state Supreme Court, paving the way for them to take it over. (New York Times, 10/18/17; AP, 6/27/18)

  • S814 would change how vacancies of trial and appellate courts, including the State Supreme Court, would be filled but does not provide details as to how nominations would be made besides asserting the General Assembly’s power (AP, 6/27/18)