June 29, 2018/Press

Republican Court Packing Scheme Resurfaces, Now Hidden in Constitutional Amendment

Raleigh – First, Republicans hid at the bottom of a constitutional amendment a breathtaking measure to grab power from the executive branch, one that would give them exclusive control over how people can vote, the cost of their energy bill, and the quality of their drinking water.

Now, hidden in a separate constitutional amendment is a backdoor measure for Republicans to bend the judiciary to their will, opening the door for them to pack the Supreme Court in a lame-duck session.

S814 would let Republicans appoint members to the state Supreme Court, potentially allowing them to tilt the balance of power in a session after the election from a 4-3 Democratic majority to a 5-4 Republican majority.

Republicans then announced an adjournment resolution that creates a session to do just that, setting them up to come back after a bruising election to pack the courts while they still have their supermajority.

House Democratic Leader Jackson laid it out in a speech on the floor yesterday, which no Republicans refuted:

“It’s become clear to me that this bill is nothing but a court packing scheme. If Anita Earls loses the Supreme Court race in November, you’re planning on adding two more justices to the Supreme Court and have the legislature select them … Don’t try to tell us one thing when your intentions are something else.”

It’s no secret why. The courts have acted as a break on legislative Republicans’ unconstitutional power grabs, overturning more than a dozen of the legislature’s unconstitutional laws. In turn, Republicans have gerrymandered the courts, tried to do away with judicial elections, and now pushed a constitutional amendment that Sen. Newton admits is an attempt “to drive our state toward a merit based judicial selection process.”

Republican court packing efforts go back even further. A state legislator told the Winston Salem Journal following the 2016 election that Republicans discussed putting two additional justices on the state Supreme Court, a move former Governor McCrory stated he “worked to deter.”

Now it looks like Republicans want voters to do what they’re too scared to legislate.

“Once again, Republicans are trying to rewrite the state constitution to fundamentally undermine the separation of powers, first bringing the executive branch under the heel of the legislature and now doing the same to the judiciary,” NCDP Executive Director Kimberly Reynolds said. “This is a court packing scheme in every sense of the word and people across North Carolina must stand up to this stunning abuse of power.”