courts

These 39 Republicans said they thought judges should be elected, rulings against their unconstitutional laws might have changed that

In 2012 Civitas asked candidates for office in NC if judges should continue to be elected by the voters. (2012 was the last time Civitas posted a survey.)

The answer from those that filled it out was a resounding yes.

27 current Republican members of the House said they agreed with the statement “Judges should continue to be elected by the voters.”

This included members such as Chris Malone, Debra Conrad, Ted Davis, and Jonathan Jordan.

Despite the widespread support for Judicial elections amongst the Republican caucus, rumors and even threats swirl that the Republican majorities in the legislature are considering moving to a legislative appointment process in the wake of several legal losses.

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“Just Arbitrary:” New Maps Surface at Joint Committee on Judicial Redistricting and Reform

Yesterday’s three-and-a-half hour meeting of the Joint Select Committee on Judicial Reform and Redistricting produced a new round of maps, a few heated exchanges, and no actual vote.

The meeting began innocuously enough; Brad Fowler from the Associated Office of the Courts (AOC) presented workload formulas for judicial officials, followed by almost two hours of questions from legislators.

Of course, the main event was yet to come: a battle over another set of new maps. New prosecutorial, district, and superior court divisions reading “Option A” were passed out during a short break about two hours into the meeting.

After introducing the new maps, Rep. Justin Burr (R-Stanly) fielded questions from incredulous Democratic legislators who attempted to pin down the exact criteria used to redraw the districts. Exchanges between Burr and Democratic legislators became more heated; Sens Blue and McKissick repeatedly asked if there was a guiding criteria or rationale for drawing these maps other than “just arbitrary.” Burr recited his mantra that he was attempting to correct population imbalances and that he had met with judicial officials who wanted a map that was more in line with their existing districts.

Sen. McKissick, however, continued to push. Asking for a document that summarizes data of criteria, Burr pointed him to the website. However, McKissick responded that no written document exists there.

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Southern Coalition for Social Justice Analysis: Racial and partisan bias found in judicial redistricting plans

Southern Coalition for Social Justice released an analysis documenting some of the racial and partisan biases "infecting" the most recent judicial redistricting plan presented to the General Assembly in December 2017. Alison Riggs, SCJS's senior voting rights attorney described the key problem with the judicial districts, the "huge" variation in the number of residents per judge across the state. 

"with a consistent pattern of too many people per judge in our urban areas will likely result in people of color disproportionately having less access to our justice system,” said Riggs.

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After Republican leaders refuse to allow retired judge to speak on judicial redistricting, Democrats walk out in protest.

Yesterday’s Senate Judiciary Committee meeting was not without drama.

After “technical difficulties” that delayed the meeting and eventually forced everyone to move to a new location, Sen. Bishop opened the meeting by stating that the Governor’s representative, retired Judge Don Stephens, would not be allowed to speak on proposed judicial redistricting.

Sen. Bishop (R-Mecklenburg) ruled that Don Stephens, a recently retired judge, was not an appropriate representative for Gov. Cooper because he was not employed by the Governor’s Office.

Sen. Chaudhuri (D-Wake) objected to this, saying that he was interested in hearing from Judge Stephens and that not doing so was a missed opportunity.

Sen. McKissick (D-Durham) had to ask multiple times for an opportunity to speak before Sen. Bishop would allow it. McKissick asked for a point of order to allow the members of the committee to vote on whether they would allow Stephens to speak, Bishop refused.

The three Democratic Senators present, Chaudhuri, Ford, and McKissick, walked out in protest of the obvious attempt to disallow input from a judge on the Republican judicial redistricting plans.

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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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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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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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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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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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