NC Supreme Court

Tipping the scales: NC's Judiciary shaped by out-of-state money

The final frontier of unchecked power:

But the mandatory retirement of Sarah Parker, the chief justice from 2006 until the end of August, opened up a spot on the bench. Gov. Pat McCrory appointed Associate Justice Mark Martin, a Republican, to fill the vacancy until the Nov. 4 elections. Robert N. Hunter Jr., a Republican who was on the N.C. Court of Appeals, was then named to serve in Martin’s seat until the election.

That shifted the balance in September to five Republicans and two Democrats. There have been few cases decided since then that reflect what that shift might mean for politically charged lawsuits.

There may have been only time for a "few" cases, but they've been instructive enough. The Supreme Court is gearing up to become much more involved in cases with a partisan nature, pre-empting the lower Court of Appeals when it will be advantageous to do so. That "pro-active" approach to the law does not bode well for those seeking Constitutional clarification or redress, nor does having justices owe allegiance to DC political heavyweights:

NC Supreme Court "snatches" Hofmann Forest case from CoA

But it's doubtful they're coming to the rescue of said forest:

In a surprising move, the N.C. Supreme Court decided Friday that it will hear the long-running and controversial Hofmann Forest case before the state Court of Appeals rules on it. The Supreme Court “snatch” -- in the words of Ron Sutherland, one of the case’s lead plaintiffs -- is but the latest twist in a long-running saga full of them.

The second theory is that the Supreme Court, which has a majority of conservative judges, simply wanted to decide the case instead of letting a more unpredictable appeals court make the ruling, which was due any day. “We hope that this is not the reason,” Sutherland said. “It would be a rather blatant act. But it’s hard to say exactly what the motivation might have been. If it’s this second theory that’s right, all we can do is encourage people to vote for good, honest judges who will look at this case fairly and make what we think is the right decision.”

I can tell you with about 90% accuracy what the motivation was: If the Supremes waited for the CoA's decision, like they usually do, the scope of their approach to the case and subsequent actions (rulings) would have been limited/dictated by the CoA's opinions. By pre-empting the CoA, the higher court can argue based on a smaller set of legal principles and precedent. In other words, they don't want the input of the CoA, and that usually only happens when somebody has already made up their mind. The life expectancy of Hofmann Forest just got a lot shorter.

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