January 26, 2018/Media

In Their Own Words: Judges, Lawmakers, Legal Community Sound Off On GOP Court Rigging

RALEIGH – Today, Republican lawmakers are moving forward with a plan to rig North Carolina’s courts in their favor. Both potential methods – gerrymandered judicial districts and legislative selection – threaten our independent judiciary and diminish the voice of people. Judges, lawmakers, and the public have made clear their opposition the GOP’s multi-stage court rigging scheme. Will Republicans listen and stand up for our independent judiciary, or will they continue attacking our courts?
 

“Judges are not and should not be partisan politicians…The work that they do has nothing to do with politics. Our duty is to the Constitution and the laws enacted by legislature under the Constitution. We do not have constituents. We cannot take a side, and that’s how it should be.”
Wake County Superior Court Judge Donald Stephens
[News & Record, 11/16/17]

“What is the future for an independent judiciary in the state of North Carolina should all these bills become law? It sure doesn’t look very good.”
State Representative Joe John (D), former District Court, Superior Court and Court of Appeals judge
[New York Times 5/27/17]

“Not only does it put me in a Republican district, it disenfranchises the large part of African-Americans who would be a voting bloc for me… If you look at the lines in Buncombe County as it relates to me as an African-American, there’s no question the race issue has come into play. ”
Chief District Court Judge Calvin Hill, the only Black judge on the District Court in Buncombe County
[New York Times 10/18/17]

“The result will be all too predictable. Fewer and fewer first-rate legal minds will even bother trying to be judges. The bench will be stocked with political hacks, chosen on the basis of party loyalty. Justice will become an accident.”
Star News Editorial Board 
[Star News 10/21/17]

“Requiring judges and justices to run for office every two years is inconsistent with principles of judicial independence, would erode trust and confidence in our legal system and … impede the administration of justice in North Carolina”
N.C. Bar Association
[N&O 10/30/17]

“This is not about better justice for North Carolinians. It is about the legislative leadership’s anger over recent court decisions declaring many of their laws unconstitutional, particularly a decision that said they were voted into power by illegal, racially gerrymandered districts.”
N.C. Rep. Marcia Morey, Former Chief District Court Judge in Durham County 
[WRAL 10/21/17]

 

JUDICIAL GERRYMANDERING

“This is an attempt to threaten the judiciary and rig the judiciary in their favor.”
Governor Roy Cooper
News & Observer 7/30/17

“It is critical for the health of the judicial system to support and encourage diversity on the bench and to promote the peoples’ right to a fair and speedy trial…The plan pushed forward in the House erodes that diversity and obstructs justice.”
Senator Dan Blue, Senate Minority Leader 
[The Chronicle 10/19]

“If it ain’t broke, please don’t come and try and fix us,”
Susan Dotson-Smith, District Court Judge in Buncombe County
[N&O 9/29/17]

“Why can’t the legislators simply take time to more fully and thoroughly study the issue about judicial redistricting? This is a critical issue that affects a large number of people, the citizens of our state, and so what is the rush?”
Cumberland County Superior Court Judge Gale M. Adams
[N&O 9/29/17]

“Diversity is important; it is important to have diversity on the bench. The lines that are drawn at this point limit the amount of diversity.”
Cumberland County Superior Court Judge Gale M. Adams
[N&O 9/29/17]

“I think you’re fixing something that wasn’t broken, and I think you’re going to end up with tremendous cost for no added benefit.”
Gaston County District Attorney Locke Bell
[WRAL 9/29/17]

“It’s part of an ongoing diabolical plan that the Republican leadership have been promoting and implementing to take over one branch after another”
Bob Hall, Executive Director of Democracy NC
[Huffington Post 10/10/17]

“It’s a conspiracy on a number of levels…They’re trying to find a way to elect more Republican judges; a conspiracy against African-American judges who have gained more stature and seniority; and it’s a conspiracy against the people who are served by the courts.”
Bob Hall, Executive Director, Democracy NC 
[The Chronicle 10/19]

“Present efforts by the N.C. General Assembly to reconfigure judicial districts are, once again, designed by right wing ideologues to destroy democracy in North Carolina and further diminish the participation of African-Americans, racial minorities and women in the State’s justice process…The redistricting proposals have the goal of stacking the District and Superior Courts with people who are loyal to an ultra conservative political point of view and who will undermine constitutional protections that all people are supposed to enjoy in North Carolina.”
Irving Joyner, Chair of NC NAACP Legal Redress Committee 
[The Chronicle 10/19]

“As there are significant other resource needs within the courts, I am concerned that this may divert monies that could be used for other things that will now be spent on travel reimbursements. It seems it would be less efficient and more costly. ”
Wake County District Attorney Lorrin Freeman
[Policy Watch 6/28]

“This is not a change that was sought by court officials nor voters in our county to my knowledge… We currently have a politically diverse district court bench. The speed with which this is moving has not provided an opportunity for a thorough review of how it will impact voters. ”
Wake County District Attorney Lorrin Freeman 
[Policy Watch 6/28]

“[Danny] Britt, who is a lawyer, has said he opposes redrawing the lines.”
The INSIDER 
[10/23/17]

“If Hoke goes into Moore, Hoke is a Democratic district and Moore is Republican, so I’m afraid my little citizens in Hoke County would be forgotten. That is my hometown… Small is not insignificant .”
Scotland County District Attorney Kristy Newton 
[Policy Watch 6/28]

“This isn’t about good judicial policy, it’s about politics. ”
Robeson County District Attorney Luther Johnson Britt III 
[Policy Watch 6/28]

“Not only does it put me in a Republican district, it disenfranchises the large part of African-Americans who would be a voting bloc for me… If you look at the lines in Buncombe County as it relates to me as an African-American, there’s no question the race issue has come into play. ”
Chief District Court Judge Calvin Hill, the only Black judge on the District Court in Buncombe County
[New York Times 10/18/17]

“It is the position of the NCBA that any redistricting of Judicial and Prosecutorial Districts should be based upon an open and robust process that includes input from the Administrative Office of the Courts, Judges, District Attorneys, members of the bar, and other stakeholders in the judicial system, so that the result increases efficiency and access to justice, and enhances trust and confidence in our legal system on the part of the citizens of our state. Therefore, the NCBA opposes HB 717 .”
North Carolina Bar Association statement
[NCBar.org 7/19/17] 

“Next came the judicial district maps. With three days remaining in the legislative session, new maps were tweeted out — gerrymandered to guarantee the election of more Republicans and fewer African-Americans. It didn’t stop there.”
Rep. Marcia Morey, former Chief District Court Judge in Durham County
[WRAL 10/21/17]

“We just submit to you that you need to take the time necessary — and in a few short months — we would say that you need to spend time looking at these other partnerships and how all these things will be affected because it affects the administration of justice .”
Shelby Benton, Former President, NCBA
[NC House Judicial Redistricting Committee Comments, 9/19/17]

“…we think that redistricting has to be based on a deliberate and open process that includes the input of an array of stakeholders: judges, and district attorneys, clerks of court, law enforcement officers, lawyers, and members of the public.”
Caryn McNeill, Current President of the NCBA, speaking in opposition to HB717 
[NC House Judicial Redistricting Committee Comments 9/19/17]

“[I]f you’re going to take it up once in 60 years, we would submit to you that you should spend deliberate and transparent time in making those decisions .”
Shelby Benton, Former President of NCBA, speaking in opposition to HB717
[NC House Judicial Redistricting Committee Comments, 9/19/17]

“North Carolina’s judicial districts should be evaluated to ensure the fair and accessible administration of justice. The process should be thoughtful and deliberate, with input from interested parties across the state. Districts should not be drawn based purely on political gain. The Courts Commission is the appropriate and statutorily authorized body to make recommendations to the General Assembly. Redrawing judicial districts is a good idea. Let’s make sure we get it right .”
Becki Gray, Senior V.P. at the John Locke Foundation on slowing down the judicial redistricting process 
[Carolina Journal 8/3/17] 

“Although some realignment and redistricting in the courts might be needed, the process needs to be done in a transparent and orderly fashion with input from a wide variety of citizens, legislators, and court officials. The maps as presented in House Bill 717 force turnover in a short period of time that will result in disruption to the bench and the administration of justice. In several districts between 20 twenty (20) to fifty (50) percent of the District Court Judges will be replaced by 2020, either by double-bunking or by having their positions eliminated. These judges will be replaced without any regard to their fitness or job performance — which will result in the loss of years of judicial experience.”
District Court Judge Athena Fox Brooks, on behalf of the NC District Court Judges’ Association 
[N.C. House Judicial Redistricting Committee Comments 9/19/17]

“…I’m urging this body just to take a measured approach, to do your research, to gather your facts, and to make a systematic, collaborative decision on what is going to be best for our court system … the North Carolina Court System was ranked seventh in the country in its legal climate. Two of the reasons we rank so high are because of our stability and our predictability in the system that we offer.”
Superior Court Judge Joe Crosswhite, President of the NC Conference of Superior Court Judges 
[NC House Judicial Redistricting Committee Comments 9/19/17]

“…the bottom line of my message is: We don’t need to rush to make any changes.
We have the time. We have the luxury. We have the experts on the ground. We need to let this continue on, let everybody speak with their representatives, speak with the judges, gather the information, and then make what changes they think are appropriate in a systematic and collective manner.”
Superior Court Judge Joe Crosswhite, President of the NC Conference of Superior Court Judges 
[NC House Judicial Redistricting Committee Comments 9/19/17]

“And it took the Bell Commission four years….It was a deliberative, concerted effort and it has spanned three generations in success. And I think that formula of looking backwards at history, and looking forward to how we can best design our legal system, demands that same method and attention.”
Chief District Court Judge Robert Stiehl, 12th Judicial District, Fayetteville, Cumberland County 
[NC House Judicial Redistricting Committee Comments 9/19/17] 

“[T]he State Bar urges this committee to keep the effective administration of justice for the citizens of this state as your primary goal when considering proposed revisions to the district maps. We would urge that you be respectful of historical geographical boundaries in making your decisions and not split up counties in the creation of districts . We would also urge that voting on this matter be held over to the next session to allow all stakeholders time to review and provide input on these important decisions.”
Peter Bolac, Legislative Liaison, North Carolina State Bar, in opposing HB717 
[NC House Judicial Redistricting Committee Comments 9/19/17]

“It is the position of the NCBA that any redistricting of Judicial and Prosecutorial Districts should be based upon an open and robust process that includes input from the Administrative Office of the Courts, Judges, District Attorneys, members of the bar, and other stakeholders in the judicial system , so that the result increases efficiency and access to justice, and enhances trust and confidence in our legal system on the part of the citizens of our state. Therefore, the NCBA opposes HB 717 .”
North Carolina Bar Association statement, July 19, 2017
[NC Bar News]

“Republicans in the General Assembly seemed determined to ensure that the judicial branch of government becomes not a check and a balance, but just a supporting player for legislators. That is a woefully wrong philosophy.”
News & Observer Editorial Board
[News & Observer 8/26/17]

“There is not any reason to change judicial districts in North Carolina, as pushed by state House Republicans, except to draw some district lines more favorable to Republicans. But that’s what GOP leaders want to do, despite the unholy mess, and long legal fight, they created with gerrymandered legislative districts.”
News & Observer Editorial Board
[N&O, 1/5/18]

LEGISLATIVE APPOINTMENT OF JUDGES

“North Carolina’s legislators may hope to shield judges from undue outside influence and conflicts of interest, but the limited evidence that exists suggests that a legislative appointment system is unlikely to alleviate these problems … In fact, legislative appointments can introduce significant new complications: they can enable favoritism towards legislators and those close to them, breed corruption, produce and suffer from governmental dysfunction, and undermine judicial independence — all while continuing to provide a path for special interests to unduly influence nomination.”
Douglas Keith and Laila Robbins, Brennan Center for Justice
[Brennan Center for Justice 9/29/17]

“If that plan passes, it will compromise the independence and integrity of our future judiciary…It will make future judges appointed hereafter completely indebted to the North Carolina legislature that selected them. It will shift the balance of power of government, making the legislature far superior to the inferior judiciary.”
Former Wake County Superior Court Judge Donald Stephens
[News & Record, 11/16/17]

“They plan to take over the courts to appoint their own judges … so when we challenge them, we won’t have anywhere else to go.”
Linda Sutton, Central Piedmont organizer for Democracy N.C.
[Times-News, 1/5/18]

“Basically what has happened over the last few years is everything that this legislature has tried to do — they have failed…The courts have ruled that everything that they have done has been unconstitutional, so now their next move is to move into an area of where they can elect the judges that they see fit, that think the way that they think.”
Donald Matthews, district director of the state NAACP
[Times-News, 1/5/18]

“People should be very hesitant to give up their right to select judges,” Duke said. “If they do give up the right to vote for judges, they should be mindful of who is going to do the appointments in the future.”
Retired Superior Court Judge W. Russell “Rusty” Duke Jr.
[Daily Reflector 12/15/17]

“I think there’s a real concern with a legislative appointment system, it can undermine confidence in both the judiciary and potentially the legislature as well because you don’t have kind of clear lines of accountability and it encourages decision-making that is opaque and not kind of clear to the public and so it can really pose, I think, concerns in public confidence.”
Alicia Bannon, senior counsel at the Brennan Center for Justice
[N&O 12/9/17]

“The thinking was that the legislature already gets to pick the jurisdictional subject matter, the political boundaries, the term of office, the salary and determine what seats exist…Giving them appointment authority is just too much authority in one body.”
Joe Buckner, the chief district court judge for Orange and Chatham counties and a member of the association’s Board of Governors
in response to 96% of judges polled in the NC Association of District Court Judges being opposed to giving lawmakers a role in appointing judges
[N&O 12/1]

“If we came up with a foolproof system, I don’t think honestly the public is going to accept it.”
Rep. John Blust (R)
[Times-News 1/12/18]

“Although they will call it ‘merit selection,’ I assure you it will be partisan selection. It would be a disaster.”
Donald Stephens, Judge in Wake County
[N&O 11/ 27]

 

PARTISAN JUDICIAL RACES

“First came placing partisan labels on judicial election ballots – the antithesis to being fair and impartial arbiters of justice. In nearly 100 years, North Carolina became the only state in the country to move towards partisan elections .”
N.C. Rep. Marcia Morey (D-Durham), Former Chief District Court Judge in Durham County
[WRAL 10/21/17]

“We’re the first state since 1921 moving toward partisan elections for judges… I feel like we’re taking off the black robes and we’re putting on red and blue robes, and does that really serve the interests of justice? ”
N.C. Rep. Marcia Morey (D-Durham), Former Chief District Court Judge in Durham County
[New York Times 10/18/17]

CANCELLING 2018 JUDICIAL PRIMARIES

“Given the number of candidates, the short time for campaigning, the low attention paid to judicial races, and the drop-off in voting for judgeships, someone is likely to win with a small percentage of votes. . . . In 2012 about 4.5 million North Carolinians voted for president, and over 4.3 million for superintendent of public instruction, but by the time voters got down the ballot to the Supreme Court only 3.5 million were still voting…How many voters will skip the Court of Appeals vacancy when they see 19 unfamiliar names? And what percentage of the total votes will any one candidate get? ”
Michael Crowell, a Chapel Hill attorney and former professor at the UNC School of Government
[NC Policy Watch 10/12/17] 

“Eliminating primaries would force voters to pick from perhaps dozens of candidates with ‘winners’ who could garner merely 20 percent of the vote. What kind of ‘accountability’ is that?”
N.C. Rep. Marcia Morey, former Chief District Court Judge in Durham County
[WRAL 10/21/17]

“This is legislating by Keystone Kops. Is there any reason behind it, or is the idea to confuse voters and sow chaos into North Carolina’s judicial branch of government? “Disorder in the court” is the likely outcome of so much political upheaval.”
News & Record Editorial Board 
[News & Record 10/21/17]

 

CUTTING JUDICIAL TERMS TO TWO YEARS

“My initial reaction was this had to be a joke. But I immediately realized this was an unprecedented power grab by the zealous GOP leadership to control of the judiciary. Their reach to scrape the bottom of the political barrel had just broken through the last board.”
Rep. Marcia Morey
[WRAL 10/21/17]

“The result will be all too predictable. Fewer and fewer first-rate legal minds will even bother trying to be judges. The bench will be stocked with political hacks, chosen on the basis of party loyalty. Justice will become an accident.”
Star News Editorial Board 
[Star News 10/21/17]

“Of all the ideas some Republicans have come up with since taking power in 2011, this may be the worst of all. It would entirely politicize the judicial system in North Carolina, and put justice at peril. What esteemed lawyer, who might otherwise be inclined to finish a career by putting his or her experience to work on behalf of the system by working as a judge, would run for a two-year term as a judge, knowing the fundraising cycle would be endless? The answer is few, and likely none. Rather, the system would draw people who were candidates first and judges second. Justice itself would be second, too.”
N&O Editorial Board
[N&O 10/26/17]

”This might be legislators’ worst idea yet in their campaign to remake North Carolina’s court system, and that’s saying something. Few moves undercut the reality and the appearance of fair and impartial judges like having them run for office every two years. That would make them permanent campaigners – and year-round fundraisers – much like legislators are now.”
Charlotte Observer Editorial Board 
[Charlotte Observer 10/27/17]

“Electing judges for two-year terms would force judges to campaign and raise money constantly, and would disrupt the administration of justice.”
Chief Justice Mark Martin
[N&O 10/30/17]

“Requiring judges and justices to run for office every two years is inconsistent with principles of judicial independence, would erode trust and confidence in our legal system and … impede the administration of justice in North Carolina”
N.C. Bar Association
[N&O 10/30/17]

“It would appear that on the face of it, that this two-year proposal is a punitive threat…I think candidly, there’s no serious interest in making judges run every two years but the threat of it — the sort of intimation that we can do that — is what concerns me most. That’s way over the top. So over the top.”
Former State Supreme Court Justice Bob Orr
[N&O 10/30/17]

“A deliberate attack on the independence of the judiciary, an act that I suspect he would have seen as an affront to the rule of law, an attempt to compromise the integrity of the separation of powers contemplated by the North Carolina Constitution — and as an act which Judge Bailey would likely have viewed as a threat of punishment and retribution upon an independent judiciary inclined to strike down legislation that is unconstitutional on its face.”
Wake County Superior Court Judge Donald Stephens
[N&O 10/30/17]

“We just submit to you that you need to take the time necessary — and in a few short months — we would say that you need to spend time looking at these other partnerships and how all these things will be affected because it affects the administration of justice .”
Shelby Benton, Former President, NCBA
[Democracy NC 9/19]

“…we think that redistricting has to be based on a deliberate and open process that includes the input of an array of stakeholders: judges, and district attorneys, clerks of court, law enforcement officers, lawyers, and members of the public.”
Caryn McNeill, Current President of the NCBA, speaking in opposition to HB717
[Democracy NC 9/19]

“Nowhere in America do voters elect their general jurisdiction judges for two-year terms of office…This is as it should be. Electing judges for two-year terms would force judges to campaign and raise money constantly, and would disrupt the administration of justice… Judicial terms of office are longer than executive and legislative terms of office because judges have a different function… Judges are accountable, first and foremost, to the federal and state constitutions and to the law. They apply the law uniformly, and equal justice under law is the ultimate goal of any court system. The people of North Carolina should have a meaningful role in the judicial selection and retention process, just as citizens of states around the country do. But two-year terms are not the answer. ”
N.C. Supreme Court Chief Justice Mark Martin, a Republican whose term is set to end in 2022
[N&O 10/30/17]

“Requiring judges and justices to run for office every two years is inconsistent with principles of judicial independence, would erode trust and confidence in our legal system and … impede the administration of justice in North Carolina .”
NC State Bar Association Resolution
[N&O 10/30/17]

“It would appear that on the face of it, that this two-year proposal is a punitive threat… the sort of intimation that we can do that — is what concerns me most. That’s way over the top. So over the top.”
Former N.C. Supreme Court justice Bob Orr, a Republican 
[N&O 10/30/17]

“There’s this sense of ‘we have all the power, so if we want to shaft you, we’ll shaft you… I appeal to my fellow Republicans: Let’s be the party of good government. Let’s not be the party of coercive government .”
Republican Bob Orr, a Former N.C. Supreme Court Justice 
[N&O 10/30/17]

“This is not about better justice for North Carolinians. It is about the legislative leadership’s anger over recent court decisions declaring many of their laws unconstitutional, particularly a decision that said they were voted into power by illegal, racially gerrymandered districts.”
N.C. Rep. Marcia Morey, Former Chief District Court Judge in Durham County 
[WRAL 10/21/17]

“No other state in the country has two-year terms for judges. This proposal, offered up by Sen. Bill Rabon, a veterinarian, would force judges and justices to continuously campaign for re-election rather than doing their work on the bench — deciding child custody cases, upholding abused children’s rights, hearing criminal cases and deciding appeals. Courtrooms throughout North Carolina are jammed with people seeking resolutions to pressing legal matters. They want fair and impartial justice. People deserve better than having judges as red and blue politicians constantly campaigning, raising money, and fearful of making tough legal decisions that could cost them their seats on the bench. Our fair and independent judicial system is at risk. People deserve experienced judges and justices, elected by the voters to dispense justice and interpret the laws – not to hand out campaign buttons and bumper stickers. ”
N.C. Rep. Marcia Morey, Former Chief District Court Judge in Durham County
[WRAL 10/21/17]

“This is really an unnecessary step to try to bully the judges into supporting some of the legislators’ plans , including redistricting.”
Retired Court of Appeals Judge Doug McCullough 
[Progressive Pulse 10/24/17]

“Judges would be forced to run constantly, just like legislators, and we’re not legislators .”
Retired Court of Appeals Judge Doug McCullough 
[Progressive Pulse 10/24/17]

“I think it’s just critical that the judiciary continue to enjoy the public perception that it’s a body not governed by politics and instead governed by the law .”
Former state Supreme Court Justice Bob Edmunds 
[Progressive Pulse 10/24/17]

“Judges, when they take the bench, usually give up a [law] practice… For a two-year term, that’s going to discourage and filter out a lot of candidates, well-qualified candidates….I question the wisdom of it. ”
Former state Supreme Court Justice Bob Edmunds
[Progressive Pulse 10/24/17]

“I cannot understand how anyone could propose such a thing. I think district court judges and superior court judges should have eight-year terms. If a judge is doing his or her job, he or she shouldn’t have to be continuously running for office…Political offices have to be responsive to the people, but a judge has to be responsive to the law…A judge needs the independence to follow the law without worrying what the public thinks. A judge’s position isn’t a policy-making position, it’s a different kind of animal.”
Retired Superior Court Judge W. Russell “Rusty” Duke Jr.
[Daily Reflector 12/15/17]

“People need to have an opportunity and voice to choose their judge but once they choose, the judge should have to be an opportunity to be a judge without constantly running for re-election,”
Retired Superior Court Judge W. Russell “Rusty” Duke Jr.
[Daily Reflector 12/15/17]

“I think that it devalues the constitution in North Carolina, and you will more likely see unfair decisions made by the courts,”
Rep. Susan C. Fisher
[WLOS 12/7/17]

“The worst possible change would be to cut short all judicial terms. Supreme Court, Court of Appeals and Superior Court judges are granted eight-year terms so that they aren’t constantly pushed and pulled by the politics of the moment. In the federal system, judges serve lifetime terms for that reason.”
News & Record Editorial Board
[Greensboro News & Record, 12/5]

“Serving only two years between elections, judges would have to raise money and campaign virtually all the time. The idea is absurd.”
News & Record Editorial Board
[Greensboro News & Record, 12/5]

“This system, of course, means that judicial races will become as political as the legislature. Judges will be constantly running for re-election, will be ever more dependent on campaign contributions — and dependent on corporate and special interests. It’s a bad idea, denounced both by Republican and Democrat judges.“
Star News Editorial Board 
[Star News 12/31/17]

“Statements like that one suggest that there is afoot an effort to retaliate against the judges of this state, judges I might add who can’t speak up for themselves. Those with the best interest of the state of North Carolina shouldn’t think that way.”
Patricia Timmons-Goodson, former Associate Justice 
In response to Rep. David Lewis telling judges “If you’re going to act like a legislator, perhaps you should run like one.”
[News & Observer 1/10/18]

 

GENERAL COMMENTS
“State Senate leader Phil Berger and his crew have determined, apparently, that — gerrymandering the judges’ districts; eliminating their primaries; restricting their powers of judicial review; ending public funding for their campaigns; manipulating the size of the Court of Appeals; stacking individual Supreme Court elections; and becoming the first state in a century to demand the partisan election of judges — isn’t enough to deliver the precise courts the Republicans require.”
Gene Nichol, Professor at the UNC School of Law
[WRAL 10/29/17]

“What is the future for an independent judiciary in the state of North Carolina should all these bills become law? It sure doesn’t look very good.”
State Representative Joe John (D)
(on recent judicial change laws, not specifically judicial redistricting)
[New York Times 5/27/17]

“It’s one more reason why the gang in the Legislative Building needs to be broken up — and why our local legislators need to be grilled on why they play along with these shenanigans.”
Star News Editorial Board
[Star News 10/10/17]

“Because legislators have so often grossly overreached and impartial judges have properly stepped in, ‘war’ on a constitutionally mandated separate, independent, co-equal branch of government, the judiciary, has been declared. ”
N.C. Rep. Joe John (D-Wake), a former Court of Appeals judge 
[Progressive Pulse 10/17/17]

“This legislature doesn’t like the courts, doesn’t like the judges on the court… It wants to change who they are, and they don’t seem to care how they go about it. ”
Michael Crowell, Former Associate Director UNC Institute of Government at UNC 
[New York Times 10/18/17]

“The courts’ role in our democracy is to protect rights and uphold the rule of law, particularly when it comes to the other political branches… To do this, judges need to be able to act independently and without fear of retribution from the political branches, and the public needs to have confidence that courts are not just another political actor. ”
Douglas Keith, Counsel, the Democracy Program, Brennan Center for Justice 
[NC Policy Watch 10/12/17]

“What’s happening in North Carolina makes it harder for judges to both be and appear independent.”
Douglas Keith, Counsel, the Democracy Program, Brennan Center for Justice
[NC Policy Watch 10/12/17]

“The public should never be hit by so many significant changes at once — especially changes motivated by partisan politics.”
News & Record Editorial Board
[Greensboro News & Record, 12/5]

“Judges are not and should not be partisan politicians…The work that they do has nothing to do with politics. Our duty is to the Constitution and the laws enacted by legislature under the Constitution. We do not have constituents. We cannot take a side, and that’s how it should be.”
Wake County Superior Court Judge Donald Stephens
[News & Record, 11/16/17]

“As a result of this (the courts overturning Republican laws), war has been declared, and measure after measure has been introduced, seeking to rip the blindfold of fairness and impartiality from Lady Justice and to bring the judicial branch of government to partisan heel,”
Rep. Joe John (D-Wake), a former appeals and district court judge
[News & Record, 11/16/17]

“I believe in a fiercely independent judiciary. A judiciary elected by the people. A judiciary that has no constituency except its duty to the constitution of this state and to the Constitution of the United States, and to the laws enacted in conformity with those mandates. North Carolina is entitled to have judges who make decisions without regard to partisan politics or any improper pressure or influence. That is how the judicial branch of government should work.”
Donald Stephens, Judge in Wake County
[N&O 12/21/17]

“North Carolina is a test case, y’all. If this legislature succeeds at their attempts of stacking, packing and cracking our courts it will spread like a disease across this country.”
Melissa Kromm, Executive Director of North Carolina Voters for Clean Elections
[N&O 1/10]

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