Raleigh – North Carolina Republicans launched a new scheme this week to bend the courts to their will, inserting themselves into how judges would be selected and cutting out the people of North Carolina. The move drew rebukefrom Governor Cooper today, who sided with North Carolina citizens and their right to elect judges.
Sen. Berger and Speaker Moore have long had their eye on remaking the courts to serve their personal, partisan goals. That’s because the courts continue to work as a constitutional check on their legislative overreach; since they took power, 14 laws have been either overturned altogether or had key provisions struck down.
Just in the last few months:
- Sen. Berger and Speaker Moore lashed out at judges who ruled against them, saying that NC judges should “hang up their robes and run for a legislative seat.”
- Republican lawmakers reduced the size of the Court of Appeals from 15 judges to 12 to solidify their own partisan advantage by preventing Governor Cooper from filling vacancies.
- Republican Judge J. Douglas McCullough retired early before a veto override from the legislature would threaten Gov. Cooper’s ability to appoint a successor.
- District Judge Lou Trosch left the Republican party, saying the GOP “is essentially assaulting my calling in life” and “the Democratic Party better reflects my values and ideals.”
- Republicans announced plans to gerrymander judicial districts without consulting any judicial experts because, as Rep. Burr said, “I am the legislator. I make the laws.”
These nakedly political attacks are meant to bully judges, chill their voices, and bend our judicial system to the partisan whims of the Republican legislature. And it’s all because Republican leaders keep pushing unconstitutional laws – and because they keep losing in court.
“Like children that want to change the rules of the game because they keep losing, Republicans want to remake the judiciary to their liking because they keep losing in court,” NCDP Executive Director Kimberly Reynolds. “These changes are a direct attack on our constitutional checks and balances and should worry every person in North Carolina.”
Background on Republican Court Losses
- Fourth Circuit Court Of Appeal Struck Down Republican Voter ID Law. “Three courts on Friday struck down parts of controversial voter ID requirements put in place by Republicans, with one of those courts citing “clear discriminatory intent” by lawmakers in North Carolina to shrink the franchise for politically powerful US minorities. The Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals, which oversees North Carolina, found that a 2013 voter ID law targeted Democrat-leaning black and younger voters with “almost surgical precision,” in part by taking away an early voting day, Sunday, used by black churches to shuttle parishioners to the polls.” [Christian Science Monitor, 7/30/16]
- State Supreme Court Struck Down Law Combining State Board Of Elections And Ethics Commission. “North Carolina once again has a separate State Board of Elections and Ethics Commission, thanks to a Supreme Court order issued Monday afternoon. That order is the latest in a chain of events that has injected uncertainty into how the state’s elections and ethics laws are managed. That ruling is a win, albeit a temporary one, for Gov. Roy Cooper in his ongoing conflict with legislators over a batch of laws passed in December that dilute his powers.” [WRAL, 2/13/17]
- Federal Judge Ruled Against Senator Wade’s Attempt To Change Greensboro City Council Elections. “The city of Greensboro’s system of electing city council members will remain unchanged with a federal judge’s ruling today that an effort by state Sen. Trudy Wade to upend the system violates the Constitutional requirement that the votes of all citizens have equal weight. [Triad City Beat, 4/03/17]
- Divided Supreme Court Struck Down Retention Elections In North Carolina. “The June 7 primary for a state Supreme Court seat will go on as planned after a divided court said Friday that a recent ruling disallowing a simple up-or-down vote on a sitting justice would stand. The General Assembly last year passed legislation allowing Supreme Court justices to run in retention elections with no opposition. The new law would have let Justice Bob Edmunds to appear on this year’s ballot by himself, with voters being asked whether to keep him in his seat or remove him.” [WRAL, 5/06/16]
- District Court Judge Blocked Provision In Budget Bill Cutting Of Funding To Planned Parenthood And Affiliates. “ U.S. District Judge James A. Beaty Jr temporarily blocked a provision in the North Carolina state budget which would cut off ban Planned Parenthood and its affiliates from receiving any contracts or grants from the state health agency.” [WRAL, 8/19/11]
- Superior Court Ruled Bill Prohibiting NCAE From Using Payroll Deduction To Collect Dues Unconstitutional. “A Wake County judge has ruled a law prohibiting the North Carolina Association of Educators from using payroll deduction to collect dues from its members to be unconstitutional. Superior Court Judge Paul Gessner said the dues-deduction ban “constitutes retaliatory viewpoint discrimination” against NCAE, which violates the group’s free speech rights. [WRAL, 1/07/13]
- Appeals Court Struck Down Law Requiring Abortion Providers To Show A Woman An Ultrasound Prior To Abortion. “The 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on Monday declared as unconstitutional a North Carolina law requiring abortion providers to show a woman an ultrasound and describe the images in detail four hours before she can have an abortion.” [WRAL, 12/22/14]
- State Supreme Court Said Lawmakers Violated Separation Of Powers Clause By Creating Trio Of Commissions To Oversee Coal Ash Cleanup. “North Carolina lawmakers tried to take too much power out of the hands of Gov. Pat McCrory when they created a trio of commissions, including one that oversee coal ash cleanup, a divided state Supreme Court ruled Friday. In the specific showdown over appointments to the three boards, six justices sided with the governor, saying that lawmakers had violated the state constitution’s separation of powers clause.” [WRAL, 1/29/16]
- State Supreme Court Overturned Law Forcing Teachers To Give Up Career Status Protection. “Veteran teachers will keep their career status rights, what some call tenure, under a unanimous ruling issued by the state Supreme Court Friday. The decision stems from a 2013 state law that would have forced teachers who had earned certain job protections to give those up starting in 2018.” [WRAL, 4/15/16]
- Federal Appeals Court Ruled Voting District Maps For Wake County Board Of Commissioners Unconstitutional. “A federal appeals court on Friday ruled that new voting district maps for the Wake County Board of Commissioners and the Board of Education are unconstitutional because they violate equal representation rules.” [WRAL, 7/01/16]
- Federal Appeals Court Ruled Voting District Maps For Wake County Board Of Education Unconstitutional. “A federal appeals court on Friday ruled that new voting district maps for the Wake County Board of Commissioners and the Board of Education are unconstitutional because they violate equal representation rules.” [WRAL, 7/01/16]
- State Supreme Court Ruled Asheville Would Keep Control Of Water System. “Asheville will maintain control of Western North Carolina’s biggest water system following a state Supreme Court ruling handed down Wednesday. In the 5-2 ruling the court sided with the city against the state General Assembly and its 2013 law to strip Asheville of the water system. The decision overturned a Court of Appeals ruling favoring the legislature.” [Asheville Citizen Times, 12/21/16]
- Wake County Judge Struck Down Method To Limit Annexations. “A state judge on Tuesday struck down the state’s new method for giving citizens of unincorporated areas the opportunity to block forced annexations by towns and cities. Judge Shannon Joseph issued a written order Tuesday throwing out the petition process authorized last year by the General Assembly.” [Fox8, 3/27/12]
- Supreme Court Struck Down North Carolina Congressional District Maps. “The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday upheld a lower-court ruling that North Carolina lawmakers relied too much on race when redrawing two congressional districts after the 2010 census.” [WRAL, 5/22/17]