Judicial Elections

They don't even try to pretend anymore

I used to make it a point to spotlight Republican hypocrisy, but no more. Hypocrisy is no longer one of the deadly sins in the GOP book. It's a best practice, right up there with lying and cheating. Even so, sometimes their transgressions demand a response.

Trial over Judicial Primary cancellation will begin in June

Which ironically is just 11 days before the postponed Judicial filing period begins:

A trial over the legality of a North Carolina law canceling primary elections this year for state appellate court judgeships is scheduled for late spring.

During a hearing Thursday, U.S. Magistrate Judge Joi Peake set a June 7 trial date and other filing and evidence deadlines.

Nine days ago I penned an Op-Ed for submission to a regional newspaper, but recent (unfortunate) developments at that publication have made that submission moot. But these words need to be published, and I encourage you to take an extra few minutes to consider the following:

The nuts and bolts of GOP Judicial redistricting

Hat-tip to Melissa Boughton for parsing the maps:

There are 64 current district court judges double-bunked in nine judicial districts encompassing 15 counties in the “Option A” proposal. That’s 24 percent of all district court judges. “Double-bunking” for the purposes of this article means that there are a smaller number of seats in a judicial district than there are current sitting judges. That means incumbent judges in those areas would either be forced to run against another incumbent in an election or face losing their seat if their term expires after the seats are filled.

Of the 64 district court judges who are double-bunked, 47 are registered Democrats and 17 are registered Republicans. There are one percent fewer district court judges double-bunked in “Option A” than the last HB717 map Burr introduced in November. There are also fewer Black or African-American judges double-bunked in this map, but the number is still high considering representation is already an issue on the bench. There are 32 percent of Black or African American judges double-bunked in “Option A,” compared to 43 percent in the last map from Burr.

As you can see from that second paragraph, Justin Burr was well aware he was flirting heavily with a lawsuit that would likely result in his twisted maps being thrown out. So he toned it down a little. But the partisan and racist volume of this effort is still deafeningly loud. But it isn't just double-bunking these judges have to worry about; if the timing is right, they won't even be able to run for a seat:

Republican attacks on NC's judiciary most extreme in the nation

Not just pruning back the branch, they're trying to break it off:

Republicans haven’t hidden their displeasure with what they call judicial activism. Last February, Senate Leader Phil Berger and House Speaker Tim Moore lashed out at three state judges who sided with Democratic Governor Roy Cooper in a dispute over his appointment powers. “If these three men want to make laws, they should hang up their robes and run for a legislative seat,” the duo said in a statement.

“They have firebombed the courthouses across the state, creating chaos, and I think it’s all to gain partisan advantage,” says State Representative Marcia Morey, a Democrat who spent almost two decades as a judge. “They have not liked case decisions, and they need to get friendly judges in there.”

And once again, I can't help but see parallels between what the NC GOP is doing, and what authoritarian regimes in other countries do. They purge hundreds (and sometimes thousands) of experienced judges and replace them with unqualified political hacks, so there's nobody left to question their undemocratic behavior. Republicans have been whittling away at NC's judiciary since they took over in 2011, but it looks like 2018 may be when they try to deliver their merciless version of a coup de grâce:

NC Republicans jump the shark on judicial elections

Trying to slash their terms to two years:

Chairmen of the House and Senate rules committees released a proposal Tuesday that would reduce terms for trial and appeals court judges to two years. District Court judges currently serve four-year terms, while Superior Court and Court of Appeals judges and Supreme Court justices get eight-year terms.

Under the proposal, voters would decide in May whether to reduce the terms and put all incumbents up for re-election the following November. Legislative support for the bill is unclear, and a news release announcing the bill suggests it could be designed to spite Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper.

These guys are simply out of control. Probably 95% of North Carolinians would prefer to see less politics influencing the judiciary, but forcing these judges to run every two years will put them on a constant campaign footing, just like Congress and the Legislature. They're literally turning into gameshow hosts with their behavior, circulating rumors of taking away judicial elections completely, and then opening the curtains with flair proclaiming, "Even more elections! Elections all the time! Whee!" Dog help us.

Great article by Binker on the 2014 court campaigns

Mark Binker writes about NC Courts Races, 2014

By Mark Binker Read more at WRAL,com

GREENSBORO, N.C. — It's not every campaign-season crowd that can pepper candidates for state Supreme Court with informed questions about precedence, important cases and judicial philosophy.

Another argument against electing judges

Cross-posted at dKos

The front-page story on today's Charlotte Observer contains a disturbing story about two judges here in Charlotte. I've read this twice in print and once online, and I keep coming to the same conclusion--judges in North Carolina should be appointed based on merit, not elected.

Mecklenburg Chief District Judge Lisa Bell has taken $50,000 in contributions since first running for a judgeship in 1998 (she's been chief judge since 2008)--most of them from lawyers. One of her colleagues, Becky Tin, has gotten roughly the same amount since her first campaign in 2002. Lawyers from James, McElroy and Diehl, one of Charlotte's more aggressive firms, have given them each donations totaling over $2,500. Those amounts alone provide ready-made ammo for bias accusations. The problem is that the judges' critics dimply don't hold up under scrutiny.

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